Comcast nailed on P2P, moves on to Plan B

For years, stories about Comcast restricting its customers’ Internet use by slowing, limiting, or cutting off access have circulated. Obviously not quite kosher when, at the same time, they hype the speed of their connections vs. the other guys.

I’m not enough of a tech head to understand the details even if I’d been following that closely — which I haven’t. The only thing I’ve noticed, personally, is that between about 5 and 6 pm, when people start getting home from work, my Internet connection seems to lag a bit. Or, as my son explains it, my bandwidth gets reduced because more people in the area are logging on. I’ve never thought that was quite fair. I contracted for a specific service from Comcast and I should get it, regardless of what my neighbors do.

Anyway, I was reminded of all this when my statement this week included a notice of a class action suit against Comcast [oh happy day!]. It seems somebody in Pennsylvania filed suit against Comcast because the company “promised and advertised specific speeds and unlimited Internet access but impaired the use of some ‘Peer-toPeer’ file sharing traffic” — specifically, the use of Ares, BitTorrent, eDonkey, FastTrack or Gnutella protocols.

Comcast “denies these claims, but has revised its management of P2P and is settling to avoid the burden and cost of further litigation.” Sounds like an admission of guilt to me. If you’re innocent, and you have the resources to defend your good name, you do it.

Now that someone has called their hand on limiting P2P, they’re taking a new approach. Apparently their “revised” management approach is a handy dandy new feature, the Usage Meter, announced in today’s e-mail:

“This new feature is available to Comcast High-Speed Internet customers and provides an easy way to check total monthly household high-speed Internet data usage at any time [how thoughtful!]. Monthly data usage is the amount of data, such as images, movies, photos, videos, and other files that customers send, receive, download or upload each month. Comcast measures total data usage and does not monitor specific customer activities to determine data usage [cuz we got sued for doing that].

The current data usage allowance for the Comcast High-Speed Internet service is 250GB per month.”

Oh? My “unlimited” access is limited, after all?

It remains to be seen if Comcast will get sued over the 250GB limit, but since their first method of controlling customers’ Internet use got them sued, they’ve moved on to Plan B. No doubt they’re already working on Plan C, just in case.

You don’t have to be a geek to see where this is going. Comcast and the other telecorps are determined to get every nickel they can from the explosion of Internet technology. They will charge for use. They will limit use. They will tier their charges. When charging for phone minutes isn’t enough, they’ll start charging for data transfer [can you say “texting”?]. They will, to whatever extent they can, control Internet access and use, and get filthy rich doing it.

They’ll do all this unless and until the law stops them. Stopping them, by the way, is what Net Neutrality is all about. Support Net Neutrality. It’s good for all of us.

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... and that's my two cents