RealTime IT News

Comcast Puts Its Speed Limits in Writing

Comcast, the largest cable provider in the country and second-largest Internet Service Provider behind AOL, quietly updated its Terms of Service late last month to reflect what it has been saying and users have been kvetching about for some time – it engages in network traffic control.

The acknowledgement comes in section III of the ToS, updated January 25, stating that it "uses reasonable network management practices that are consistent with industry standards."

This is the same wording as found in the FCC's Internet Policy Statement from 2005, which allows ISPs to engage in "reasonable network management" and at the same time allows subscribers to run lawful applications and services as long as it doesn't harm the network.

The ToS goes on to say that "Comcast tries to use tools and technologies that are minimally intrusive…" and defends itself by stating all large Internet service providers manage their networks and use the same or similar tools that Comcast does.

Cox Communications, also a cable modem provider, limits traffic up and down. Time Warner, which has several million subscribers to its Roadrunner service, doesn't throttle usage but it has begun experimenting with metered use, which charges customers based on their usage.

Accusations against Comcast begin to simmer on the Internet last summer before finally boiling over thanks to an in-depth Associated Press report in October. Company officials denied it was throttling BitTorrent uploads, but one month later did admit to slowing down the transmissions for the sake of network management.

The company continues to be hounded by media advocacy group Free Press, which reacted to the updated ToS by stating "Comcast Puts Discrimination in the Fine Print." Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said the change isn't that big of a deal. "The terms of service were updated as part of the normal course of business. No practices have changed," he told InternetNews.com.

After the AP expose on Comcast, numerous complaints were filed with the FCC demanding an investigation. At the recent CES show in Las Vegas, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said there would be an investigation.