Comcast Settles BitTorrent Throttling Lawsuit

Comcast has settled a $16 million class-action lawsuit accusing the Internet provider of preventing customers from sharing files via BitTorrent. The suit alleges that Comcast sold users “unlimited” internet access that was, in fact, quite limited. Comcast still admits no wrongdoing, and affected customers will receive up to $16 each as part of the settlement. Ka-ching!

The problem is that Comcast blocked torrents wholesale, and many files shared through BitTorrent–open-source software, independent music with a Creative Commons license–are perfectly legal.

The lead attorney in the case, Mark Todzo, said the settlement should serve as a warning to other service providers who share Comcast’s complaints that a small number of subscribers generate vast amounts of traffic through their avid use of file-sharing programs.

“It tells (other ISPs) they can’t engage in this behavior,” Todzo said. “The writing is on the wall.”

Well, metered broadband serves the same purpose and is probably more lucrative than throttling heavy users’ uploads.

Comcast settles data discrimination lawsuit [AP]
Hart v. Comcast [Official Settlement Site]

Comcast Tries To Sterilize, Decapitate BitTorrent
Comcast Ceases Throttling Traffic After Negative AP Story?
“So, I’m Suing Comcast…” Reader Joins Comcastic Class Action Lawsuit
Comcast To Test New And Improved Methods For Throttling Internet Traffic
The Comcast Throttling Scandal And Its Consequences, Summarized


Edit Your Comment

  1. tbax929 says:

    Wow. $16 per customer. That’s not even enough to cover the internet bill of someone with basic service. Once again, the lawyers collect all the money. Merry Christmas to them.

    • cynical_reincarnation says:

      And on top of that, those that take their 16 dollars cant sue them again for this case.

      Comcast will still lie and cheat just like all the other large ISPs.

      If only there was innovation and funding in their tech and infrastructure, rather just in the legal dept.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      You guys crack me up every time this canard is used.
      So, you’re suggesting that there be NO remedy for companies that rip customers off, so long as the amount is less than what it would take victims to individually hire a lawyer (out of pocket) and sue a multinational conglomerate, bearing all the risk of the vagaries of winning, as well as the significant lost time and hassle?
      Why are you guys even here, since it seems you’re so obviously anti-consumer?

      PS: class action lawyers’ fees are heavily scrutinized by courts: you know that, right?

  2. levelone says:

    The settlement forms aren’t up on the site yet, so I can’t quote specifics, but you get an account credit if you’re still with Comcast when the money is released.

    If you’re a Comcast customer using BitTorrent for illicit purposes, wouldn’t you worry that giving your information for an account credit would cause Comcast to look deeper into your BT activity? You know, since you’ve just admitted to them that you’re using BT? Is that worth the measly $16 settlement?

    • cynical_reincarnation says:

      There are a lot of games and programs that handle updates and their very downloads via torrent files.

      I know WOW does their patching that way…

      I also doubt they would take the time and effort to look into your usage for illegal items if they will not benefit monetarily from it.

    • azntg says:

      As cynical_reincarnation states, there are perfectly legal and legitimate uses for BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer protocols. So anybody willing to take Comcast up for the Class Action Settlement may not necessarily be expressing mea culpa.

      And as an aside, the United States is a strange country after all. How many other countries out there let convicted criminals successfully sue their victims for details gone wrong while they were committing their crime?

  3. Jerkamie says:

    Do they now have to stop throttling torrents or stop advertising as unlimited internet ?

  4. Colonel Jack O'neill says:

    Most people use bittorent for illegal downloads, and they don’t know who’s downloading legal or illegal stuff, so they throttled it back for everyone who use bittorrent.
    99% of bittorrents are illegal, and most people use it to download illegal stuff, and Comcast doesn’t want you to do that on they network.
    It’s Comcast network, not yours, they should be able to do what they want (as long as they don’t block any sites).

