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Summary:

Comcast, which underwent heavy criticism last year for blocking file-sharing services like BitTorrent, has reportedly been caught quietly changing its Terms of Service. Although Comcast has denied that they interfere with P2P, even in light of mounting evidence of the contrary, the new TOS notably acknowledges […]

Comcast, which underwent heavy criticism last year for blocking file-sharing services like BitTorrent, has reportedly been caught quietly changing its Terms of Service. Although Comcast has denied that they interfere with P2P, even in light of mounting evidence of the contrary, the new TOS notably acknowledges the use of “reasonable network management practices that are consistent with industry standards.”

“Industry standards.” A phrase like that kind of makes you wonder what other ISPs are doing, doesn’t it? We examined the Terms of Service of several of Comcast’s biggest competitors and found that provisions allowing interference with P2P traffic seems to be a standard part of ISPs’ legal boilerplate these days. And unlike Comcast, the competition is not shy about describing exactly what they want to do to stop P2P on their networks.

Comcast has been in the spotlight since reports about its interference with BitTorrent traffic first surfaced last summer. The company keeps denying any wrongdoing, but multiple tests have shown that they are in fact messing with their subscribers’ BitTorrent traffic. Other ISPs have been a little more forthcoming about the subject all along.

Fellow cable ISP Cox, for example, has made no secret of the fact that it’s blocking P2P traffic as well, so we weren’t too surprised to find this abstract in the company’s Subscriber Agreement: “Cox reserves the right to manage its network for the greatest benefit of the greatest number of subscribers including, without limitation, the following: rate limiting, rejection or removal of “spam” or otherwise unsolicited bulk email, anti-virus mechanisms, traffic prioritization, and protocol filtering.” And no, this is not just about commercial spammers, but about interfering with your day-to-day use: “You expressly accept that such action on the part of Cox may affect the performance of the Service.”

Time Warner subsidiary Road Runner, on the other hand, hasn’t been found to be messing with BitTorent traffic yet, but it seems to be considering this option, judging by its Acceptable Use Policy: “Operator may use various tools and techniques in order to efficiently manage its networks and to ensure compliance with this Acceptable Use Policy (“Network Management Tools”). These may include detecting malicious traffic patterns and preventing the distribution of viruses or other malicious code, limiting the number of peer-to-peer sessions a user can conduct at the same time, limiting the aggregate bandwidth available for certain usage protocols such as peer-to-peer and newsgroups and such other Network Management Tools as Operator may from time to time determine appropriate.”

Road Runner must use the same law offices as fellow ISP Charter, whose Acceptable Use Policy is virtual identical, including the option of “limiting the number of peer-to-peer sessions” and “the aggregate bandwidth available for certain usage protocols such as peer-to-peer.” Charter did however update its policies recently, adding a very telling sentence: “Charter may employ traffic-management technology, including but not limited to packet-reset technology, which technology may materially slow the uploading of certain files.”

This “packet-reset technology” mentioned by Charter is exactly the man-in-the-middle attack Comcast has been using to disrupt BitTorrent: Devices used by the ISP pretend to be the actual user and send a reset message to the BitTorrent clients of fellow file sharers, canceling uploads and thereby considerably slowing down download speeds. Comcast is reportedly using equipment from Sandvine to do this, and Sandive has been claiming that that “eight of the Top 20 broadband service providers in the U.S. are Sandvine customers”, as Om reported earlier.

To be fair: It’s not certain whether Charter actually makes use of these techniques, but the mere fact that virtually all major U.S. cable ISPs reserve the right to interfere with their users’ access to services like Vuze, Pando and BitTorrent.com could give the net neutrality debate new urgency.

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  1. Road Runner, Charter and Cox TOS Also Include Anti-P2P Provisions | Fresh Web 2.0 News Sunday, February 10, 2008

    [...] rivalry is not unsure most describing just what they poverty to do to kibosh P2P on their networks. Continue datum at Newteevee.com. Tags: netneutrality, charter, cox, comcast, roadrunner, p2p, [...]

