Government

FCC officially opens proceedings against Comcast

The FCC has opened a pair of rule-making proceedings over network management against cable giant Comcast. It was discovered that Comcast occasionally blocks traffic from sites like BitTorrent and others. Comcast says that they are “shaping” network traffic, not targeting any particular type of traffic.

The FCC has opened a pair of rule-making proceedings over network management against cable giant Comcast. It was discovered that Comcast occasionally blocks traffic from sites like BitTorrent and others. Comcast says that it is “shaping” network traffic, not targeting any particular type of traffic.

From Ars Technica:

The FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau is looking for comment on a petition seeking a declaratory ruling that "the practice by broadband service providers of degrading peer-to-peer traffic violates the FCC's Internet Policy Statement" and that such practices fall outside of what the FCC calls "reasonable network management."

The second proceeding is intended to determine what, exactly, constitutes reasonable network management by ISPs. The petitioner, Vuze, Inc., wants the FCC to rule that such management prohibits broadband providers from blocking, degrading, or "unreasonably" discriminating against "lawful Internet applications, content, or technologies."

The FCC is accepting comments from the public. You can use the FCC Electronic Comment Filing System referencing WC Docket number 07-52. The deadline to file feedback is Feb. 13, 2008, and replies are due on Feb. 28, 2008.

The FCC’s 2005 Internet Policy Statement says that while an ISP can “manage” network traffic, a subscriber is allowed to access legal content as well as use applications and services of their choice. What do you think? Should ISPs be allowed to manage traffic by blocking or throttling certain sites, or should there be a rule in place that prevents this?

Additional information:

FCC Asks Comcast About Internet Filter (The Associated Press)

Comcast gets US FCC notice on blocking Web traffic (Reuters)

Update: FCC Asks Comcast for P2P Answers (PC Magazine)

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170 comments
deepsand
deepsand

t turns out that they were doing such even when there was no traffic congestion. See http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/144942/fccs_martin_comcast_blocking_was_widespread.html

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Why are the paparazzi so accurate with wasted skin like Jud Bosh, but routinely misspell and otherwise misrepresent the true Champions of the people? http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Byron+Dorgan+KBR&search_type=

deepsand
deepsand

to the writer are more severe when the potentially offended person is a "celebrity," or other person of "influence."

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[i]Better, then, perhaps to have a monarchy?[/i] No, better by far for the self-determining entities to leave the deterministically-behaving entities to Brownian dynamics. Gentle breezes are fine for birds.

deepsand
deepsand

Yes; most are drones, taking the celebs to be their royalty. Better, then, perhaps to have a monarchy? Re. "perceived" - yes, qualification intended

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Have they no regard for their own rights, as such? Blech, you did qualify with the word "perceived" so I guess you've already replied to this, as well. Still, is the magnitude of "celebrity" so great in so many "minds"? Again, blech!!!

akayani
akayani

Everyone in my family is using AAPT to get cheap calls to our relatives in the USA. Naturally we all use AAPT internet services to bundle. The relatives are using Comcast. Did you know Comcast block ALL mail from AAPT servers? They are undermining the reliability of the internet with some notion of protecting users from spam. And their warning that the mail is not allow take weeks to arrive in some cases. I hope they get the pants sued off them for being frickin a plague on the net.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

it may be a spam filter is blocking from a server that did send spam. Many of these filters are 3rd party filters. Unblocking the server would be an answer, but it may be blocked again because it is on a public server.

akayani
akayani

Blocking AAPT is one thing but Facebook? You would have to be getting the connection for free to use Comcast. Else why would anyone put up with it. Yani

Absolutely
Absolutely

Other places, it's just a bad habit.

akayani
akayani

OK we could send messages to the cousin via Facebook right? Nup that request was returned to sender as well. Testing my Dreamhost account now... But I know that Comcast has blocked Dreamhost servers in the past too. Yani

deepsand
deepsand

Allegedly they actively [b]altered packets[/b] so as to [b]disrupt[/b] P2P traffic. If such is true, they should be strung up by their private parts.

