Studies Criticize Comcast For Upload Tampering

Friday, October 19, 2007

Comcast is getting plenty of criticism after two separate studies found evidence the Internet giant is interfering with computers involved in peer-to-peer file sharing.

The Associated Press did one study, and the Internet watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation did the other.

Comcast denies it all.

Matthew Elvey of San Francisco used to be a happy Comcast customer. He might still be, if not for a common problem that happened a lot more than once.

"I was downloading a movie from an author that I liked, and it wasn't working," said Elvey.

According to investigations by the Associated Press and San Francisco's Electronic Frontier Foundation, the difficulties may have been intentional.

Both agencies now accuse Internet giant Comcast of interfering with, or delaying, uploads of movies, music, and other content from file sharing networks.

"The most common belief about this is they think file share users are using up too much of their network capacity," said Seth Shoen, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

At the center of this is a concept called net neutrality.

It's the premise that Internet service providers should serve as a conduit, nothing more, like the post office or the telephone company.

According to this study, Comcast has been interfering.

"You know when you're making a telephone call, the phone company doesn't pop up in the middle of the call and start advertising to you or say 'we think you made too many calls today, so we're going to start adding some noise to your conversation," said Shoen.

"What they're saying now is, well, you can't do things we don't like. Or that people have convinced us to not let you do," said Elvey.

Comcast denies the accusations.

According to a spokesman, "Comcast does not block access to any websites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services...we have a responsibility to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience."

"People have been concerned about the precedent of Internet service providers changing their role," said Shoen.

The concern is a change in policy might alter the Internet landscape in terms of security, anonymity, and accountability to big brother.

The next step is possibly a class action lawsuit.

Matthew Elvey says he is thinking seriously about it.

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