back to article Californian sues Comcast over BitTorrent throttling

With US internet service megaladon Comcast facing intense scrutiny over limiting speeds of customers using peer-to-peer technology such as BitTorrent, it was a question of when - not if - someone from the state of California would sue. Showing unprecedented litigious restraint, it took until last Tuesday for such a lawsuit to …

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Pirate

Give it 5 mins

And the RIAA will be round his house seizing his computers.

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Anonymous Coward

Encrypted torrents

This is why clients like uTorrent routinely offer encryption: It defeats traffic shaping.

The more people who use it, the tougher it will be on ISPs who try to meter use of individual services - especially as BitTorrent is very port-agile.

Unfortunately, some people choose to sue before they think. This guy would be a lot better off learning to tick some boxes in his software and enjoy full speed access, rather than spending a lot of money on a lawsuit. The worst part could be, ISPs win this battle - and everyone has to accept port throttling as a result of legal precedent.

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Pirate

Aye but...

You'd think he's being pretty careful to have a 'clean' PC before going down this path.

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Flame

Why do people assume the worse ?

Why is it that eveyone thinks that if someone uses BitTorrent it's for illegal music downloads.

I myself 'play' with various flavors of Linux, I use BitTorrent for downloading the forever updating iso's, this guy could be the same.

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Thumb Up

Good, ISPs need to be held to account.

Glad to hear that Comcast is being sued over this.

While I don't care one way or the other about file sharing itself what does bother me is the false advertising put out by Internet Service Providers.

Usage of misleading terms like "Unlimited", when the reality is the service can be Throttled at any time by the ISP if they decide your usage is a tad high.

Don't get me started on the "Up to" speeds nonsense. If a car manufacturer sold you a car that could go "Up to 100mph" and the reality was you only got half that speed, people sure as hell would not stand for it.

If ISPs cannot provide the services they advertise then they should be forced to not make such exaggerated claims.

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Dam

Re: give it 5 mins

Obviously, before filling such a complaint, the guy has taken precautions...

Wouldn't you ?

Hope the ISP gets raped.

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Coat

Broadband "speeds" vs Car speeds

Stephen says:

"Don't get me started on the "Up to" speeds nonsense. If a car manufacturer sold you a car that could go "Up to 100mph" and the reality was you only got half that speed, people sure as hell would not stand for it."

Sorry, but all drivers here in the UK stand for this every day of the week. My car is capable of well in excess of 100mph, yet the maximum legal speed I can travel at is 70mph. Due to congestion, I rarely get to travel at even the legal maximums, especially in London. :)

Regards,

Dave

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Pirate

(No) Sympathy for the dickwads

While I'm sick to death of the constant whining of the freeloaders demanding to be able to flood everyone's shared bandwidth with their pr0n, warez and pirate media downloading, it would seem remiss of Comcast if they had failed to include a prohibition on such activities in theirs Ts&Cs.

Oh, er hang on : http://www.comcast.net/terms/use.jsp

"Prohibited uses include, ... storing, transmitting or disseminating information, data or material ... which infringes the intellectual property rights of any person or entity ...[or] which a reasonable person could deem to be objectionable, offensive, indecent, pornographic. [using the Service to] Restrict, inhibit, or otherwise interfere with the ability of any other person ... to use or enjoy the Service, including without limitation ... generating levels of traffic sufficient to impede others' ability to send or retrieve information.

...

Comcast and its affiliates, suppliers, and agents have the right to monitor these transmissions and postings from time to time for violations of this Policy and to disclose, block, or remove them in accordance with the Subscriber Agreement"

So, thats no warez, no pr0n, no pirate media, and no using up all the bandwidth, or else Comcast will block you, seems pretty fucking clear to me.

So, erm, what was his point again ?

Can't wait for some linux Jihadi to come and point out how much bandwidth he needs to download multiple copies of distro DVD isos all the livelong day. Yawnorama.

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Thumb Down

Fighting for a good cause?

Or maybe he expects Comcast to settle out of court just to save cash? And that will earn him some nice quick buck.

Just my 2p

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RE: Encrypted torrents

Whilst I agree that the use of encrypted torrents avoids traffic shaping (to an extent) why should anybody have to encrypt their traffic just to get the advertised speeds?

