Feeds

Comcast to pay $16m over BitTorrent busting

While denying everything. Natch

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Comcast has agreed to pay $16m to settle a class action suit brought against the company after it was caught secretly busting BitTorrents.

Filed by a California man in November 2007, the suit claims that Comcast's BitTorrent busting violated federal computer-fraud laws and user contracts. In a proposed settlement, the US cable giant denies the claims, but the company points out it has since revised what it still insists on calling its "management of P2P."

Independent networking guru Robb Topolski first observed Comcast's BitTorrent busting in early 2007, and when word of his P2P tests first hit the tech press that August, Comcast flatly denied the practice. But by October, the Associated Press had confirmed that the ISP was preventing users from "seeding" P2P files - i.e. making them available to other users.

Comcast continued to say it was "managing" traffic, not blocking it - even after the US Federal Communications Commission sanctioned the cable giant for violating its 2005 internet policy statement. The cable giant went so far as to sue the FCC in the US Court of Appeals.

Clearly, Comcast was playing with words. In its world, sending duped reset flags to break peer-to-peer connections is not a means of blocking file transfers. For the longest time, the company insisted it was merely throttling P2P sharing during "periods of heavy network traffic." But after a year of scrutiny, Comcast admitted it was clipping P2P connections around the clock - as Topolski's tests had shown.

"Comcast's current P2P management is triggered when the number of P2P uploads in a given area for a particular P2P protocol reaches a certain, pre-determined level, regardless of the level of overall network traffic at that time, and regardless of the time of day when the applicable P2P protocol threshold is reached," the company said in an FCC filing.

To no one's surprise, the ongoing saga turned into a pie-throwing spat over net neutrality. But the real issue was customer fraud. Comcast wasn't giving users what it said it was giving them. Thus, the class action suit brought by Californian Jon Hart.

"Defendants have disseminated and continues to disseminate advertising, that they know or should reasonably know is false and misleading. This conduct includes, but is not limited to, promoting and advertising the fast speeds that apply to the Service without limitation, when, in fact, Defendants severely limit the speed of the Service for certain applications," the suit reads.

"It further includes Defendant's misrepresentations that their customers will enjoy 'unfettered access' to all internet applications, when, in fact, Defendants not only fetter certain applications, but completely block them."

Under pressure from the FCC - and public opinion - Comcast has since changed its "network management" setup, so that its throttling is protocol-agnostic. And bandwidth is now capped at 250GB a month for each user.

Under the proposed settlement, current or former Comcast high-speed Internet customers who either used or attempted to use Ares, BitTorrent, eDonkey, FastTrack, or Gnutella between April 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2008 or Lotus Notes between March 26, 2007 and Oct. 3, 2007 can receive a cash payment...of $16.

Jon Hart is set to take home $2,500. ®

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.