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.

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