EFF Flogged Over Comcast Report

In the past, I have been a frequent critic of the activism that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has engaged in, specifically regarding national security issues involving electronic monitoring of networks. I believe that monitoring networks keep us safe and the EFF does not.


And when it comes to their latest crusade against Comcast over bandwidth shaping of P2P programs, I think they are wrong there too. Comcast has a primary duty to their customer base to deliver a solid service in the best manner they can. If this means that they strangle the bandwidth hogged by P2P users, then so be it. A recent article by Richard Bennett at the Register flogs the EFF over both the technical aspects of their complaint against Comcast and the “religious” basis of their argument.Richard writes at the Reg here:

The internet’s traditional method of ensuring fairness doesn’t work any more – not for Comcast, not for BT, not for any network that hosts peer-to-peer file-sharing applications designed to grab all the bandwidth they can get. Internet routers can randomly drop packets all the way to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and peer-to-peer users will still consume most of the bandwidth on the internet’s first and last hops.

The EFF’s quibble with Comcast is therefore bankrupt. Home network providers have to provide some measure of fair access to each user they serve, and they can only do so with mechanisms that actually produce a result. The internet’s traffic toolkit is nearly barren, so it’s no wonder that Comcast and its peers would use mechanisms such as Reset Spoofing to accomplish an end that all rational people agree is worthwhile.

So why does the EFF complain? They’re aware that file-sharing is troublesome for cable networks, but remain fully committed to the religious view that the internet’s protocols were born fully-formed and inviolate in the mind of a virgin engineer in Bethlehem some 40 years ago, IETF discussions to the contrary notwithstanding.

Like many advocacy groups dealing with technical subjects, the EFF represents the view that technologies are meant to liberate the human spirit from the chains of exploitation, hence it’s bewildered by the sight of people using the internet for such mundane purposes as downloading porn, bullying, and stealing music.

So it manufactures a fake crisis of network management to avoid the truth about the inanities of the internet.

Richard Bennett is a network architect and occasional activist in Silicon Valley. He wrote the first standard for Ethernet over twisted-pair wiring and contributed to the standards for WiFi and the Ultra-Wideband wireless networks.

Kiltak adds: I’ve received many complaints about this post from readers, and I’d just like to add that since this is a multi-users blog, a subject can be covered from many angles. This is one example, and here’s another one. This post does bring up some good point about what an access provider should and should not do. I think that such an article should be used to promote discussion­, not flog me to death via email.

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41 Responses to EFF Flogged Over Comcast Report

  1. “Comcast has a primary duty to their customer base to deliver a solid service in the best manner they can. If this means that they strangle the bandwidth hogged by P2P users, then so be it.”

    Comcast has a duty to give me the 6 megs down they promise on every bit of marketing I have from them. If I want to use my 6 megs doing P2P, thats my business. I have no issue with throttling me to my service agreement, but don’t throttle me well below my SLA because you don’t like what I’m doing.

    What if Comcast decides to bandwidth limit GeeksAreSexy.net because “customers look at it too much”?

  2. "Comcast has a primary duty to their customer base to deliver a solid service in the best manner they can. If this means that they strangle the bandwidth hogged by P2P users, then so be it."

    Comcast has a duty to give me the 6 megs down they promise on every bit of marketing I have from them. If I want to use my 6 megs doing P2P, thats my business. I have no issue with throttling me to my service agreement, but don't throttle me well below my SLA because you don't like what I'm doing.

    What if Comcast decides to bandwidth limit GeeksAreSexy.net because "customers look at it too much"?

  3. Before people starts yelling at the top of their lungs about that post, I'd like to say that each of our contributor has their own opinion on the subject… Brian has his opinion, Patrick also does..

    What we're really looking to do here is to promote discussion.. So let's stay civilized :)

  4. Sorry Pat, I have to disagree. The slippery slope argument must apply here. It has been rumored that Comcast mucks with VOIP traffic, too. Every Vonage user I know has experienced problems with them. There just isn’t much evidence that Comcast is net neutral.

    It’s true that an honest discussion of the technical aspects of P2P bandwidth hogging needs to happen, but service providers should not get to decide what packets are more important that others. And they should certainly be transparent about it when they do.

  5. So Doug, do you feel that service providers should be excluded from any discussions when it comes to deciding how traffic that flows across their capital property is handled? If service providers are disallowed, who then, in your opinion, gets to be the decision maker?