  2. Anonymous Customer Sunday, February 10, 2008

    I can vouch for charter’s P2P blocking. During this past December I received an upgrade in my service from 3M/256k to 5M/512k. Immediately after this upgrade, I observed how “the aggregate bandwidth available for certain usage protocols such as peer-to-peer.” means there will be less and less bandwidth for my bittorrent. I had with my previous service the ability to upload at 29KB/s. With the upgrade I have yet to be able to upload more than 15KB/s and for the last 3 weeks it hasn’t been more than 0.5KB/s. These observations are strictly based on the bittorrent protocol. Other protocols, especially new and experimental ones (such as Wua.la), have so far been unaffected.

    1. Many of you may be unaware that the FCC has ruled this as illegal and a violation of their policy. Your ISP has no right to degrade, limit, or block your p2p programs, as you have the right to use any legal programs you choose. Even if your using them for illegal purposes, the ISP is not the one to make that call, only a court of law can. Here is a copy of my conversation with one of the live chat representatives from roadrunner ISP, you see they back down quickly when I connect the dots to the FCC’s ruling (which was august, 2008)

      Thank you for contacting Time Warner Cable Chat.
      We hope that your session with Technical Support was helpful.
      Below you will find the chat transcript that you requested. We recommend you keep this for future reference. Our Customer Service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! – if you need to contact us again, please visit http://www.timewarnercable.com for any questions relating to your Time Warner Cable service, or for Road Runner specific assistance please visit http://help.rr.com.

      Angeline: Hello! Thank you for choosing Time Warner Cable Road Runner Internet Technical Chat Support. My name is Angeline. How may I assist you?

      Dustin: Hello angeline
      Angeline: Hi Dustin.
      Dustin: I am actually a bit concerned over a warning issued to me earlier when I tried to log online
      Dustin: something along the lines of p2p networking programs and being warned against using them
      Dustin: are you aware of this warning?
      Angeline: As I understand you are facing issue with P2P software. Am I correct?
      Dustin: I am facing issue with this warning about my p2p software, yes
      Angeline: I will certainly provide you with all the necessary information. To get us started, I would need to verify some security information and then we can move on to understanding your setup. Feel free to ask questions along the way.
      Angeline: Before we begin, please provide the following three pieces of information to verify your account and to document this interaction for future reference: 1. The account holder’s 10 digit telephone number. (xxx-xxx-xxxx) 2. The account holder’s Full Name (First and Last) 3. Please tell us your name.
      Dustin: XXX-XXX-XXXX
      Dustin: Rebecca XXXXXX, I think would be the holder, my grandmother
      Dustin: and my name is Dustin XXXXXX
      Angeline: Thank you for providing the information.
      Angeline: Peer to peer file sharing programs such as Kazza can cause the network to slow to a crawl. If one computer on the network is running peer to peer sharing, it will affect all other computers on the network. On a home network, the bandwidth is shared by all computers on the network. A computer downloading large or many files will slow down the other computers on the network. This will affect a wired or wireless network.
      Dustin: my network connection is fine
      Dustin: According to the law, and the fcc, ISP companies such as roadrunner do not have the right to degrade or block any lawful programs, are you aware of this?
      Dustin: in fact in August, 2008 the FCC declared that ISPs should not be allowed to target and interrupt P2P applications.
      Angeline: Road Runner never block access to P2P software but it only affect the network. Only this information I can provide you in regards with P2P software.
      Dustin: Now, I am aware that nothing is going to get changed by me telling you this, even if you agree with me, your not likely to make any change happen with your company. I do however want to send a very clear message. I am a very patriotic American, I believe in freedom, and when my rights are oppressed, I get very lawsuit-happy. Please let your higher ups know if my internet connection is removed, I will sue you.
      Angeline: I am sorry we are not blocking access to P2P software.
      Dustin: Why was I issued a warning?
      Angeline: Please provide me message you are getting.
      Dustin: This email is being sent to you by Road Runner Customer Care
      because we have received a complaint that your computer has been used to distribute copyrighted material without authorization through a
      peer-to-peer program. We received this complaint from the movie studio, record company, television studio or other company that owns the
      copyrighted material. The purpose of this email is to remind you that
      the distribution of copyrighted material in this fashion may violate
      both the copyright laws and Road Runner s terms of service, and to tell
      you a bit about peer-to-peer programs, the dangers they can pose to your computer and our network, and the steps you can take to protect
      yourself.