    • vesper says:

      I completely agree with you COL. I don’t download insane amounts of data but only use my Comcast for movies, TV, and the internet. I don’t like my service being slowed by those “geeks” that insist on 24/7 downloads. It’s not their company; if these folks cannot abide by the service rules of Comcast, I say “cancel their service”. I am sick of this American “ME” attitude every time someone’s life gets disrupted by something minor such as this and this law suit never should have happened.

      • ktetch says:

        “if these folks cannot abide by the service rules of Comcast, I say “cancel their service”.”
        If these folks cannot abide by the terms of the rules and regulations set down by the FCC, I say “cancel their license to be an cable operator”

        ” I don’t like my service being slowed by those “geeks” that insist on 24/7 downloads.”
        I don’t like not getting the speeds I pay for because someone else is also trying to use the speeds THEY are paying for, and Comcast is too busy overselling their ‘product’ to give both of you what you’ve paid for. They’ve paid for the service same as you, but you are more important? Your problem is with comcast methinks, for selling you a service they can’t deliver on. If Bestbuy sold 200 TVs, but only had 100 in stock, is it the fault of the 100 that got theirs, because you didn’t get yours? That’s what you seem to be implying.

        Of course, your post could just be pure sarcasm, as opposed to sheer ignorance.

    • oldnumberseven says:

      “99% of bittorrents are illegal”

      Seems like a high percentage to me. With all the legal linux distros on torrent sites, and linux users that keep their torrent app running 24/7 to make sure anyone who wants linux can download, 99% seems pretty high to me.

    • ktetch says:

      99% sorry not even close. It’s more like 30-40%
      In the piratebay trial, it was about 20% of randomly selected torrents that infringed copyright.

      I’ll tell you something else too, were I a comcast subscriber during the period I’d opt out in a heartbeat, as this is a pathetic offer. Of course, I’m kinda well up on the case, since it was my research that was the first to corroborate Rob Toplowski’s initial claims, and formed the basis of the first media reports on this.

      $16M is nothing, they spent probably $1/2M on the sandvine equipment alone. Then they lied about it, instructing the staff not to talk about it or be fired, they lied to the FCC about when they did it, they packed an FCC hearing with seat-warmers to prevent anyone getting in there. And Sandvine itself? It’s a man-in-the-middle technique, something between you and your intended target, just like a card skimmer is between you and the card reader, and like said skimmer, it works your data to it’s own benefit, to your own detriment..

  5. Aesteval says:

    Crazy idea here: how about adequately controlling the bandwidth so everyone gets the bandwidth that they pay for instead of selling them 10mbps when all they’ll ever see, at best, is 5mbps with some random spurts of 200kbps? Seriously, if you built and controlled the network properly it wouldn’t matter what’s running over the network. Provide the bandwidth that’s being sold and this wouldn’t be a problem.

  6. Nighthawke says:

    16 bucks is chump change in comparison to the headaches comcast has given their customers. And the odds of them backing down from trying to prevent their customers from using P2P is slim to none.

    To hell with comcast, go satellite and wireless.

  7. Razor512 says:

    @Colonel Jack O’neill

    A lot of companies rely on bit torrent. even very large ones such as PRI (public radio international) there planning on offering torrent options for some of their pod cast because of the high bandwidth cost.

    Many local companies that i do work for also use bit torrent for getting their content out there.

    While there is illegal content on bit torrent, 80-90% of it is infected crap

    comcast throttling bit torrent especially when there such a large ISP, will hurt many small and large businesses that rely on it to handle content distribution.