    And why blame Comcast for Vonage? Vonage is on the verge of corporate meltdown last I heard.

    This is not so much net neutrality as it is abiding by the AUP of Comcast.

    If anyone wants unlimited usage of bandwidth, such lines are available for purchase. What’s a T3 cost these days?

    • Last I checked, Comcast advertised unlimited bandwidth, but then they pull stunts like this. They’ve also been known to disconnect people who see “unlimited” and make the mistake of thinking that “unlimited” means “no limit” when apparently “unlimited” means “there’s a limit but we won’t tell you what.”

  6. Sorry Pat, I have to disagree. The slippery slope argument must apply here. It has been rumored that Comcast mucks with VOIP traffic, too. Every Vonage user I know has experienced problems with them. There just isn't much evidence that Comcast is net neutral.

    It's true that an honest discussion of the technical aspects of P2P bandwidth hogging needs to happen, but service providers should not get to decide what packets are more important that others. And they should certainly be transparent about it when they do.

  7. So Doug, do you feel that service providers should be excluded from any discussions when it comes to deciding how traffic that flows across their capital property is handled? If service providers are disallowed, who then, in your opinion, gets to be the decision maker?

    And why blame Comcast for Vonage? Vonage is on the verge of corporate meltdown last I heard.

    This is not so much net neutrality as it is abiding by the AUP of Comcast.

    If anyone wants unlimited usage of bandwidth, such lines are available for purchase. What's a T3 cost these days?

    • Last I checked, Comcast advertised unlimited bandwidth, but then they pull stunts like this. They've also been known to disconnect people who see "unlimited" and make the mistake of thinking that "unlimited" means "no limit" when apparently "unlimited" means "there's a limit but we won't tell you what."

  8. Before people starts yelling at the top of their lungs about that post, I’d like to say that each of our contributor has their own opinion on the subject… Brian has his opinion, Patrick also does..

    What we’re really looking to do here is to promote discussion.. So let’s stay civilized :)

  9. So it’s OK for Comcast to intercept and inject a fake packet from another machine to your own machine? That is indeed a slippery slope to be standing on. It does appear to be illegal to do so as well.

    What happens when Comcast decides that streaming video is a strain on their bandwidth, and degrade YouTube, Veoh, PornoTube or any other video site?

    What happens when Comcast decides that you can’t encrypt any of your traffic because they tell what the content is to see whether or not it needs to be degraded? Is Comcast going to cut your account off because you are required to use VPN to access your corporate email?

    I hate to say this, but P2P isn’t going away. Neither is VOIP. Neither is streaming video. People will find a use for maxing out their bandwidth, one way or another. Either they can make the business decision to stay in the game and actually keep customers (like me) happy, or they will be relegated to being the next 56K modem.

    And yes, PatB, that’s part of the issue. Just who is the ultimate decision maker? I’ll give you a clue, it’s not Comcast. Yes, Comcast needs to be in the discussion. And I don’t think that any comments preceding me is saying so either. But Comcast isn’t the ultimate decision maker.

    And I really don’t understand the attitude with Vonage either. Considering how much more Comcast wants for their VOIP compared to others such as Vonage and Packet8, would it be that hard to believe that Comcast wouldn’t do something similar with VOIP? Yes, VOIP is still quite in the experimental stages, I’ve got two friends who went through the Sunrocket meltdown. I know that pretty intimately.

    Comcast’s vision of Internet usage just isn’t squaring with reality. Either they will adjust their vision to reality, or somebody else that does see the reality (Verizon with FTTH possibly – it’s a bit too early to tell on that one) will show them how wrong they are by stripping them of all their customers.

    Because the customers are in the end the ultimate decision makers. Whether they understand the technicals or not. They will choose the ISP that gives them the service that they want — if they have that choice. And that’s the only thing that’s truly saving Comcast’s behind right now.

    • “What happens when Comcast decides that you can’t encrypt any of your traffic because they tell what the content is to see whether or not it needs to be degraded? Is Comcast going to cut your account off because you are required to use VPN to access your corporate email?”
      Or just plain hold the encrypted emails you send. Come on, you guys are geeks. I can’t be the only one that uses PGP a lot.

