Comcast has been receiving a lot of flak lately since it has been discovered that they are interfering with their customers' usage of peer-to-peer file sharing programs like BitTorrent.
Jon Hart of California is suing Comcast
with charges of violating federal computer fraud laws, user contracts and anti-fraudulent advertising statutes.
(.pdf file) alleges that the interfering with BitTorrent traffic is an unfair business practice, stating:
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.
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. Defendants know or reasonably should know that this advertising is false and misleading.
Hart upgraded to Comcast's "Performance Plus" service specifically to use "blocked applications" like BitTorrent and found nothing in their contract which signifies that they throttle traffic.
Charlie Douglas, a spokesman for Comcast, issued a statement saying:
Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any websites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services. Our customers use the Internet for downloading and uploading files, watching movies and videos, streaming music, sharing digital photos, accessing numerous peer-to-peer sites, VOIP applications like Vonage, and thousands of other applications online.
We have a responsibility to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience and we use the latest technologies to manage our network so that they can continue to enjoy these applications.
Comcast still has yet to explain exactly how it controls traffic, however, independent analysis shows that Comcast sends fake "I'm finished" packets to users' BitTorrent programs. This is said to also affect the popular business application Lotus Notes. These packets violate the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, according to the suit.
BitTorrent traffic is said to comprise 35 to 40 per cent of all internet traffic. That's a lot of traffic to block.
The suit is being filed later this week, and Comcast will have 30 days to answer or seek dismissal.
I, for one, do not welcome our BitTorernt-blocking overlords.