RealTime IT News

Comcast Cuts Home Coax Connections to VPNs

Virtual Private Networks encrypt data before sending a packet through public networks for decryption at the receiving end. When someone sets up a VPN, they no longer need leased line access for wide-area network communications.

Basically, setting up a VPN is a great way for small business and home offices to cut connectivity costs while tapping into high-speed services.

Unless the computer is connected to Comcast@Home broadband cable service.

In mid-August, Comcast Corp. changed its subscriber agreement in order to clarify several of its acceptable use policies. Specifically, the Excite@Home principal partner expanded its "Prohibited Uses of the Service" section to include language that states VPN use is unauthorized.

VPN transport is achieved by tunneling a direct path to a service provider for private data transport over the public Internet. Through point-to-point tunneling standards any personal computer that has point-to-point protocol support will be able to use an Internet service provider to securely connect to a server located elsewhere.

Comcast@Home's acceptable use policy now states that "... the service is for personal and non-commercial use only and customer agrees not to use the service for operation ... in conjunction with a VPN or a VPN tunneling protocol."

A spokesperson for Comcast said "residential service is not intended for those that attempt to host a VPN connection or for those persons attempting to establish a VPN connection with their workplace. Comcast@Home is, and has always been, designated as a residential service and does not allow the use of commercial applications."

Comcast indicated that the main reason for the policy change in its stance regarding VPNs is to clearly define Comcast@Home as a residential broadband service, noting that it was not designed to provide Internet access for small business, home business, or telecommuters.

"To accommodate the needs of our customers who do choose to operate VPN, Comcast offers the Comcast@Home Professional product," the spokesperson said.

Of course, Comcast@Home Pro service costs $95 a month, as opposed to the $30 to $40 a month fee residential VPN users were paying. While Comcast pitches the enhanced program as the means to offer customers services that are different than its standard residential product, Comcast@Home Pro still does not support VPN access; it just doesn't prohibit it.

Upon Comcast@Home's urging, Excite@Home agreed it would immediately shut off access to any residential customer who uses their cable connection to set up PPTP or VPN access.

Vince Hancock, Excite@Home spokesperson, said the cable service provider understands that in order to offer every residential user quality high-speed services, it needed to listen to Comcast's concerns over VPN access.

"Excite@Home believes in offering the best possible service to all @Home users and we support efforts undertaken by our MSO Partners that are designed to accomplish that goal," Hancock said.

But not all of Excite@Home's principal partners have the same take on VPN access over coax bound for home use.

Cox Communications, Inc. stated that it does not support VPN access for residential use of Cox@Home connections. However, the company has no plans to crack down on residential customers using VPNs and tunneling.

AT&T@Home takes an even kinder, gentler approach to VPN excesses over its network designed for residential use.

Sarah Duisik, AT&T Broadband spokesperson, said AT&T@Home does not aut