  10. Bryan,

    I really think that you are exaggerating your fears over what Comcast is doing with the equipment they own. There is nothing illegal about what Comcast does to network packets. If you can find the US code that shows they are in violation, I’ll eat my shoes.

    And I also think you are confusing a cable modem connection with a dedicated line. What Comcast is doing is much more like what corporate networks do with their own infrastructure nodes. The use security products to defend against attacks and they monitor for misuse. And when they detect a threat on the network, they cut it off.

    I don’t think that Comcast is going to degrade normal internet applications like streaming video or encrypted tunnels, either. That is just hysteria.

    Regarding P2P “being here to stay?” Its quickly being eradicated from most corporate networks and government systems due to the risks involved with the lack of security, copyright theft, and illegal or pornographic content. And those corporate networks also do the same type of traffic shaping and worse to control P2P at both ends too. Where is the outrage about that?

    I think Comcast’s vision is absolutely square with the reality of today’s customers’ needs. And I doubt there will be much of an exodus from Comcast’s subscriber base because of the outrage of the P2P issue, which BTW, is against Comcast’s AUP now. Most users just like a fast internet for games and web usage.

    I completely agree with you that customers will only benefit from competition of broadband services. Whether that will make Comcast relax their AUP restrictions remains to be seen- but I think they will continue to forbid P2P on their pipes.

  11. So it's OK for Comcast to intercept and inject a fake packet from another machine to your own machine? That is indeed a slippery slope to be standing on. It does appear to be illegal to do so as well.

    What happens when Comcast decides that streaming video is a strain on their bandwidth, and degrade YouTube, Veoh, PornoTube or any other video site?

    What happens when Comcast decides that you can't encrypt any of your traffic because they tell what the content is to see whether or not it needs to be degraded? Is Comcast going to cut your account off because you are required to use VPN to access your corporate email?

    I hate to say this, but P2P isn't going away. Neither is VOIP. Neither is streaming video. People will find a use for maxing out their bandwidth, one way or another. Either they can make the business decision to stay in the game and actually keep customers (like me) happy, or they will be relegated to being the next 56K modem.

    And yes, PatB, that's part of the issue. Just who is the ultimate decision maker? I'll give you a clue, it's not Comcast. Yes, Comcast needs to be in the discussion. And I don't think that any comments preceding me is saying so either. But Comcast isn't the ultimate decision maker.

    And I really don't understand the attitude with Vonage either. Considering how much more Comcast wants for their VOIP compared to others such as Vonage and Packet8, would it be that hard to believe that Comcast wouldn't do something similar with VOIP? Yes, VOIP is still quite in the experimental stages, I've got two friends who went through the Sunrocket meltdown. I know that pretty intimately.

    Comcast's vision of Internet usage just isn't squaring with reality. Either they will adjust their vision to reality, or somebody else that does see the reality (Verizon with FTTH possibly – it's a bit too early to tell on that one) will show them how wrong they are by stripping them of all their customers.

    Because the customers are in the end the ultimate decision makers. Whether they understand the technicals or not. They will choose the ISP that gives them the service that they want — if they have that choice. And that's the only thing that's truly saving Comcast's behind right now.

    • "What happens when Comcast decides that you can’t encrypt any of your traffic because they tell what the content is to see whether or not it needs to be degraded? Is Comcast going to cut your account off because you are required to use VPN to access your corporate email?"

      Or just plain hold the encrypted emails you send. Come on, you guys are geeks. I can't be the only one that uses PGP a lot.

  12. Bryan,

    I really think that you are exaggerating your fears over what Comcast is doing with the equipment they own. There is nothing illegal about what Comcast does to network packets. If you can find the US code that shows they are in violation, I'll eat my shoes.

    And I also think you are confusing a cable modem connection with a dedicated line. What Comcast is doing is much more like what corporate networks do with their own infrastructure nodes. The use security products to defend against attacks and they monitor for misuse. And when they detect a threat on the network, they cut it off.

    I don't think that Comcast is going to degrade normal internet applications like streaming video or encrypted tunnels, either. That is just hysteria.

    Regarding P2P "being here to stay?" Its quickly being eradicated from most corporate networks and government systems due to the risks involved with the lack of security, copyright theft, and illegal or pornographic content. And those corporate networks also do the same type of traffic shaping and worse to control P2P at both ends too. Where is the outrage about that?