JCitizen
JCitizen

goes against the interference of signal rules that have been around since what - 1912?

deepsand
deepsand

told the ILECs that, if they wanted their long distance businesses to be de-regulated, they had to first foster competitive local services, and then declared that a mere 2 companies offering DSL service, one an ILEC and the other a cable company, constituted "adequate competition." An oligopoly is a free market??? Again, who watches the watchers?

deepsand
deepsand

Glad to see that someone else can figure things like that out without breaking sweat.

deepsand
deepsand

competition, and the subsequent enabling FCC Regulations came under Democratic control. It was only after Republicans regained control that the FCC reversed course. Mere coincidence? I think not.

JCitizen
JCitizen

The FCC doesn't even follow the guidline you site in some rural areas. Sprint is allowed to totally dominate some of those markets; they even try to block satellite internet out of fear everyone will switch to Vonage! They won't even allow people to form associations to compete on their own. One can see why there is not much sympathy for lobbyists these days.

scott
scott

Comcast is not a public utility. Internet access is not a public utility. In the USA anyways...(can't speak for any other country). Until the US Federal Government declares otherwise that Internet access should be a public utility, Comcast (as a business) is providing a service and can do whatever they legally want with the service they provide to consumers. We are paying for a service that we (as an individual) can not control once the packets pass through the cable modem device. Do I agree with Comcast in how it 'shapes' traffic? NO! I want a free & uncontrolled Internet connection, but so far, the closest I can get to that is to pay for a T1 (full/fractional), but that price point is out of my range. My only choices in the price range I'm willing to pay as a consumer is DSL or Cablemodem. There is only a single provider of DSL & Cablemodem in my area. The only choice I have as a consumer is two companies selling different products. There is no market freedom in my area. As a consumer, the only power you have over Comcast (and any other business) is to stop paying for their service, and legally coerce other consumers to stop paying for the service as well. Sooner or later the business will either close down or adapt to consumer demands. The more the US Federal government gets involved in oversight of business, the more expensive the product becomes to the consumer. Deregulation helped spur innovation and growth of telecommunications. It allowed local businesses to adapt to the needs of the community. It ushered in more jobs & helped grow the economy. The problem is that these businesses started buying each other and Economy of Scale started taking hold. Now you have a few companies that control the market. The business is slower to respond to consumer demand. Consumers get less choice. And eventually prices start going upward (not down). So, the question you should be asking is where do you want the government involved? Do you want it to mandate Internet access is now a public utility, and every person/household "has" to get Internet access? How do you think the government will pay for this? Or do you want the government to come in and break up the few large companies into smaller regional entities? How well will these smaller regional companies adapt? Point is, there is no simple solution. Make your comments heard to the FCC. Make them heard to Comcast (or any other ISP). Inform the public.

somethinggood4
somethinggood4

People pay taxes to provide roads (actuals, physical highways, not information highways), and to my knowledge, they pay the same whether they drive an SUV or a SmartCar (or motorcycle, for that matter). Usually that works fine for everybody. Now I don't know about where you live, but around here everybody drives about 20% over the speed limit. When truckers want to protest, they line up, side by side across the width of the highway, and drive EXACTLY the speed limit, to the consternation of other drivers. Now, they are obeying the law. They are using the road in a legal manner, but are impeding the progress of other motorists. Should the police step in and ask them to break it up?