I use uTorrent, with encryption, and get good download speeds...but the simple fact is that I should not have to p**s about changing client settings (or changing clients) in order to use the full 1.5Mbps of my internet connection.

Whilst this is a case in the US of A I do hope that it comes to fruition as it could have an impact elsewhere...and lets face it getting an ISP to do it's job should not be this hard.

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Stop

help! help! I'm being oppressed.

"Defendents' scheme was and is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous, and/or substantially injurious to consumers."

Really.

At worst, it's misleading advertising or Ts & Cs. Well, to be fair, it's definitely that - but it's not unethical - they are doing it to provide value for money to the majority of their users.

And who is "substantially injured" by not being able to use bittorrent? Sure, there are plenty of legitimate uses for the protocol. But the thing is, none of them are time-critical, and bittorrent was meant to be an efficient, decentralised protocol for bulk transfers, not a high-speed data pipe for critical applications.

Force them to change their Ts & Cs. Maybe allow customers to terminate and be fully refunded if they were expecting to use their line for 24/7 full speed torrents (and good luck to them finding an ISP that will actually allow this...)

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Silver badge

@ the other Steve

I see your point very clearly.

However, what or whom is a reasonable person?

A priest?

A terrorist

A liberal democrat?

A republican?

A fascist?

A child molester?

An anarchist

A death metal band front man?

A rapist?

A nursery/kindergarten Teacher?

Joe Sixpack?

The Sheeple?

Me?

Those ever so trustworthy and caring politicians and corporation CEO's?

All the above will have differing views on what is morally acceptable, what is right, wrong, indecent, obscene, etc. etc.

The part of the T&C you just quoted basically allows Comcast to throttle or block traffic that THEY deem to be unacceptable, regardless of what that data is.

Despite my own moral standing on illegal warez, porn and copyright material. What right do I have to impose my morals on anyone else? If you are wondering about the answer to this, here's a clue: None whatsoever.

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Anonymous Coward

RE:- (No) Sympathy for the dickwads

"Can't wait for some linux Jihadi to come and point out how much bandwidth he needs to download multiple copies of distro DVD isos all the livelong day. Yawnorama"

Who said about download Linux distro DVD isos "all the livelong day" it's not about how many you do a day, but the speed ! unless I missed something, 'throttling' is either something your mum did when you screwed up or in this case a reduction of speed.

Why should the ISP decide that I don't have the same priority to download my distros vs my 3 kids watching on demand TV over the net.

If the ISP can't cope with the bandwidth requirement, stop selling to more users until they can.

It's like having an 'all you can drink night' at a club for a single entrance fee. Then only having one person serving drinks.

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It's not just linux..

How were the legal free betas of Vista and Server 2k8 distributed? By none other than BitTorrent - i'm a developer so i like to have these things to play with in VMs - if i could max my bandwidth i could be able to download the 4.5gig DVD image in around 50 minutes, a CD iso takes around 7 minutes (Based on max 1.5mb/s - which i DO get on fast servers, not busy, HTTP connections)

It's only fair they supply what you pay for (like my ISP do) there are plenty of legitimate uses for BitTorrent and other P2P networks (these video on demand systems are P2P, or some are at least)

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Good for him

I wish this guy all the best, many ISP's have been guilty of false advertising for years now and havent been pulled up on it. Saying things like their connection unlimited but if you use more than x amount then we cut you off/throttle/charge you which is a limit.

Im not complaining that ISP's have to have limits I understand the industry very well, but I have no respect for companies that mislead people by hiding important details in t&c's or sneak them in after the customers have signed up.

The "upto" speeds that is used I think is perfectly acceptable at least in the UK for ADSL though. The speed you can get is determined by the lengh and quality of your phone line. Both of the factors are critically important and nether are under the control of the ISP, infact they dont even have definate ways to measure these factors when you sign up, they have to take a best guess.

So given ISP's cant tell you exactly what speeds you can get before hand, how should they advertise their service without using paragraphs of explanation/qualifications?

I also hate it when people think if you use bittorrent you must be doing something illigal. Bitorrent is just a method for transfering files/information, just as HTTP and FTP, sure theres illigal content available on all of these methods but theres plenty of legal content as well.

