Comcast Acceptable Use Policy Revisited

by on November 16, 2007 · 62 comments

In Jerry’s post “Is Comcast discriminating against BitTorrent?” he points out the following about Comcast’s acceptable use policy:

In its acceptable use policy,1 Comcast reserves the right to take any measures it deems necessary to deal with subscribers who use too much bandwidth (although how much is too much is not clearly defined). But if the AP is right, this is targeting a specific application, not specific users.

Jerry is right that targeting specific users would be well outside of Comcast’s acceptable use policy when it comes to bandwidth hogging, however, Comcast can target and block individual users who are running servers, whether they be for email, websites, or file-sharing. Their acceptable use policy also includes:

Prohibited uses include, but are not limited to, using the Service, Customer Equipment, or the Comcast Equipment to:

followed by:

xiv. run programs, equipment, or servers from the Premises that provide network content or any other services to anyone outside of your Premises LAN (Local Area Network), also commonly referred to as public services or servers. Examples of prohibited services and servers include, but are not limited to, e-mail, Web hosting, file sharing, and proxy services and servers;

The policy later says in relation to prohibited activities such as this that:

However, Comcast and its affiliates, suppliers, and agents have the right to monitor these transmissions and postings from time to time for violations of this Policy and to disclose, block, or remove them in accordance with the Subscriber Agreement and any other applicable agreements and policies.

To me, it seems that once a downloader becomes a seeder on BitTorrent they are running a file server, in that they are receiving unsolicited requests and serving up files. Comcast seems to be in the clear when it comes to their own acceptable use policy.

I think that the federal government, however, should act in this case. I’d like to see real productive action taken by the FCC to increase consumer broadband access by reforming spectrum policy and opening up the 2.5Ghz band to Wi-Max traffic so that consumers everywhere can be served by what should be a burgeoning wireless Internet business.

Of course this is just one of the myriad policies the FCC could adopt to foster genuine competition in broadband, but I doubt it’s tune will change. Unfortunately for consumers, the FCC seems too myopic and focused on regulating the net to realize the places it is harming or completely blocking competition.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    You say: “Bit torrent is an important tool in the dismantling of highly centralized and oppressive corporate power structures.”

    No it is not ludicrous just because you say it is. I will grant you that its potential is very far from being fully realized.

    I would look who have been trying to make p2p illegal, and I would posit that as my evidence that many feel threatened by bit torrent. The RIAA and the MPAA have both tried to stamp out p2p services such as bit torrent.

    So, Seth why, exactly, have they done so?

    Secondly, many linux distros use bit torrent as an effective cost-shifting method to distribute their iso’s. The cost gets shifted from the distros bandwidth charges to the unmetered service that downloaders/uploaders using bit torrent have already paid for.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    You say: “Bit torrent is an important tool in the dismantling of highly centralized and oppressive corporate power structures.”

    No it is not ludicrous just because you say it is. I will grant you that its potential is very far from being fully realized.

    I would look who have been trying to make p2p illegal, and I would posit that as my evidence that many feel threatened by bit torrent. The RIAA and the MPAA have both tried to stamp out p2p services such as bit torrent.

    So, Seth why, exactly, have they done so?

    Secondly, many linux distros use bit torrent as an effective cost-shifting method to distribute their iso’s. The cost gets shifted from the distros bandwidth charges to the unmetered service that downloaders/uploaders using bit torrent have already paid for.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    It is ludicrous not because I say so, but because those corporate power structures have been cutting deals with BitTorrent developers. The industry also tried to stamp out the VCR. That did not make the VCR a dismantling tool (how’s that working out – and this-time-it’s-different is not a convincing argument).

    The “cost gets shifted” is exactly right – but the problem is the network wasn’t built for such cost-shifting. THIS CANNOT BE GEEK-RANTED AWAY! It must be addressed in the real world, with practical economic limits.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    It is ludicrous not because I say so, but because those corporate power structures have been cutting deals with BitTorrent developers. The industry also tried to stamp out the VCR. That did not make the VCR a dismantling tool (how’s that working out – and this-time-it’s-different is not a convincing argument).

    The “cost gets shifted” is exactly right – but the problem is the network wasn’t built for such cost-shifting. THIS CANNOT BE GEEK-RANTED AWAY! It must be addressed in the real world, with practical economic limits.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    It is ludicrous not because I say so, but because those corporate power structures have been cutting deals with BitTorrent developers.

    That does not change the fact, which you haven’t explained, that the MPAA and the RIAA have tried many times to make p2p, like bit torrent illegal.

    Any ‘deals’ they may make with developers will not change the basic architecture of bit torrent–a decentralized network for distributing digital content not under anyone’s control.

    Microsoft is an example of one of those highly centralized corporate power structures whose value web 2.0 will collapse, unless they evolve away from fixed product, and move to services and skills (like IBM is doing)

    The big four labels are another example. How have cd sales been the last 4 years??

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    It is ludicrous not because I say so, but because those corporate power structures have been cutting deals with BitTorrent developers.

    That does not change the fact, which you haven’t explained, that the MPAA and the RIAA have tried many times to make p2p, like bit torrent illegal.

    Any ‘deals’ they may make with developers will not change the basic architecture of bit torrent–a decentralized network for distributing digital content not under anyone’s control.

    Microsoft is an example of one of those highly centralized corporate power structures whose value web 2.0 will collapse, unless they evolve away from fixed product, and move to services and skills (like IBM is doing)

    The big four labels are another example. How have cd sales been the last 4 years??