JCitizen
JCitizen

It would be like the police lining up and doing the same thing; except some motorists paid for a fast lane and some cop/trucker whatever got in their way and slowed them down. Kinda like highway robbery - this is what Comcast is doing. Highway robbery.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]People pay taxes to provide roads (actuals, physical highways, not information highways), and to my knowledge, they pay the same whether they drive an SUV or a SmartCar (or motorcycle, for that matter).[/i] Most roadways are maintained from fuel taxes... and generally, the heavier your vehicle, the more fuel you'll use, and the more tax you pay. Also the more you drive the more fuel you use and the more you pay. This model is beginning to fail though, as cars are getting better and better gas mileage, meaning less revenue while at the same time roads are becoming more and more expensive to maintain (and then there are the few but increasing numbers of electric vehicles who aren't paying any fuel tax at all!). I suspect they'll come up with something reasonable, such as a "weight times distance" tax, to replace the "per gallon of fuel" tax. [i]When truckers want to protest, they line up, side by side across the width of the highway, and drive EXACTLY the speed limit, to the consternation of other drivers. Now, they are obeying the law. They are using the road in a legal manner, but are impeding the progress of other motorists. Should the police step in and ask them to break it up?[/i] Not as long as they are not disobeying any traffic control signs ("Keep Right Except When Passing" or "Left Lane No Trucks", for example). And of course, failing to yield to emergency vehicles might be troublesome :)

HamptonJim
HamptonJim

I applaud the actions of Comcast in throttling the bandwidth used by bit-torrent and file sahing, however it would seem that better communication at the point of sale of an ISP service should be required. With the vast majority of internet subscriptions experiencing contention an ISP has to try and assure its service to all users whether they are sending e-mails, browsing the internet, working via a VPN connection or file sharing. It would seem the solution here would be to throttle during peak usage hours, thus allowing business and home users a consistent service and remove the throttling overnight or during non peak hours so that torrent users can download the latest episode of Heroes etc. That way everyone's happy?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

them for, it's OK for them to modify what the service is and keep your money???????

rskreck
rskreck

BitTorrent is the biggest waste of bandwidth. My kids use it and they leave it on 24/7 if want to enjoy the internet I have to go and shut there computers down. I have 6 computers in my house hooked up to comcast, and if Bit Torrent isn't running on any of they I don't have any bandwidth problems. But as soon as 1 of the kids turn on Bit Torrent I know.

deepsand
deepsand

That you allow your kids to incovenience you gives you no right to insist that others give up a legitimate and useful tool. Perhaps you'd like to have someone take away something which you use simply because they didn't like the way others used the same item.

deepsand
deepsand

Or, perhaps your ISP should simply block [b]all[/b] of your traffic. Your Profile makes no mention of your being God, so I guess you'll just have to look after your children as best you can on your own.

compufixit.net
compufixit.net

Comcast should NOT ban anything. YOU should limit their usage. I don't think they will raise your kids for you. -- Paying for a service gets you that service. Unfortunately, if they decide this is what they want to offer, they have to 1. specify it on their contracts and 2. make sure the customer is aware. Ultimately is the CUSTOMER'S responsibility on how they use their bandwidth.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

All other comcast customers should lose a facility, so you don't have to control your own network?

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

There is intelligent life out there! Exactly right "Your inability to control what your kids are doing, should not make it the ISP's problem to force controls" So lets make DVD's illegal, cause some people copy them, oh and shred all the CD's ever created cause some people copy them, shit while we're at it lets destroy all books and magazines cause some people photocopy them! Just because some people use it illegally, doesn't mean we need to block a whole protocol. Jeez, I'm sure that TCP/IP has been used to do something illegal at one point or another, so lets ban the internet altogether shall we? The criminals are the ISP's that "shape" (or whatever you want to call it) the bandwidth that YOU PAY FOR because you MIGHT be using it for illegal things...bah! I buy and pay for a service, I want that service available to me. If you dick with my bandwidth, I'll go find someone else to provide my internet, thank you very much. ISP's take note!