For those that doubt you can use torrents legally look at the following sites.

Movies

PublicDomainMovies http://www.publicdomaintorrents.com/

StarWreck (star trek parody) http://www-fi3.starwreck.com/index.php

Cactuses http://www.cactusesmovie.com/DownloadCactuses_Win.htm

Star Wars Revelations http://www.panicstruckpro.com/revelations/revelations_movie.html

“TV”-Shows

MariposaHD (first HDTV show) http://www.mariposahd.tv/

NerdTV (TV for Nerds) http://www.pbs.org/cringely/nerdtv/

The Scene http://www.welcometothescene.com/

Marcus hates his job http://marcushateshisjob.com/

Stageside http://www.stageside.tv/

Tech-TV http://slapapple.com/techtv/

Thats just a few of the MANY legal sites that use torrents to distrobute their media to save on hosting/bandwidth costs.

If I pay for an internet connection then I should be able to use what ever methods to transfer files I choose, People are going to get their files one way or another and trying to block new technology's because they are popular is just insane.

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Unhappy

Encrypted Torrents

Unfortunately, it seems that many ISPs traffic shape all encrypted downloads too - so even if you encrypt with uTorrent, BitTorrent, Azeureus or BitComet - you'll still get throttled...

... Which is why I'm moving into an area that has Be. No complaints - no throttling.

There's a list of the ISP's and how they traffic shape torrents at:

http://www.azureuswiki.com/index.php/Bad_ISPs#United_Kingdom

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Anonymous Coward

@ The Other Steve

Learn to read Dickwad.

The complaint begins that Comcast has forsaken its advertised affirmations of "lightning fast" and "mind-blowing" speeds, as well as "unfettered access to all the internet has to offer".

They cant sell it as unfettered if it is fettered. If it was sold as 'Fair use Internet' then there would be no case. Now get of your ISP hugging high horse and learn to read before you post.

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Alert

priorities

"Why should the ISP decide that I don't have the same priority to download my distros vs my 3 kids watching on demand TV over the net."

Because on demand TV will noticably deteriorate in quality, to the point of being unwatchable, if there isn't enough bandwidth. Whereas you're not going to suffer awfully if your distro arrives in 3 hours as opposed to 1; it will still get there in perfect working order *and* your kids wont be constantly pestering you because they've got nothing else to do, leaving you free to install in peace... ;)

(Not that I think video on demand is a particularly clever use of such limited bandwidth either... in fact I think torrents are the best way of distributing video, and I regularly download US TV shows etc. I just plan ahead and set them going the night before I want to watch something, is all.)

[Btw: my earlier post may have appeared to suggest that "misleading advertising ... [is] not unethical". Of course I didn't mean that. What I meant was the torrent-throttling was not unethical.]

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Flame

@adnim et al

"The part of the T&C you just quoted basically allows Comcast to throttle or block traffic that THEY deem to be unacceptable, regardless of what that data is."

Erm, yes, that was rather the point actually. And whatever you may think of that, morals wise, doesn't really matter. It's Comcast's network, and they lay down clearly the restrictions they will place upon you while using it.

"Despite my own moral standing on illegal warez, porn and copyright material. What right do I have to impose my morals on anyone else? If you are wondering about the answer to this, here's a clue: None whatsoever."

That's right, and me neither, as you succinctly point out. What right do Comcast have though ? The rights laid down clearly in their Ts & Cs. Again, you make my point for me. As for the definition of "reasonable", don't ask me, that's where lawyers make their cash.

@AC

Learn to read yourself freetard, learn to read the small print that's always attached to ISP deals. Oh yeah, and switch to decaf FFS.

@freeloader apologists in general.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I downloaded the MS betas, several linux distros, and all the generally legitimate things you can get as well (although many of them came via FTP), but you all still know that 90% of the stuff travelling P2P is infringing content. ISPs know this as well. Pointing to the 10% of legitimate traffic and saying that it means ISPs shouldn't do traffic shaping is a very very weak argument.

For the record, I don't really give a toss what people choose distribute or consume via p2p, but whining at your ISP because they attempt to limit your usage to what is a) fair and b)clearly spelled out in their TOS, AUP or whatever is simply pathetic.