    I think Comcast's vision is absolutely square with the reality of today's customers' needs. And I doubt there will be much of an exodus from Comcast's subscriber base because of the outrage of the P2P issue, which BTW, is against Comcast's AUP now. Most users just like a fast internet for games and web usage.

    I completely agree with you that customers will only benefit from competition of broadband services. Whether that will make Comcast relax their AUP restrictions remains to be seen- but I think they will continue to forbid P2P on their pipes.

  13. It’s true that an honest discussion of the technical aspects of P2P bandwidth hogging needs to happen, but service providers should not get to decide what packets are more important that others. And they should certainly be transparent about it when they do.

  14. It’s true that an honest discussion of the technical aspects of P2P bandwidth hogging needs to happen, but service providers should not get to decide what packets are more important that others. And they should certainly be transparent about it when they do.

  15. I use Comcast and ATT exclusively. They are both companies whose primary (dare I say, only) goal is customer satisfaction. Since Comcast throttles the Net as they see fit, and ATT locks down its network from everybody (except the NSA) this combination of factors make me feel safer and happier than if I supported a non-throttling ISP and less snoopier Telco.

  16. I use Comcast and ATT exclusively. They are both companies whose primary (dare I say, only) goal is customer satisfaction. Since Comcast throttles the Net as they see fit, and ATT locks down its network from everybody (except the NSA) this combination of factors make me feel safer and happier than if I supported a non-throttling ISP and less snoopier Telco.

  17. I also disagree with the article and your interpretation of it, Pat. The writer draws the reader to his point of view using dishonest techniques. The one that irks me the most is this: “…so it’s no wonder that Comcast and its peers would use mechanisms such as Reset Spoofing to accomplish an end that all rational people agree is worthwhile.”
    All rational people? Who is the author claiming is agreeing with him? The EFF clearly does not, and they must at least be considered rational. “All rational people agree” is a technique that was used in the Victorian days of snake-oil salesmen and other such hucksters to fool their audience into a false conclusion.
    Also: “…religious view that the internet’s protocols were born fully-formed and inviolate in the mind of a virgin engineer in Bethlehem some 40 years ago”. Standard ridiculing the author’s enemy, without actually addressing the substance of the argument.
    Both of these techniques are used constantly by the republican noise-machine, religious types, and other fanatical propagandists. In fact they are selling similar things – false ideologies and empty promises while never addressing the needs of the consumer.
    The bottom line is this: If a consumer buys a given amount of bandwidth, and is staying within the limits of that bandwidth, there is no reason for an ISP to throttle or otherwise constrain what purpose that bandwidth is being used for. A packet is a packet is a packet, the contents of which are none of the ISP’s business. Restricting use of a service without warning or notice, based solely on the packet’s contents, reeks of censorship and kowtowing to an ulterior motive – in this case, most likely the RIAA and similar companies pressuring the ISPs to interfere with what they see as a threat to their profit margins.

  18. Max,

    The rational people are those that agree that something has to be done to provide a common service to all subscribers when there are users who hog bandwidth.

    The irrational people are those that believe, almost religiously, that TCP/IP and traffic management cannot evolve, ever. That it is a perfect protocol and it is okay to overclock it with certain applications an no one is allowed to criticize those that do it. In fact, the hysteria in adamantly refusing to allow ISP’s to manage their own netflows is more akin to religious zealots that say that embryonic stem cells should never be touched because they are somehow magical repositories of life.

    When you say “A packet is a packet is a packet” you are wrong, wrong, and wrong. Packets can be fragmented, oversized, specially crafted to damage certain equipment, and can contain payloads that are against the terms of service of just about every ISP out there. And to say that it is none of the ISP’s business what the contents are is also incorrect. Chances are, the ISP’s at both the source and destination inspect your packets to ensure they comply with their security policies. Those that do not comply are dropped and sometimes IP’s get blacklisted.

    I agree that it is foolish of Comcast to have launched new methods of shaping their network traffic without being open about it, and they messed up much further by not training their personnel on how to relate the information to the customers. The result was flat out denials and lots of confusion.

    • PatB writes:

      When you say “A packet is a packet is a packet” you are wrong, wrong, and wrong. Packets can be fragmented, oversized, specially crafted to damage certain equipment, and can contain payloads that are against the terms of service of just about every ISP out there.

