Comcast Slapped With Net Neutrality Suit

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2007-11-16 Print this article Print

The suit follows complaints to the FCC that the broadband provider is violating network neutrality principles.

Comcasts alleged network traffic discrimination continues to create legal woes for the company. Following complaints filed at the Federal Communications Commission, the Comcast, the nations number two broadband carrier, is now facing a possible class action lawsuit. Jon Hart, a San Francisco area Comcast subscriber, filed the lawsuit Nov. 15 complaining that the cable giant slows or cuts off peer-to-peer file-sharing networks like BitTorrent and Gnutella. The lawsuit asks the court to certify the suit as a class action covering all California Comcast customers. Comcast, of Philadelphia, has been at the center of a network neutrality controversy since the Associated Press reported the cable company is "throttling" its broadband network traffic, which involves blocking or slowing the uploading and downloading speeds of lawful applications and content.
"Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any websites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services," Comcast said in a statement. The company did admit the week of Oct. 22 that it does delay some Internet traffic in the interests of network management.
Unlike the FCC network neutrality violation complaints, Hart is suing Comcast for breach of contract and bad faith dealings. Hart upgraded his broadband service in September to Comcasts Performance Plus service, which promises speeds up to 12 Mbps for downloading large files like video and games. The lawsuit states that Hart specifically upgraded his service to take advantage of file-sharing. Comcasts throttling, the suit claims, significantly slowed or stopped his downloads. "Defendants have disseminated, and continues to disseminate advertising, that they know or should reasonably know is false and misleading," the lawsuit states. "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." Click here to read about why the U.S. Department of Justice argues that net neutrality laws arent needed. The day before Hart filed his lawsuit, Vuze, a video distributor using BitTorrent peer-to-peer technology, petitioned the FCC to establish rules prohibiting Comcast and other broadband providers from "throttling" network traffic. Vuze contends the practice violates the FCCs network neutrality principles. The Vuze petition claims throttling is often accomplished with a "man in the middle" technique commonly used by hackers, creating false computer messages that cause Internet connections to shut down. To keep their traffic flowing to users, content providers and distributors are forced to play a high tech game of cat-and-mouse. "While Comcast has apparently justified its actions as legitimate network management or mere traffic shaping, Vuze believes that such over broad and clandestine attempts to interfere with traffic—regardless of the legality of the content or the specific impact on the network—cannot amount to reasonable network management," the Vuze petition states. Comcasts actions have also prompted a Nov. 1 network neutrality complaint to the FCC from public advocacy groups and legal scholars from Yale, Harvard and Stanford. Like the Vuze petition, the complaint asks the FCC to establish that blocking P2P communications like BitTorrent violates the agencys Internet Policy Statement, four principles issued in 2005 that are supposed to "guarantee consumers competition among providers and access to all content, applications and services." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

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