back to article New York subpoenas Comcast 'reasonable network management' records

Let it be said that the state of New York cares for oppressed minorities. Word arrives from The AP that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has come to the rescue of the state's Comcast subscribers, though they account for less than half of one per cent of all cable-connected New York broadbanders. In the wake of the FCC's …

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  1. Andrew Norton
    Thumb Up

    what is acceptable

    As was said in the hearing, there is a line that distinguishes what is acceptable from what is not. Forging packets is not acceptable for you or me to do, so why is it acceptable for Comcast to do? There is also something basicly troubling about comcast telling its users what protocols they can and can't do with the connection's they're paying for. David Reed even stated at the hearing that such companies acting in this matter should not call themselves ISP's, but instead state that they "provide selective access to part of the net only"

    We wouldn't accept a phone company that blocked access to certain area codes or numbers, or which blocked fax calls, sending termination signals to both machines whilst handshaking. why is it acceptable to do it with an internet connection?

    It is good to see that at least one prosecutor is looking closely at what is, at it's basis, a first amendment issue. Censorship in any form is repulsive, and should not be tollerated, nor should the overselling fraud that perpetuated this in the first place. Ultimately, however, I doubt the NYAG office will file any charges, but I'm betting there are some hearts a fluttering at ComCast-central.

    Andrew Norton

    Pirate Party of the US

    http://pirate-party.us

  2. Steven Swenson
    Flame

    Pressure goes a long way.

    Maybe this is why my bittorrent suddenly started working. Torrents have never worked for me before this.

    Reasonable network management my ass.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    the sewer fields of new york

    can you smell it?

    i wonder how much comcast will try to cover up or alter to make themselves look like a hurt party?

    but lets not forget that justice will prevail and comcast will win and come out smelling a lot like flowers.

    after all they are comcast so they must be innocent

    (sarcasm in case no one noticed)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @Andrew Norton: Then Pay For What You Use

    > We wouldn't accept a phone company that blocked access to certain area codes or numbers...

    Indeed, nor would most people accept a phone company that billed everyone the same monthly amount, regardless of whether they hardly used the thing, or whether they spent 20 hours a day calling satellite phones in the Australian outback.

    Like with anything else, Internet users should pay for what they use. If you want to spend all day filling more than your share of our communal pipes with your torrents, pay for it.

  5. Jamie
    Linux

    Money talks... Justice walks...

    If there is one thing that I have noticed over the years is that if you are big and rich you can get away with anything.

    I worked for Comcast and AT&T for about 4 years and during that time I saw a lot of "questionable behaviour", involving both telesale, engineers, and even managment. I know of one senior citizen who was charge for ~36 months for broadband package yet no one was ever sent to her house to hook it up and no hardware was ever released to her address.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    NY AG

    Is only sniffing for money, New York AGs office investigates anything that will generate income and or publicity. If there is neither then nothing will happen.

    Efros

  7. FlatSpot
    Stop

    @Anon Coward

    That is why ISPs (in the UK at least) sell different packages with different download limits. Hence why I pay extra for the full unlimited service.

    I dont have a problem with paying the extra few pounds a month but would be really annoyed if I was then penalised on top. Either you are selling an unlimited package or you arent!

    ISPs cant have it all ways!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Pay for it????

    [quote]Like with anything else, Internet users should pay for what they use. If you want to spend all day filling more than your share of our communal pipes with your torrents, pay for it.[/quote]

    I actually dont have any issue with paying for it provided that the charges/etc are put up front and in the clear. However, when I sign up to a service that states "unlimited internet access", I dont expect to pay any more than the agreed amount.

    I also am aware of the contention ratios that are imposed and at certain times of the day I fully expect to have SOME slowness in my connection BUT not full throttling by the ISP NOR having my packets either spoofed or have spoofed packets sent to me by the ISP.

    Also during that "peak" period of the day I would also expect that my line would be running at "speed" intermittently due to "contention"; i.e. when the other 19 ppl on my ratio were not using the internet, my line should have a full and complete access as agreed upon in the contract with the ISP.

    Do you expect to pay more for a "unlimited" phone package from any of the cell/mobile carriers? I had a contract with Orange for "unlimited" calls to mobiles/landlines, once they tried to charge me extra for using almost 8000 minutes in a month. Sorry but the contract states unlimited and no where does it state anything about fair use - hence no extra money!

    Stop sign for those that think you should have to pay more when you use more on a "unlimited" package!!!!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anon C @ FlatSpot

    Exactly: People should pay for what they use and should get what they pay for. "Unlimited downloads and X MB" should mean that (accepting that it's a contended service so X can be less than X, but shouldn't be a tiny fraction of X all of the time).

    Having said that, is it acceptable that someone who pays for a service, which is contended, should always be contending someone who is using nigh on 100% of their available bandwidth all of the time? If I set the iplayer downloadything to download everything available, on the off-chance that I may watch it later, is that fair on the people I am contending? I don't think so. However, should my unlimited X MB service that I have paid for be limited by the ISP? Again I don't think so.