      Bittorrent p2p traffic doesn’t, just by being bittorent traffic, meet the conditions you are asserting in this statement. I agree that ISPs should do what they can to protect me from ill-formed and malicious packets, but Comcast’s actions go far beyond that, damaging the ability of their own customers to use they paid Comcast for and which Comcast advertised. It’s wrong.

      • Hey Lance,

        Yeah, to my knowledge, Bittorrent P2P packets are of normal size. However, the application spawns dozens of ports at once whereas http and other protocols use 4 or eight-

        And for Comcast’s basic service, such applications are disruptive to other users trying to use the bandwidth at the same time.

        P2P users have been invited to upgrade to Comcast’s premium service that has less restrictions, and so far, I don’t know of any Bittorrent users that have taken Comcast up on their offer.

        I get Comcast advertising too. I really don’t remember any verbage in their flyers talking about using P2P applications that can crush my neighbor’s access. It also doesn’t say that I can’t send smtp messages that originate from my own PC either. Instead they make me send email through comcast’s smtp server.

        Is that wrong too? I also want to see what all of my neighbors are using for printers and see if they have any open shares of their local hard drives. But dammit, Comcast blocks that too. Is this illegal shaping of traffic?

        I see no difference in these restrictions. But the religious zealots of net neutrality ignore these facts. Rather, they focus on P2P and claim they have been mistreated or comically, that Comcast is breaking the law.

        • But Pat, and I’m following on Lance’s comment, the point is that if I pay for X Mb/s bandwidth, I would expect the ISP to throttle my connection to stay within X Mb/s. What difference does it make what kind of packets I send out, as long as I stay within my allotted bandwidth? As long as I’m not purposely creating malicious packets, and am attempting to create legitimate connections, who cares what kind of connection it is? What if my school or company uses P2P/torrent to distribute data? Many software companies are using torrents to distribute their products now too. Why is it okay for an ISP to prevent me from getting that product?
          The point is that when I pay for a certain QoS, I expect to get that QoS. If I’m not maliciously interfering with the network, and staying within my QoS, then the data I send is none of the ISP’s business. End of story.
          Whatever the case may be, whatever traffic-shaping or ToS terms the ISPs create, you can be certain that “teh hackers” will figure out how to circumvent it within a week of its deployment. Better to create a fair and open policy that everyone can understand, than to quietly disrupt customers’ service quality. In fact, the fact that the ISPs are doing this with a veil of secrecy and mis-information is a red flag that they know that what they’re doing is wrong. Much like everything else, it’s the cover-up that proves the crime.

  19. I also disagree with the article and your interpretation of it, Pat. The writer draws the reader to his point of view using dishonest techniques. The one that irks me the most is this: "…so it’s no wonder that Comcast and its peers would use mechanisms such as Reset Spoofing to accomplish an end that all rational people agree is worthwhile."

    All rational people? Who is the author claiming is agreeing with him? The EFF clearly does not, and they must at least be considered rational. "All rational people agree" is a technique that was used in the Victorian days of snake-oil salesmen and other such hucksters to fool their audience into a false conclusion.

    Also: "…religious view that the internet’s protocols were born fully-formed and inviolate in the mind of a virgin engineer in Bethlehem some 40 years ago". Standard ridiculing the author's enemy, without actually addressing the substance of the argument.

    Both of these techniques are used constantly by the republican noise-machine, religious types, and other fanatical propagandists. In fact they are selling similar things – false ideologies and empty promises while never addressing the needs of the consumer.

    The bottom line is this: If a consumer buys a given amount of bandwidth, and is staying within the limits of that bandwidth, there is no reason for an ISP to throttle or otherwise constrain what purpose that bandwidth is being used for. A packet is a packet is a packet, the contents of which are none of the ISP's business. Restricting use of a service without warning or notice, based solely on the packet's contents, reeks of censorship and kowtowing to an ulterior motive – in this case, most likely the RIAA and similar companies pressuring the ISPs to interfere with what they see as a threat to their profit margins.

  20. Max,

    The rational people are those that agree that something has to be done to provide a common service to all subscribers when there are users who hog bandwidth.

    The irrational people are those that believe, almost religiously, that TCP/IP and traffic management cannot evolve, ever. That it is a perfect protocol and it is okay to overclock it with certain applications an no one is allowed to criticize those that do it. In fact, the hysteria in adamantly refusing to allow ISP's to manage their own netflows is more akin to religious zealots that say that embryonic stem cells should never be touched because they are somehow magical repositories of life.