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Sigh. I just did explain it: The industry also tried to stamp out the VCR. That did not make the VCR a dismantling tool (how’s that working out – and this-time-it’s-different is not a convincing argument).

    The same argument you make about decentralized network has also been make about the Internet itself, and we see how THAT worked out (and saying someday in the future the revolutionary potential will be reached is not a convincing argument).

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Sigh. I just did explain it: The industry also tried to stamp out the VCR. That did not make the VCR a dismantling tool (how’s that working out – and this-time-it’s-different is not a convincing argument).

    The same argument you make about decentralized network has also been make about the Internet itself, and we see how THAT worked out (and saying someday in the future the revolutionary potential will be reached is not a convincing argument).

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Well, there is a big difference between the use of a hypothetical argument used in a legal case, as the MPAA used their concerns about VCRs in the betamax case, and the very real case of actual decline in cd sales.

    Further, this article caught my attention, about the market for shrink wrapped software declining, and this is a result of peer production processes, processes whose results are distributed by bit torrent.

    Further when you say: The “cost gets shifted” is exactly right – but the problem is the network wasn’t built for such cost-shifting. THIS CANNOT BE GEEK-RANTED AWAY! It must be addressed in the real world, with practical economic limits.

    I agree with you that that network was not designed for this cost shifting, but that’s part of the reason why it is worth doing–It’s a good thing!

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Well, there is a big difference between the use of a hypothetical argument used in a legal case, as the MPAA used their concerns about VCRs in the betamax case, and the very real case of actual decline in cd sales.

    Further, this article caught my attention, about the market for shrink wrapped software declining, and this is a result of peer production processes, processes whose results are distributed by bit torrent.

    Further when you say: The “cost gets shifted” is exactly right – but the problem is the network wasn’t built for such cost-shifting. THIS CANNOT BE GEEK-RANTED AWAY! It must be addressed in the real world, with practical economic limits.

    I agree with you that that network was not designed for this cost shifting, but that’s part of the reason why it is worth doing–It’s a good thing!

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    In general, I would point to the entire phenomena of Free software as an example of how large centralized companies based on IP monopolies will lse their grip on their now-markets. No, it won’t happen overnight, but it is happening. Why do you think Microsoft feels that linux is it’s most dangerous competition?

    Article mentioned above:

    The Word is out: Microsoft will face online fight on core software
    Ashling O’Connor in Bombay

    The co-founder of Hotmail, the web-based e-mail service bought by Microsoft for $400 million a decade ago, is challenging the American software giant’s core $20 billion (£9.7 billion) office desktop business

    “We are just a few years away from the end of the shrink-wrapped software business. By 2010, people will not be buying software,” Mr Bhatia said. “This is a significant challenge to a proportion of Microsoft’s revenues.”

    Their are plenty of other examples of how decentralized media distribution channels are enabling groups that were once fairly marginalized: look at http://www.sourcewatch.org, http://www.exxonsecrets.org, or indymedia, and you can see that all sorts of things that used to happen under old media, but cannot happen any more:

    http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/non-violent-protest-part-i/

    Another example:

    Farmers to fall under scrutiny of ‘green spies’ on internet

    Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

    People will be able to keep a check on farmers, including the Queen and her private Sandringham estate, in order to establish their “green” ratings.

    The amount of money paid to each farmer for looking after the landscape and wildlife is also to be made public for the first time. The information is to be released today on the website of Natural England, the Government’s landscape adviser.

    Users will be able to type in the name of a village, parish or postcode and find out which farmers in the area have signed up to environmental stewardship schemes and the cash that they receive.

    The website is to be developed to give details of environmental works agreed by the farmer with the agency that polices the green payment schemes. There may also be a feedback section where people can report on what farmers are doing.

    The move was disclosed by Sir Martin Doughty, chairman of Natural England, in an interview with The Times”

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    In general, I would point to the entire phenomena of Free software as an example of how large centralized companies based on IP monopolies will lse their grip on their now-markets. No, it won’t happen overnight, but it is happening. Why do you think Microsoft feels that linux is it’s most dangerous competition?

    Article mentioned above:

    The Word is out: Microsoft will face online fight on core software
    Ashling O’Connor in Bombay

    The co-founder of Hotmail, the web-based e-mail service bought by Microsoft for $400 million a decade ago, is challenging the American software giant’s core $20 billion (£9.7 billion) office desktop business

    “We are just a few years away from the end of the shrink-wrapped software business. By 2010, people will not be buying software,” Mr Bhatia said. “This is a significant challenge to a proportion of Microsoft’s revenues.”

    Their are plenty of other examples of how decentralized media distribution channels are enabling groups that were once fairly marginalized: look at http://www.sourcewatch.org, http://www.exxonsecrets.org, or indymedia, and you can see that all sorts of things that used to happen under old media, but cannot happen any more:

    http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/n

    Another example:

    Farmers to fall under scrutiny of ‘green spies’ on internet

    Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

    People will be able to keep a check on farmers, including the Queen and her private Sandringham estate, in order to establish their “green” ratings.

    The amount of money paid to each farmer for looking after the landscape and wildlife is also to be made public for the first time. The information is to be released today on the website of Natural England, the Government’s landscape adviser.

    Users will be able to type in the name of a village, parish or postcode and find out which farmers in the area have signed up to environmental stewardship schemes and the cash that they receive.

    The website is to be developed to give details of environmental works agreed by the farmer with the agency that polices the green payment schemes. There may also be a feedback section where people can report on what farmers are doing.

    The move was disclosed by Sir Martin Doughty, chairman of Natural England, in an interview with The Times”

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