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

maybe you need to get your offspring under control. who runs the house, you or them?

faradhi
faradhi

Since, YOU can't control your kids, YOU can't teach your kids how to use technology responsibly, WE should be punished when we want to download the latest Debian distribution. I won't even get into you allowing your kids access to the internet unsupervised. Holy crap how dangerous is that?! And before you ask, NOPE, there is one computer in my house that a child can use. It is in the living room in a corner where it can be seen from any angle.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

more bandwidth than you are paying for! If you are paying for a certain amount of bandwidth, then you should be expected to have it available. You expect the sewers to be able to handle the load right? If 1 person in your house flushes the toilet too many times in a day, does it suddenly start to backup? What about if someone takes a shower too long, or has more dishes to wash? Not all BitTorrent is illegal. Much of it is used for totally legal applications/updates. Blocking it because some use it illegally is stupid. Slowing connections because some are using the bandwidth that they are paying for, should be illegal. If your kids are eating your bandwidth, teach them not to, or set downloads in the system to be less intrusive. Your inability to control what your kids are doing, should not make it the ISP's problem to force controls

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

May just have been a typo by the author, but BitTorrent is not a Web site, its a P2P protocol. More on topic, I think Comcast should be allowed to manage traffic where it degrades their ability to provide good service to their customers. So, say my cable modem goes nuts and starts spewing junk packets across my cable node, they should be allow to throttle it back or even disconnect it . However, their management policy should be clearly stated and auditable to ensure they are not playing the role of law enforcement, that's for the police/FBI/etc to do. E.g. if I am hacking some companies Web site, it is none of Comcast's business, that's between me and the victim!

deepsand
deepsand

Not being part of the TCP/IP protocol suite, P2P traffic cannot be identified without inspection of the contents of the packet of a kind over and above that needed for the packet's being properly routed. By managing traffic on the basis of content, they cease to be a common carrier and become a content provider. And, as a content provider they then become responsible for ensuring that all content they deliver is in compliance with all applicable Law. They cannot censor a selected type of content only and still retain the protections accorded a common carrier. If Comcast was really serious about managing their traffic, they'd go after the bots which infect their local loops; they're so easily identified that any Comcast subscriber with a firewall installed can spot them in the firewall logs. And, there are so damned many of them that they're impossible to overlook.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I somehow exceed my bandwidth agreement. I don't think this is what is happening. They are just stomping on people's use of a protocol; this isn't right as long as I don't exceed my bandwidth agreement. Now if I'm a botnet victim, I got no sympathy for me or anyone else not securing their system unit. Bear in mind I'm not talking about people that have data usage agreements; those people definitly have a limit on how much they can download/upload.

tsquare0909
tsquare0909

If you pay for a service then you should be able to consume the service, they should shove their so call shaping network traffic bit.

filker0
filker0

Here's my opinion on this matter, not that anyone really needs to agree with me. An ISP is providing a pipe for data. Someone might pay for a bigger pipe, and the ISP should have the right to give a higher priority to traffic originating or terminating at the premium service customer's location. That's as far as it goes. Though the higher priority stuff has higher priority, that does not give the ISP the license to block or degrade specific non-premium traffic, even if it competes with a premium service from a paying organization or themselves. I've long suspected the cable company that I get my broadband connection from of deliberately degrading Vonage traffic because it competes with their own IP based phone service (and is cheaper, with better features, too.) I do this on the basis that my Vonage connection became less clear and reliable shortly after the cable company introduced their service, and even while the effective network bandwidth that I have been experiencing has gone up by about 40%, the quality of the connection that I get through Vonage has not. So to summarize, I think that it's OK for an ISP to enhance one service without enhancing everybody. I think it's not OK to degrade traffic selectively. There's a big difference. As for malware type traffic, monitoring of traffic for patterns that indicate a zombie network and shutting down of zombie connections is fine so long as it's based on a heuristic that is content neutral. Blacklists are fine, so long as they're well maintained and not used for competitive exclusion. The biggest exception to the "no interference" rule that I would allow is SMTP. I believe that ISPs should be able to institute policies that limit SMTP traffic from non trusted SMTP relays or other agents, even going so far as to pattern checking bodies of high volume e-mail sources (as determined by velocity checking) for possible zombie activity. The next biggest is DNS velocity checking. Between these two, you ought to be able to catch a lot of the zombies out there.

deepsand
deepsand

All that need be done is moniter subscribers' IP Addresses for those that are peristently trying to access other subscibrers' machines on the same loop. I can do it by merely looking at firewall logs. Why doesn't ComCrap do anything? I suspect that it's so that they can maximize subscriber traffic with an eye toward surcharging those customers who exceed their monthly bandwidth allocations.

