Blogger analysis by our legal counsel. Just picked up by Broadband
By Marvin Ammori
Comcast’s new “terms
of service,” which were quietly issued last week, remove any doubt
about who the cable and broadband giant is looking out for — and
it’s not the customer.
25, the company released its “revised and effective” terms for
Internet users with lots of restrictions and new limitations — but little
fanfare. No press release. No announcement to customers.
Web-accessible document that, fortunately for me, was forwarded by networking
guru Robb Topolski. Upon reading the document Comcast’s relative silence
becomes clear. Why publicize a limited and throttled service when you are
pitching “unlimited” Internet access to your customers?
having been caught lying to users and the press for years, Comcast is now
basically saying: Our network sucks, and we can block your peer-to-peer
connections — and everything else — for any or no reason. And since
the FCC’s competition policy lets us operate with no competitors —
where else are you going to go?
1. Comcast thinks you’re a virus.
says it needs to manage its network to protect users from “the negative
effects of spam, viruses, security attacks, network congestion, and other risks
and degradations of service.” Let’s put this is plain English:
Comcast customer, you pay $40-$60 for what’s been sold as a 6 Mbps
unlimited service. Let’s forget that you’re overpaying compared to
European and Asian countries for speeds that are 20-to-100 times slower.
want to use Comcast’s service as it has been advertised, you’ll be
treated like spam or a virus. You are like a security attack to them. Instead
of using the Comcast service as it has been billed, send Comcast your monthly
check and, I don’t know, read a book. Watch a play. Just don’t use
the network you paid for. Because Comcast can’t handle the load.
2. Comcast throws its buddies under the bus.
is taking a lot of heat. The FCC is investigating the company after blocking
complaints from consumers and a petition filed by public interest advocates.
responded by asking for public comments before they determine a course of
action. More than 15,000 Americans have already weighed in, most complaining
about Comcast’s blocking a wide range of applications — including
the popular peer-to-peer services offered by BiTorrent and others.
excuse? The company says its practices are “consistent with industry
standards.” It claims that many Internet providers “use the same or
similar tools that Comcast does.”
called the first-grader defense: If caught stealing candy, be sure to blame
others kids for doing the same. Most adults wouldn’t try this excuse. But
if you give millions in campaign contributions and support an army of connected
lobbyists, you might just think you can get away with it in Washington.
lurking behind Comcast’s defense is even more alarming. Comcast could be
right that content discrimination is industry-wide. If so, the FCC should begin
with Comcast and then dig deeper — start investigating the
“content-shaping” practices of the phone and cable duopoly that
control 96 percent of America’s
residential broadband market.
3. Comcast violates its own terms of service.
Comcast’s 12 “conduct restrictions” states that users
can’t “impersonate any person or entity, engage in sender address
falsification, forget anyone else’s digital or manual signature.”
But this is a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do.”
protocols, Comcast and its vendors impersonate both the sender and the receiver
— dressing themselves up as the user to transmit a message that breaks
off the connection.
if the operator were to break into your phone call, impersonate your voice,
tell your mother you didn’t want to talk with her, and hang up the
receiver. Comcast thinks that would be “reasonable” — even
though it’s in direct violation of the company’s own terms of
4. Comcast sucks: please use our product less.
new terms of service, Comcast essentially admits that it has built its product
poorly and lied to customers about “unfettered,”
“always-on” access. It states that it must “temporarily delay
peer-to-peer sessions (or sessions using other applications or protocols)
during periods of high network congestion.” Let’s unpack this.
“Delaying” is a lie. What Comcast is doing is terminating
company calls it “delaying” on the assumption that users will try
to connect at a later time — but when you’re “delayed”
for three hours, do you stay at your computer hitting refresh over and over?
Some peer-to-peer applications just give up after a delay.
Comcast isn’t just delaying peer-to-peer sessions — it’s
delaying sessions using “other” applications and protocols.
Translation: “We block whatever we want, whenever. And we say that
it’s OK for us to do this … on page five of our online terms of
what are periods of “high network congestion?” If Comcast’s
network could handle more traffic, there’d be few times of the day with
congestion. But when you have a crappy network, “network
congestion” is “always-on.”
seen no evidence that Comcast is only blocking during periods of congestion.
We’ve seen Comcast blocking any time and at random — even attempts
to upload small files such as the King James Bible.
users are also forbidden from — intentionally or unintentionally –
“generating levels of traffic sufficient to impede others’ ability
to use, send, or retrieve information.” This makes no sense. In general,
cable users in a local area “share” the same bandwidth, so
generating any traffic at all impacts other users trying to use the network.
be honest — it’s Comcast, not users, impeding other users. Comcast
says “network resources are not unlimited.” But it is Comcast that
didn’t build a network robust enough to handle how consumers now want to
use the Internet. We’ve left the 20th century.
reality is that Comcast should have invested in a better network with more
capacity. It’s time for the cable giant to come clean that what
it’s selling isn’t the real Internet — it’s the
crippled Comcastic version.
5. Comcast censors free speech.
“conduct restrictions” in Comcast’s terms of service could
fill the syllabus of a law school course on the First Amendment. Comcast
forbids users from sending “libelous” or “threatening”
material, or material “which infringes the intellectual property rights
of any person.”
restriction forbids users from disseminating information a “reasonable
person” would consider indecent. If the government were imposing these
vague, undefined, restrictions, based on a “reasonable person,” the
terms would be struck down — with Justices Alito, Thomas, and Breyer
arm-in-arm — as flagrant violations of freedom of speech.
because the government has “deregulated” Internet delivery, private
companies like AT&T (which spies on Americans for the government) and
Comcast can censor speech.
In the words of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, government cannot
“inject federally authorized private censors into forums from which they
might otherwise be excluded, and … therefore limit local forums that
might otherwise be open to all constitutionally protected speech.”
bottom line is that we can’t trust Comcast — or any other Internet
service provider — to preserve free speech on the Internet. And we
shouldn’t have to.
= = = = |
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