I hope this freeloader gets kicked out of court with "Caveat Emptor" tattooed on his ass. Perhaps people might learn to engage their brains for a change instead of blindly believing everything the profit mongers tell them and then being surprised when it turns out not to be true. Duh!

Newsflash !

Businesses lie

Advertisers lie and manipulate you

Businesses exist to take your money away from you.

Everything is stacked in their favour

Welcome to Earth. Get used to it.

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Silver badge
Black Helicopters

@Encrypted torrents

Encryption is a very temporary solution for bandwidth throttling. For example www.narus.com provides solutions for carrier class identification and throttling or even stoppage of almost any type of electronic data. They sell the solutions under the banner of stopping "revenue leakage" but in the end, it's a way to stop anything they want. (for example the carrier/user can select to stop or limit all Skype traffic on their network).

I'm very familiar with their products and their entropy based data identification - scary stuff, it works very well, and it's selling like hotcakes all over the planet. It's worth a 10 minute visit to their website to check out what they are doing. (lots of info on their "lawful intercept" stuff too for all you conspiracy fans)

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Silver badge

@ The Other Steve

I do not disagree with you at all. One has to abide by T&C's. And one should read them fully before entering into a contract.

The point I am trying to make is Comcast, and most likely every other ISP has T&C's with which they are able to deprive the user of that service, and any right to actually use it. Based entirely on what THEY deem to be inappropriate.

Advertised terms seldom reflect the T&C's and thus should be illegal.

And yes I am familiar with Earth, reality does not escape me either. However I would rather do something about the media, advertisers, businessmen and corporations lying and taking the piss, than relax, and bend over whilst getting used to it.

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Gates Halo

@ The Other Steve

Newsflash !

Businesses lie

Advertisers lie and manipulate you

Businesses exist to take your money away from you.

Everything is stacked in their favour

Well d'oh of course this is exactly how it should be! why are we complaining? its all perfect! I wonder what Trading Standards do?

TOS, You are right! they lie, and they will be dragged before the courts. That is what this article is about.

Ronseal does exactly what it says on the tin, no small print no problem!

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Thumb Up

@ Aaron

"So given ISP's cant tell you exactly what speeds you can get before hand, how should they advertise their service without using paragraphs of explanation/qualifications?"

Go to BT ADSL Line checker, type in your telephone number and hey presto it gives you an indication there and then of the maximum speed you might reasonably be able to get based on initial testing.

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@ The Other Steve

Please describe, in simple terms, precisely what laws are violated by my use of the BitTorrent technology to download and redistribute Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xubuntu Linux ISO files.

Also explain what is unlawful about the use of the BitTorrent client provided by Blizzard Entertainment, for the purpose of using P2P to download patches and updates for the World of Warcraft game, with which it was bundled.

Those are the first two uses that come to mind; I am sure there are many, many other perfectly legitimate uses. But you would have us believe that the only purpose is to violate copyright.

Defend your position. Take your time; I'll wait.

Meanwhile, please be advised that Comcast is *not* limiting their willful, knowing, and deliberate breach of contract and fraud to people who are using BitTorrent for unlawful purposes; they are throttling *all* detected torrents, regardless of content.

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@Andy ORourke

> Go to BT ADSL Line checker, (...) it gives you an indication (...) of the maximum speed you might reasonably be able to get based on initial testing.

And this is useful how, exactly? An "indication", "might reasonably", "initial testing" - precision doesn't seem to be its best point, does it...

Last test I did showed that I "might reasonably be able to get" a speed less than half of what I regularly get in practice.

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Pirate

Burst Size

Seems that they advertise their burst size in their traffic shaping scheme, so you get their advertised speed for the first N kbps or so and not at any sustained rate.

Using different ports really dosent do much as most ISP's have things similar to

Cisco's NBAR, and hiding via the protocols own encryption isnt going to last forever.

Getting a VPS or similar in a p2p friendly country then VPNing, stunneling or any

other encrypting tunnel to and from it - or for web only having a web server/sshd on it and ssh -L 'ing on localhost acting as a proxy are good ways to get around though.

Is this net neutrality against the little guy?

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Anonymous Coward

What the hell

OK, first of all I don't have any sympathy for the choad who's suing Comcast because he can't use P2P fast enough for his liking. Secondly, and I know this is really going to raise hackles, but other than piracy, what purpose does it serve? I mean if it's a public domain video, slap it up on youtube and be done with it...