      A computer can become accessible to a peer-to-peer network for an
      unlimited period of time after a peer-to-peer program is downloaded.
      You may not even be aware that such a program is on your computer; a
      child or a visitor to the home could have downloaded it. That is why we want to alert you to this issu
      Dustin: e.
      Peer-to-peer programs may contain many problems. For example:
      Downloading and offering for upload copyrighted material without
      authorization is unlawful. If you or others using your computer have
      been doing this, you could be subject to civil penalties and criminal
      fines. Such activity also violates the Road Runner terms of service.
      The programs allow any anonymous person on the Internet to look at
      your computer files and copy them for themselves. Such a hacker could
      view all of your files, which can lead to identity theft.
      The programs, which use large amounts of memory, can interfere with
      the functioning of your computer by destabilizing your operating system, leading to a general sluggishness at bootup and during operation.
      The programs can contain spyware, adware, malware, viruses and
      pornography.

      If you are interested in a discussion of problems associated with
      peer-to-peer file sharing, please follow this link:
      http://research.pestpatrol.com/white…p2p_impact.asp.

      I
      Dustin: f you use the Windows OS, the best way to remove peer-to-peer
      programs is through the Add/Remove Programs tool. Other removal options are discussed at
      http://security.uchicago.edu/peer-to…ileshare.shtml.

      Thank you for subscribing to Road Runner.

      Very truly yours,

      Road Runner Customer Care
      Angeline: Dustin, if you are violating copy rights then only this notice is issued to you.
      Dustin: that is for a court of law to decide
      Dustin: not roadrunner, you have no right, and you are violating the law, in issuing me any sort of warning
      Dustin: if I am breaking the law, then the offended party can take me to court, if your company cancels my contract for this reason, I will take them to court.
      Angeline: This email might be spam email please ignore this and do not worry about the connection.
      Dustin: thank you
      Angeline: You are welcome.
      Angeline: Is there anything else I may assist you with regarding Road Runner services and products?
      Dustin: please provide a transcript of this conversation to my email
      Dustin: I will be keeping it for legal purposes
      Angeline: Sure.
      Angeline: You can always visit http://help.rr.com for online FAQs to get more help and knowledge about the products and services offered by Road Runner.
      Angeline: Thank you for contacting Road Runner technical support, again my name is Angeline, we value you as a customer.
      Angeline: Analyst has closed chat and left the room

  3. GigaNET: Weekend Edition – GigaOM Sunday, February 10, 2008

    [...] NewTeeVee: RoadRunner, Charter & Cox… all have anti-p2p provisions in their TOC. [...]

  4. Comcast Boosts Broadband Speeds in Bay Area to 16 Mbps – GigaOM Monday, February 11, 2008

    [...] you are a BitTorrent-loving downloading machine, Comcast’s broadband service is good enough. Today it got a [...]

  5. Desk sites » Blog Archive » GigaNET: Weekend Edition Monday, February 11, 2008

    [...] NewTeeVee: RoadRunner, Charter & Cox… all have anti-p2p provisions in their TOC. [...]

  6. I can verify that even though ‘traffic prioritization and protocol filtering’ is indeed in Cox’s TOS (as well as quota limiting), they DO NOT actually employ such methods. I can torrent and use edonkey, etc without enabling encryption just fine.

  7. Comcast News » Blog Archive » Road Runner, Charter and Cox TOS Also Include Anti-P2P Provisions Monday, February 11, 2008

    [...] davidgward wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptWe examined the Terms of Service of several of Comcast’s biggest competitors and found that provisions allowing interference with P2P traffic seems to be a standard part of ISPs’ legal boilerplate these days. And unlike Comcast … [...]

  8. How to increase your upload speed? – Gnutella Forums Friday, June 6, 2008

    [...] have a bit of info about their ‘traffic management’. [HSI] Charter Block p2p? – dslreports.com Road Runner, Charter and Cox TOS Also Include Anti-P2P Provisions NewTeeVee [...]

  9. Internet Service Deals » Are You Getting What You’re Paying For? 25 Online Tools to Test Your Internet Service Thursday, July 17, 2008

    [...] Your TOS: A tool that’s worth checking out is your ISP’s terms of service. They will often spell out that they’ll stop your traffic if deemed necessary. [...]

  10. Internet tools – DodgeBoard.com – Forums Monday, July 21, 2008

    [...] throttle your data. Simple Get to the bottom of what your ISP offers by using this simple tool. Your TOS: A tool thats worth checking out is your ISPs terms of service. They will often spell out that [...]

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