Begins to cover their posterior in face of FCC investigation...
Back in May of 2007 a Broadband Reports user named Robb Topolski first discovered
that Comcast was throttling upstream p2p traffic by forging TCP packets. By August our users had already figured out how to get around the practice
, and in October the Associated Press published an article
that got the nation's attention. The resulting press firestorm (and FCC investigation
) has so far resulted in Comcast changing nothing.
Well, that's not entirely true. Topolski e-mailed us this morning to note that Comcast has quietly implemented a new TOS
, which includes an extensive section on network management and bandwidth limitations. The new revisions still lack any kind of specifics as to Comcast's monthly service cap, and of course they don't inform users that Comcast forges TCP connections to limit p2p connectivity. The new language is aimed largely at justifying Comcast's actions:
Comcast manages its network with one goal: to deliver the best possible broadband Internet experience to all of its customers. High-speed bandwidth and network resources are not unlimited. Managing the network is essential as Comcast works to promote the use and enjoyment of the Internet by all of its customers. The company uses reasonable network management practices that are consistent with industry standards. Comcast tries to use tools and technologies that are minimally intrusive and, in its independent judgment guided by industry experience, among the best in class. Of course, the company's network management practices will change and evolve along with the uses of the Internet and the challenges and threats on the Internet.
The primary goal of the TOS revision is to cover Comcast's legal posterior. The policy statement
(pdf) that guides the FCC's hand in matters of network neutrality is not law, and is intentionally vague enough to allow providers to get away with anything short of an outright traffic blockade -- provided the traffic shaping can be shown to be "reasonable network management" by ISP lawyers.
While the FCC will likely ultimately find Comcast's practices "reasonable" by Kevin Martin standards, the commission may still fine the provider for not being forthcoming about the precise nature of their traffic shaping. If a network operator has the right to manage their network as they see fit, shouldn't a customer, shopping between -- say Verizon and Comcast -- also have the right to know which carrier interferes with upstream p2p traffic?