    When you say "A packet is a packet is a packet" you are wrong, wrong, and wrong. Packets can be fragmented, oversized, specially crafted to damage certain equipment, and can contain payloads that are against the terms of service of just about every ISP out there. And to say that it is none of the ISP's business what the contents are is also incorrect. Chances are, the ISP's at both the source and destination inspect your packets to ensure they comply with their security policies. Those that do not comply are dropped and sometimes IP's get blacklisted.

    I agree that it is foolish of Comcast to have launched new methods of shaping their network traffic without being open about it, and they messed up much further by not training their personnel on how to relate the information to the customers. The result was flat out denials and lots of confusion.

    • PatB writes:

      When you say “A packet is a packet is a packet” you are wrong, wrong, and wrong. Packets can be fragmented, oversized, specially crafted to damage certain equipment, and can contain payloads that are against the terms of service of just about every ISP out there.

      Bittorrent p2p traffic doesn't, just by being bittorent traffic, meet the conditions you are asserting in this statement. I agree that ISPs should do what they can to protect me from ill-formed and malicious packets, but Comcast's actions go far beyond that, damaging the ability of their own customers to use they paid Comcast for and which Comcast advertised. It's wrong.

      • Hey Lance,

        Yeah, to my knowledge, Bittorrent P2P packets are of normal size. However, the application spawns dozens of ports at once whereas http and other protocols use 4 or eight-

        And for Comcast's basic service, such applications are disruptive to other users trying to use the bandwidth at the same time.

        P2P users have been invited to upgrade to Comcast's premium service that has less restrictions, and so far, I don't know of any Bittorrent users that have taken Comcast up on their offer.

        I get Comcast advertising too. I really don't remember any verbage in their flyers talking about using P2P applications that can crush my neighbor's access. It also doesn't say that I can't send smtp messages that originate from my own PC either. Instead they make me send email through comcast's smtp server.

        Is that wrong too? I also want to see what all of my neighbors are using for printers and see if they have any open shares of their local hard drives. But dammit, Comcast blocks that too. Is this illegal shaping of traffic?

        I see no difference in these restrictions. But the religious zealots of net neutrality ignore these facts. Rather, they focus on P2P and claim they have been mistreated or comically, that Comcast is breaking the law.

        • But Pat, and I'm following on Lance's comment, the point is that if I pay for X Mb/s bandwidth, I would expect the ISP to throttle my connection to stay within X Mb/s. What difference does it make what kind of packets I send out, as long as I stay within my allotted bandwidth? As long as I'm not purposely creating malicious packets, and am attempting to create legitimate connections, who cares what kind of connection it is? What if my school or company uses P2P/torrent to distribute data? Many software companies are using torrents to distribute their products now too. Why is it okay for an ISP to prevent me from getting that product?

          The point is that when I pay for a certain QoS, I expect to get that QoS. If I'm not maliciously interfering with the network, and staying within my QoS, then the data I send is none of the ISP's business. End of story.

          Whatever the case may be, whatever traffic-shaping or ToS terms the ISPs create, you can be certain that "teh hackers" will figure out how to circumvent it within a week of its deployment. Better to create a fair and open policy that everyone can understand, than to quietly disrupt customers' service quality. In fact, the fact that the ISPs are doing this with a veil of secrecy and mis-information is a red flag that they know that what they're doing is wrong. Much like everything else, it's the cover-up that proves the crime.

  21. Max, you are absolutely right about creating a fair and open policy for everyone to understand. And if Comcast had been honest and up front with their users about making aggressive P2P a violation of their TOS rather than allowing reports of disruptions and terminations filter out to the news while Comcast waved their palms up acting like they didn’t know what was going on, much of this debate would instead center of online server services such as Youtube and Google when it comes to net neutrality.

    But you are not buying “bandwidth” when you subscribe to Comcast’s service. You pay a fee to connect to their network, which has policies and protocols it enforces. You have to pass through their network to get to the Internet. Sometimes several hops depending on your location.

    If its bandwidth someone needs, those traditional internet connections are still available and they are lots cheaper than they used to be. But you will need your own router. A 45 MB T3 line runs about $2,000 per month, but its cheaper if you get burstable speeds. Then you have bandwidth, and you can torrent till your ears bleed.