    It's a tough feelings kidney whichever way you slice it. Maybe the best solution is to have a tariff for people who want to download a lot, all of the time and have them contend each other.

  10. captain kangaroo
    Paris Hilton

    "I also am aware of the contention ratios that are imposed and at certain times of the day"

    You're an idiot. you don't know what you are talking about. You can't vary contention ratios. Do you even know what they are?

    See that Paris Hilton... That's your mum that is...

  11. Simon Foxwell
    Go

    This needs a fair solution for all parties

    I think the fair solution for everyone (in this case everyone would be the ISP, the frequent downloader and the low use occasional user) would be a clearly indicated choice of accounts when you sign up.

    As most people are rightly saying - Unlimited should mean what it says, if you cant back this up then you should not advertise it. The problem is that once one ISP uses this almost fraudulent statement in their marketing then the rest have to follow or they will lose future customers.

    As a frequent and occasionally heavy downloader (I wont pretend its all legal Linux flavour installs!) I would happily pay for this extra ability to download what I want. Our current infrastructure, be it BT backbone or cable) just cant cope and if I choose to download my stuff at peak times then I unfairly hurt the people on the same pipeline.

    I suggest the following choice of account that I would sign up for:

    £16.99 a month with a 10gb monthly download limit. However this "Limit" would not apply during the hours of 11pm to 8am. I can download anything I want during this time and it does not affect my 10gb limit. If you are downloading torrents or other large files then you should have the ability to be able to schedule what times these download. I schedule all of mine to download between these times anyway because as we dont each have a fiber link in our homes I want to be fair to the others who are also trying to get on the internet.

    If I go over this 10gb within the month in peak times then I pay £1 per gigabyte.

    If I stick to these rules and dont abuse the service then I certainly would not expect any traffic shaping, management, packet injections or pissing about with my line.

    You play fair and so will I.

    I'll want the choice to either pay for the connection or sign up to a 12 month contract. That way if I am convinced they are abusing my line then I will leave. I'll also want the choice of buying a router supplied by them with all connection details for my account already entered or I can supply my own.

    Is 10gb enough during peak hours? If I am not downloading large files during this time, just You Tube crap, emails, internet browsing and online gaming then this should be enough shouldnt it? Fell free to comment.

    Like anyone I dont want my peak browsing to go down to just 136kbps but if an ISP has the balls to be completely upfront and honest as well as offer a full range of different accounts then I'll go for it.

    If you work for an ISP then pass this message on to them. If you know of one that does this already then let me know...and dont mention Eclipse!

    Comcast have done a bad thing by just deciding they will play god with their users and muck about with their packets. This is NOT the way to do things and I hope they get royally fuc*ed for it...although I doubt they will.

  12. Bruce Wagner
    Linux

    Comcast Sabotaged Pubic Hearing

    Check out this article about how Comcast PAID people off the street to fill the Public Hearing so that people who opposed their practices were denied entry --- because the room was already filled to capacity! http://blogs.zdnet.com/ip-telephony/?p=3317

  13. Barry Rueger

    Bandwidth? Not likely

    Why does anyone even pretend this is about bandwidth? If that was the case you would get a contract saying "You get xxx gigabytes of data each month, after which you pay more."

    No, this is about ISPs acting on behalf of media corporations to limit or stop filesharing. To think otherwise is incredibly naïve.

  14. Ian Underhill

    Typical big business practices

    I don't do much downloading, I don't use BitTorrent or anything similar so even as a Comcast customer the traffic shaping practices are not likely to affect me.

    But as a company there business practices suck. For most of us in the States there isn't any real competition when it come to Broadband Internet access, Comcast is the only choice I can't get DSL in my area. And Comcast abuse this monoploy with over priced crap products and poor customer service, so I for one hope they get really hammered for this.

    Trouble its unlikely to happen, big business in the States can pretty much do what they want as long as they keep funding the politicians, lobbists etc.

  15. Sooner Boomer
    IT Angle

    Provide what you advertise

    If an ISP advertises "all you can eat 24/7" then that's what they should provide. Unlimited downloads should mean exactly that. ATT/SBC is even worse - after 20 minutes of downloading a torrent, they shut off my DSL modem. After 3 new modems, and many complaint phone calls, situation is not resolved.

  16. Morely Dotes

    @ Andrew Norton

    "It is good to see that at least one prosecutor is looking closely at what is, at it's basis, a first amendment issue."

    Andrew, while I agree in principle that Comcast is in violation of the law, it's not the First Amendment. Comcast is not the Government, and the First Amendment only protects Freedom of Speech from prior censorship by the Government.

    However, what Comcast has done is fraud, and can be construed as attempted unauthorized access to computer systems, since they are intercepting specific types of packets and forging false responses. Furthermore, nowhere in their advertising does it specifically state that Comcast will, on a whim, prevent customers from accessing certain sites, services, or protocols, and that is precisely what they are doing.