JCitizen
JCitizen

chunk of the "radiation" comes from; seems like simply blocking these few ISPs would make fewer enemies with their customers than the direction they're taking now. Most seem to originate in the oriental pacific rim, of course. One place in Alaska used to be particularly pesky but that ISP must have finally done something about it. I'm sure it wasn't because my ISP made any moves.

deepsand
deepsand

to the contrary not withstanding, in the market of broadband provisioning, most ISPs have the luxury of ignoring those problems which directly affect customers alone, and tend only to those which directly impact themselves.

JCitizen
JCitizen

My syslog reports the usual mundane radiation; however my router service calls them "attacks". I hadn't received port knocks for years; and all of a sudden I was getting them regularly on my AT&T account. To me this was suspicious. My guess is that most ISPs would only follow up after it was too late and the FBI was involved! :(

deepsand
deepsand

If you're on cable, and have a firewall, you should be able, from its log, to identify those on your local loop/system that are trying to penetrate your system. On DSL this type of attack, targeting the same IP block as that of the attacker, is rare.

JCitizen
JCitizen

outside attackers for legal reasons; but they will prosecute for actual illegal entry attempts. This will be difficult to prove for me, as I can't detail the difference between the usual background "radiation" and actual attack attempts. My syslogs are inconclusive for this, as far as I can tell anyway. So far most attempts have always come from inside the provider(AT&T), but I'm sure they are directed by annalysis gained from a certain Chinese Government(net) probe that is one of my top attackers. Call me paranoid if you will; and I will say, "Hey, I resemble that remark!"

deepsand
deepsand

Any decent firewall on a machine on a Comcast loop will provide a log of [b]local machines[/b] on that loop that are repeatedly attempting to access your machine. Although Comcast can identify those offending machines as easily as can one of their subscribers, they 've made not attempt to curb the bots on their loops other that try to convince subscribers to install McAfee. While those same firewall logs also show attempted penetrations from remote Comcast subsribers, if Comcast dealt with the problem at the level of each and every local net, the only remote traffic that they'd need to look at would be traffic originating outside of their own IP blocks.

JCitizen
JCitizen

thanks for the idea seanferd! :)

seanferd
seanferd

Maybe you can get 'em to go halfsies on a new system and give you an extra free connection just to sample for malware and spam vectors. :D

JCitizen
JCitizen

I'm moving soon; back to a smaller ISP I had a good relationship with. They seemed baffled and surprised by the sight of one of my monthly analysis sheets. I had the three or four greatest violaters listed, some internal and some external, and it would have been easy to block those few and reduced internal traffic tremendously. They said I would have to get a court order to get the internal host to stop. I never asked them about the external problems; I must admit I didn't have a case for either one being a concerted attack. Just "background radiation" as they are so fond of calling it. I don't know what it would take - short of a breech of my defenses to show malicious intent in behalf of the IP addresses in question. I will bring up the external IP blocking proposal though. My email from that account is full of spam and that alone is enough to make a legitimate argument for action.

deepsand
deepsand

to police their own subscribers. If we can detect the traffic, and determine its source(s), why then can ISPs not do the same? They can, of course, do precisely that. So the real question is, why don't they?

JCitizen
JCitizen

Bottom line is I should get the bandwidth I pay for regardless of what protocol is used. If they can't provide it then they better make a new agreement with me; and give me fair warning before changing such agreement. However, as I stated before in the discussion, I have no sympathy for victims of zombie botnets; I don't care if the ISP has to turn off their connection - those individual "victims" need to get a handle on responsible computing.

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