    Companies that distribute software solely via torrents are quite possibly shooting themselves in the foot. Government and most corporate systems disallow P2P because of the security risks and the (again) bandwidth it consumes on the network. Sure they can distribute software that way but unless they allow for FTP or normal http downloads, they are not going to reach their full customer base.

    Finally, using words like “wrong” and “illegal” and “Crime” to describe what comcast did assigns a level of morality to this whole issue. What they did was sloppy and clumsy, heavy-handed too, which is exactly what Comcast is known for and why I dumped them two years ago to get FIOS. But its their network, and they can govern it the way they want.

  22. To my knowledge, Comcast does not have a limit on the data downloaded. They advertise that they have 6 MB download via a special sauce they call “powerboost” which only applies to the first 10 MB of download.

    You know, I’m not so sure that Comcast is so worried about the size of the files as much as the concurrent connections. You realize that for every web connection to an internet site you actually open up 4 to 8 ports to make the connection. P2P can sometimes open up to dozens of concurrent connections. And since TCP/IP is limited to 65,535 ports at the gateway, they can get eaten up pretty quickly. And when more ports are requested, the gateway tears down the oldest connection first which sends resets on the connection, and on a busy network this can cause spotty service. P2P therefore wrecks other peoples’ previously connected sessions faster than web browsing can wreck a P2P session.

    This is basic networking and it would be the same on all networks, not just comcast. And because Comcast is getting so big and jamming more and more customers on the same trunk, they are forced to do what they can to limit frivolous connections.

  23. Max, you are absolutely right about creating a fair and open policy for everyone to understand. And if Comcast had been honest and up front with their users about making aggressive P2P a violation of their TOS rather than allowing reports of disruptions and terminations filter out to the news while Comcast waved their palms up acting like they didn't know what was going on, much of this debate would instead center of online server services such as Youtube and Google when it comes to net neutrality.

    But you are not buying "bandwidth" when you subscribe to Comcast's service. You pay a fee to connect to their network, which has policies and protocols it enforces. You have to pass through their network to get to the Internet. Sometimes several hops depending on your location.

    If its bandwidth someone needs, those traditional internet connections are still available and they are lots cheaper than they used to be. But you will need your own router. A 45 MB T3 line runs about $2,000 per month, but its cheaper if you get burstable speeds. Then you have bandwidth, and you can torrent till your ears bleed.

    Companies that distribute software solely via torrents are quite possibly shooting themselves in the foot. Government and most corporate systems disallow P2P because of the security risks and the (again) bandwidth it consumes on the network. Sure they can distribute software that way but unless they allow for FTP or normal http downloads, they are not going to reach their full customer base.

    Finally, using words like "wrong" and "illegal" and "Crime" to describe what comcast did assigns a level of morality to this whole issue. What they did was sloppy and clumsy, heavy-handed too, which is exactly what Comcast is known for and why I dumped them two years ago to get FIOS. But its their network, and they can govern it the way they want.

  24. Patb: Why then are provider selling Access packages with pre-determined bandwidth? For instance, One of my local cable provider announces a 6 mb cable service that offers a maximum of 100gb of download per month. They say upfront that your line will go up to 6mb, and that you can't go over 100gb of download, else you'll get charge for it. Doesn't Comcast work the same way?

    I can understand that a sustained download rate of X mb per second can hurt the provider's network as a whole, but they would have to specify it in their TOS first.. and maybe they do… it's just that most people never read the fine prints.

    • The dirty secret behind all these debates is well over 90% of all .torrent traffic is illegal in the united states. Weather it be movies, tv shows, music or software the vast majority of this traffic is unauthorised distribution of copyrighted material.

      Speaking as a network manager, if people only used it for the legal stuff (Linux ISO's, and World of Warcraft patches being the main two legal things people do) we wouldn't be having this debate. People download their ISO or WoW patch, the whole event is over in a couple hours, they shutdown the client and move on with their lives.

      The stuff most people actually use this for goes more like this …. select every episode of the simpsons ever produced, a bunch of family guy episodes, 6 or 7 movies, hit download and let it download for days, weeks or months on end. Then I get a nice little letter from NBC, FOX, or some other copyright holder telling me to take it down, which due to the nature of BT and the legal requirements of the safe harbor provision in the DMCA means that I lock your modem and have to give you a lecture regarding right and wrong.

