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 [email protected] broadband cable service.

In mid-August, Comcast Corp. changed
its subscriber agreement in order to clarify several of its acceptable use
policies. Specifically, the [email protected]
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.

[email protected]’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. [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] Professional product,” the spokesperson said.

Of course, [email protected] 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, [email protected] Pro still
does not support VPN access; it just doesn’t prohibit it.

Upon [email protected]’s urging, [email protected] 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, [email protected] 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.

[email protected] 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 [email protected]’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 [email protected] connections. However,
the company has no plans to crack down on residential customers using VPNs
and tunneling.

AT&[email protected] takes an even kinder,
gentler approach to VPN excesses over its network designed for residential use.

Sarah Duisik, AT&T Broadband
spokesperson, said AT&[email protected] does not aut

omatically shut down VPN use, but
it does seek to curb activities online that may burden its cable network.

“Our current policy does not specifically ban VPN access to the AT&[email protected]
network,” Duisik said. “Customers are not permitted to use the network for
business purposes. When we detect excessive bandwidth utilization we take
steps determine what action needs be taken to protect other users on our
network.”

Duisik said that normally a bandwidth hog is contacted by e-mail to open up
a dialogue about excessive use and figure out how the customer and the
cable company is best served in resolving the issue.

Naturally cable clients that use residential coax connections are free to
switch to digital subscriber line services for VPN use, since few DLS
providers restrict customers’ online activities. But like cable providers,
DSL providers do not provide support on technical issues involving VPN access.

Joan Rasmussen, Verizon
Communications
spokesperson, said that residential customers are free
to connects networks over DSL lines, but customer have to know what they’re
doing because Verizon does provide technical support for VPNs.

“Throughout the entire Verizon territory, including the former Bell
Atlantic and GTE service areas, we provide a DSL connection for a single
computer,” Rasmussen said. “We do not currently install DSL on networked
computers, nor do we provide technical assistance for customers who are
networking.”

“However, there are customers are networking their computers using a DSL
connection,” Rasmussen added. “They are on their own when they do so.”

For the most part, small businesses, home offices and telecommuters will
find that DSL access is friendlier with VPNs and tunneling protocols.
Monthly DSL access fees also run $60 to $70 less than business cable access
plans.

If a user is technically competent and can set up a VPN on a personal
computer, or if the user has access to technical support for a tunneled
connection, DSL has an edge over cable access for high-speed connectivity.

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