And if one has to resort to encrypting p2p traffic, that would automatically send red flags up in my mind...

As for comcast throttling certain ports, I hope they get their butts in a sling for false advertising.

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Alert

The real reason why Comcast is throttling p2p

Is because they have oversold their bandwidth.

For years, ISPs have oversold their bandwidth, banking on the fact that in the past, most people only used their connections for surfing and emailing. This is rapidly and radically changing.

People are becoming more tech savvy, using more bandwidth than ever. VOIP, Internet TV, Internet Radio etc... use up tons of bandwidth. ISPs are businesses and hence, want to maximize their profits. They are generally unwilling to spend the necessary $ on infrastructure to meet the new demand.

In their eyes, the quickest and cheapest solution is to throttle the bandwidth of high bandwidth users. For this, they chose p2p because they know that they can confuse the issue. i.e. it's not so bad that we throttle p2p, afterall, most p2p is used for piracy (ignoring the fact that there are many legal uses for p2p). The reality is that people are using more and more bandwidth - and will continue to do so - throttling p2p alone will not fix the problem.

Should ISPs throttle VOIP traffic next? What about Internet TV, Youtube, Internet Radio, etc? Afterall, the same 'we own the network so we have the right to do whatever we want to make sure everyone gets SOME bandwidth' excuse will hold true for VOIP, Internet TV or any other new technology that might appear in the future.

Finally, what's wrong with people using as much bandwidth as they can? They PAID for it and are simply using it to the fullest. It's the ISPs who can't meet the very bandwidth requirements per customer that they advertise.

*Here's an analogy: A farmer has a cow that produces 10 litres of milk per day. He places an advertisement stating that he'd sell 1 litre bottles of milk, delivered daily. 15 people respond, asking for a bottle each. The farmer decides to sell a bottle that's only 2/3 full to each of the 15 people.... in nearly all industries and situations, this would be considered cheating and illegal. Why shouldn't it be the same for ISPs?

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Boffin

@Why do people assume the worse ?

I agree. Why is it that BitTorrent automatically equals to pirating music, movies or warez?

BitTorrent is a great alternative to HTTP server download linux distros and various other GNU/GPL stuff, which will also no doubt cost the distro team money to host. There are also various flavors of linux that can only be obtained through BitTorrent (and don't give me that Linux using=hacker crap. I've seen that article. Printed it out, literally crapped on it and then properly flushed it down the loo).

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Pirate

@AC

"Why is it that BitTorrent automatically equals to pirating music, movies or warez?"

It doesn't. But that doesn't mean that bittorrent traffic deserves equal priority to other protocols. It is a bulk transfer protocol, so it *should* take lowest priority. Meanwhile time-critical traffic like gaming and VOIP should take highest priority.

Now Comcast's cack-handed implementation of this is not great, but it's a start towards ensuring that time-critical traffic isn't swamped by bulk transfers, and true "net neutrality" ensuring that everyone can still do exactly what they want, within the limitations of the available bandwidth.

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Anonymous Coward

a contract works equally for both partys

"...whining at your ISP because they attempt to limit your usage to what is a) fair and b)clearly spelled out in their TOS, AUP or whatever is simply pathetic."

i cant say for sure, but isnt the US consumer law based on,and somewhat inline with the UK common law etc?, in that ANY consumer contract has to be fair and equal to both partys ,not just in favour to the company it comes from ?.

any single T&C contract clause that favours the company at the expense/exclusion of the consumers equal right is automaticly null and void in UK law.

open a simple free/cheap online small claims court claim to have your local county court force the said company(s) to give assurances etc,to not enforce these unlawful clauses..., i assume the US law has something inline with the UK system? of fairness to both partys?.

as was proven with the unlawful bank charges in the UK , just because a company (the banks in this case) places a clause or two in their T&C contracts to fleece the other party/remove their equal rights as regards the contract, doesnt make it lawful were restictions to the detriment of the consumer are concerned....

dont run away , ask the courts to enforce the consumer protection law of your country and make these companys abide by their contracts to provide the speeds they ask you to sigh up to and pay in advance for.....

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