      I manage a relatively small network (something like 2000 cable modems) and spend easily 10 hours a week researching and locking accounts because of this.

      Why shouldn't I just block BT? Do it's redeaming qualities and uses outweigh what the criminals (yes, sharing copyrighted matierials w/o authorization makes you a criminal in this country) abuse it for?

      It puts a huge strain on network resources, mostly due to people BREAKING THE LAW and creates a non-trivial amount of wasted labor to boot?

      Add to the fact that the protocol creates not dozens but in many cases hundreds or thousands of connections all taxing routers, switches etc; that now need to be upgraded and I'd like to toss the whole thing out the window.

      IN short, P2P is not inherently bad, but what people actually use it for is. I've often thought that a blacklist of trackers primarily intended for distributing illegal content that I could subscribe to via BGP would be a wonderful creation. Then I could let my users do all the legal stuff they want and get rid of the headache induced by the illegal activity.

  25. To my knowledge, Comcast does not have a limit on the data downloaded. They advertise that they have 6 MB download via a special sauce they call "powerboost" which only applies to the first 10 MB of download.

    You know, I'm not so sure that Comcast is so worried about the size of the files as much as the concurrent connections. You realize that for every web connection to an internet site you actually open up 4 to 8 ports to make the connection. P2P can sometimes open up to dozens of concurrent connections. And since TCP/IP is limited to 65,535 ports at the gateway, they can get eaten up pretty quickly. And when more ports are requested, the gateway tears down the oldest connection first which sends resets on the connection, and on a busy network this can cause spotty service. P2P therefore wrecks other peoples' previously connected sessions faster than web browsing can wreck a P2P session.

    This is basic networking and it would be the same on all networks, not just comcast. And because Comcast is getting so big and jamming more and more customers on the same trunk, they are forced to do what they can to limit frivolous connections.

  26. Patb: Why then are provider selling Access packages with pre-determined bandwidth? For instance, One of my local cable provider announces a 6 mb cable service that offers a maximum of 100gb of download per month. They say upfront that your line will go up to 6mb, and that you can’t go over 100gb of download, else you’ll get charge for it. Doesn’t Comcast work the same way?

    I can understand that a sustained download rate of X mb per second can hurt the provider’s network as a whole, but they would have to specify it in their TOS first.. and maybe they do… it’s just that most people never read the fine prints.

    • The dirty secret behind all these debates is well over 90% of all .torrent traffic is illegal in the united states. Weather it be movies, tv shows, music or software the vast majority of this traffic is unauthorised distribution of copyrighted material.

      Speaking as a network manager, if people only used it for the legal stuff (Linux ISO’s, and World of Warcraft patches being the main two legal things people do) we wouldn’t be having this debate. People download their ISO or WoW patch, the whole event is over in a couple hours, they shutdown the client and move on with their lives.

      The stuff most people actually use this for goes more like this …. select every episode of the simpsons ever produced, a bunch of family guy episodes, 6 or 7 movies, hit download and let it download for days, weeks or months on end. Then I get a nice little letter from NBC, FOX, or some other copyright holder telling me to take it down, which due to the nature of BT and the legal requirements of the safe harbor provision in the DMCA means that I lock your modem and have to give you a lecture regarding right and wrong.

      I manage a relatively small network (something like 2000 cable modems) and spend easily 10 hours a week researching and locking accounts because of this.

      Why shouldn’t I just block BT? Do it’s redeaming qualities and uses outweigh what the criminals (yes, sharing copyrighted matierials w/o authorization makes you a criminal in this country) abuse it for?

      It puts a huge strain on network resources, mostly due to people BREAKING THE LAW and creates a non-trivial amount of wasted labor to boot?

      Add to the fact that the protocol creates not dozens but in many cases hundreds or thousands of connections all taxing routers, switches etc; that now need to be upgraded and I’d like to toss the whole thing out the window.

      IN short, P2P is not inherently bad, but what people actually use it for is. I’ve often thought that a blacklist of trackers primarily intended for distributing illegal content that I could subscribe to via BGP would be a wonderful creation. Then I could let my users do all the legal stuff they want and get rid of the headache induced by the illegal activity.

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