    Throttle bandwidth for network management purposes? Well, as long as it doesn't go below the guaranteed minimum (which should be the speed stated in their advertising, and which is not stated, and therefor the customer has a reasonable expectation of getting the "up to" speed), manage away, by throttling.

    But packet forgery is knowing and deliberate fraud and unlawful, unauthorized computer system access.

    And if Comcast can't deliver the speed they have advertised due to bandwidth issues, then they should be brought up on charges for knowingly and deliberately misrepresenting a product or service for sale, which they are unable to provide due to their lack of possession of that product or service.

  17. Eduard Coli
    Unhappy

    To Ian: It's the thin edge of the wedge

    What Comcast and I'm sure others who have not been caught yet calls traffic shaping which is really throttling is really just the start of brinkmanship.

    If and when they can get the public to live with them snarling bandwidth on "fairness" reasons then will come snarling based on child safety then on down the line.

    What you end up with is a Gibsonesque scenario where ISPs feel they need to use control over content to meter what you can see, to support legislation and candidates that are in there best interest, etc.

    The whole affair is very much like Rockefeller demonstrated. That is is not important that you sell a commodity but that you monopolize it. Like the oil monopoly and the media monopoly, Comcast is looking to corner the market by controlling the last mile.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Fair Advertising

    If you advertise one thing, and provide another, that's false advertising. I believe there's a law against that. Comcast should have been up front about what they were doing. I refuse to get Comcast for that reason, even though they are now available where I live. Thankfully there was no cable service whatsoever when we moved in and we had to go with satellite. Hell, I'll get satellite internet before I ever go with Comcast, or AT&T (criminal conspirators!).

  19. b166er

    @Barry

    Maybe it's a little naive to think this doesn't also have something to do with a lack of investment in infrastructure.

  20. Morely Dotes

    @ Anonymous Coward

    "Then Pay For What You Use "

    I am paying for what I use. And, I am using what I pay for: My contract states "unlimited" bandwidth, 15Mbps downstream, 2Mbps upstream, 8 static IP addresses, a wireless AP/router (which is as secure as possible given the inherent issues with WAP2, etc.), and some other bits, for US$99/month.

    My contract does *NOT* say "we will forge packets to prevent you from using some services." And my ISP doesn't do that.

    Comcast has *denied* doing it and would stil lbe denying it if they hadn't been caught by network professionals which checked up on them.

    The issue is not "reasonable network management." It's fraud.

  21. andy
    Paris Hilton

    Re: @Andrew Norton: Then Pay For What You Use

    "Indeed, nor would most people accept a phone company that billed everyone the same monthly amount, regardless of whether they hardly used the thing, or whether they spent 20 hours a day calling satellite phones in the Australian outback."

    Ummm, what a load of bollocks... I pay £10 per month for a landline, unlimited local and national calls - the same as my mother - she spends all evening on the phone, I use it twice a week... Then theres mobiles, I pay the same as a colleague for 300mins per month, he uses all 300, I use 180-200.

    Yes there are different plans but there are different internet access plans as well, I could pay £10 per month for 10Gb but I choose to pay £30 for an unlimited amount and expect to get exactly that.

    What I want to know is why ISPs keep increasing their speeds and then whinging about usage and introducing traffic management/caps etc... Instead of upgrading my connection to 10Mb (which you obviously can't manage properly), shaping traffic and introducing limits why not just leave me on an unrestricted 4Mb connection?!

    Paris as shes less of a moron than the Anon. Coward...

  22. Neil Docherty

    SMTP interception

    Companies messing around with packets is nothing new...

    Has anyone ever stayed in a US hotel run by Marriott or similar and sent mail via SMTP. They intercept SMTP traffic and send it via their own servers. I know this because I checked if a particular mail was sent through our company's mail server as it was told to and it didn't.

    This sounds very much like an illegal wire tap to me but seems a very widespread practice. I can't think what justification there is for doing it and it's caused some of our messages to be bounced due to the server in question being blacklisted!

  23. Daniel B.
    Boffin

    @Provide what you advertise

    True. I hate seeing all those "why should you pay the same as I that don't download stuff" people not getting the point. You are actually *using* what was advertised. I always wondered how it was possible for us (Mexico) to have 4Mbps maximum speeds with DSL when the US was having 20Mbps links, and searching for some kind of missing telecom secret I was not aware of. Nope, it was more like the US ISP's were overselling with a 200:1 contention ratio, it seems.

    Me? Residential DSL service is 1Mbps (1024Kbps) standard, and I'm happy with it as it usually fluctuates between 850 and 1024. The only thing they've done recently is a port 25 blockage, and even that can be removed by user request. I'd usually complain about blocking ports, but you know, port 25's been used by spammers, so I think they do have a point; and anyone soliciting port 25 unblocking has enough background to secure his net. (Or so I hope...)

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