'

Things getting hot on the Comcast front

So things are really heating up on the Comcast front. Vuze, an open platform for video distribution that uses BitTorrent, has filed a formal petition for the FCC to make some rules about what Comcast is doing.

So things are really heating up on the Comcast front. Vuze, an open platform for video distribution that uses BitTorrent, has filed a formal petition for the FCC to make some rules about what Comcast is doing.

And this comes just a day after a Comcast consumer filed a lawsuit in California court against Comcast, accusing it of deceptive business practices and false advertising.

The complaint (PDF) charges Comcast with bad faith business practices, alleging the company "schemed to impede use" of peer-to-peer applications, failed to notify customers of the practice, engaged in fraudulent business practices, false advertising, and conduct that is "immoral, unethical, unscrupulous, and injurious to consumers."

In a statement about the formal complaint Gilles BianRosa, CEO of Vuze, said:

“The rapid convergence of the entertainment and Internet industries has enabled the delivery of high-quality video, and these throttling tactics represent growing pains as ISPs resist inevitable change.

“We hope our Petition will trigger a public discussion, but we also need the FCC to act. The industry needs transparency into what ISPs are doing and an environment that fosters innovation in online entertainment."

"Rather than resisting changes in Internet usage with counterproductive and arbitrary traffic throttling, we need to work together with the FCC to create a solution that ISPs, technology providers, consumers, content providers, and advertisers can all support.”

Vuze wants new FCC rules that allow network management only to mitigate "actual impact on the network" (not specific services or technologies) and to require full transparency and disclosure.

Comcast has of course been less than transparent. Back in September, EFF's Seth Schoen talked to Comcast about user complaints (before we knew what was going on) and got a flat denial:

Comcast assured us that, while it does do some kinds of network management on its residential network, it isn't deliberately blocking, degrading, interfering with, or discriminating against particular protocols or kinds of traffic. The company said that it isn't using network management techniques that are designed to disrupt anyone's use of BitTorrent (or any other application).

That is not substantially different from what Comcast says today, as it points reporters to a FAQ on its website:

"We never prevent peer-to-peer activity or block access to any peer-to-peer applications, but rather manage the network in such a way that this activity does not degrade the broadband experience for other users. ... We use the latest technologies to manage our network so that you can continue to enjoy these applications."

Comcast emphasizes that peer-to-peer activity "consumes a disproportionately large amount of network resources" and "poses the biggest challenge to maintaining a good broadband experience for all users."

Harold Feld of the Media Access Project told me, "At the very least, the FCC should make it clear that this is not appropriate," but really Congress should pass net neutrality legislation. That's what it would take, he said, so that "broadband providers will stop trying to mess with traffic."