    PS also theres a lot of illegal content available on standard FTP and HTTP

    the problem is not about illegal content, it is about the ISP being greedy and adding more people than the network can handle then punish everyone for using the internet there paying for.

    data transfer doesn’t effect network load, a ISP controls network load by the service speed, if a ISP only has a 100mbit network, they wont give 10 customers a gigabit copnnection, it just wont work, they will offer out 1-2mbit connections and no matter what any customer does, they will be locked into the 1-2mbit speed so they cant use bandwidth in a way that will effect another user

    for example, if a pizza shot sells 2 pizzas, to 2 different customers, does the speed at which customer 1 eats the pizza effect the pizza of customer 2?

    internet is like a house, you buy a 2000 square foot home and you get 2000 square feet of space, weather you use 500 or 2000 square feet of the space it wont effect your neighbor who also has a 2000 square food home

    What isp’s are doing is over selling then punishing users for using their space, if this was applied to the house example, the ISP would have like 2 2000 square foot homes and it will be sold to you and your neighbor, but then the ISP will oversell and sell a 2000 square foot home to a 3rd person even though there only 2 houses, instead of the ISP building a 3rd 2000 square foot home, they will punish you by forcing you to only use up to 1333 square feet that way the 3rd customer will have some space to use from both houses.

    this is what overselling is, and trust me, ISP’s love to oversell because anything thats oversold is 100% profit. if I only have 5 toys in stock and I sell the toys to 10 customers (thers not enough toys to go around but I take their money anyway)

    well for the first 5 customers, I probably made 70% profit because because they gave me their money and I gave them a toy, but the next 5 customers, I would make 100% profit because I got paid for selling 10 toys but I only had to deliver on 5, and in spirit of the ISP way, I would keep the full price for all customers and solve the problem of being short 5 toys by forcing them to share, that way everyone paid full price but only get half of what they paid for, and if one decided to use all of what they paid for, I will take the toy away or sue them for hindering the playtime of other customers, when in reality the entire problem is my fault because I should have sold 10 toys instead of 5 that way each customer would have gotten what they paid for

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      …the easiest thing to say to the Col. is that it isn’t even relevant to Comcast whether or not BT was being used for illicit purposes. They capped BT to try to give their network extra headroom, period. Had nothing to do with any do-gooding about preventing piracy. It was a blunt attempt at making their network “faster” by capping the utilization that BT could get. Period.

  8. uber_mensch says:

    Even though I never used Bittorrent I did use a VPN to my office which Comcast and Sandvine software determined that it was bad and would cut my connection using a RST flag in a packet. After doing an EECB, George Lunski at Comcast Corp contacted their network manager, who called me. After personally fixing the issue for me they sent a large metal container of gourmet popcorn to me with an apology on a card.

  9. _hi_ says:

    So what about people whos file transfers were slowed down by this who were not using comcast?

  10. Segador says:

    You know who really wins in class-action suits? Law firms. They get up to 50% of the total judgement, while consumers get $15. Guess who presses hardest for class-action suits? If you said “concerned consumers”, you’re wrong.

    • mythago says:

      Lawyers who file class-action cases don’t get paid until there is an actual settlement, meaning they front the costs of the litigation and work for free unless and until that happens. They must keep detailed records of the hours they actually worked and what they did, because the judge has to review their request for fees and costs. Meanwhile, people who aren’t involved in the lawsuit and may not have been directly harmed can, without lifting a finger, get the benefits of a settlement.

      Putting “up to” in front of your made-up figure was a nice touch, I admit.

  11. acasto says:

    C’mon, are you really paying for the advertised speeds 24/7? I have never thought that the advertised speeds was anything more than “up to” or averages. Do people really think they can get or are entitled to that level of bandwidth for around $50/month? If someone wants a truly unlimited 24/7 pipe then fork up the cash for a connection with an SLA so you know what you are paying for.

  12. acasto says:

    Um, it just doesn’t work like that. That would pretty much be a dedicated pipe. First of all, how in the world would anybody profit selling something for less than they pay for it. Second, if each customer paid for a dedicated pipe, what would be the point of ISPs to begin with? Though it probably would have been better had the internet had fewer middlemen to begin with.

  13. RockaRolla says:

    Do you really think Comcast cares whether the downloads are legal or illegal? They care that people are actually using the “unlimited” service comcast is advertising. If all BT’s were legal, I think you would see a similar response from comcast.

  14. mythago says:

    Sigh. Troll better.

  15. thebt1 says:

    regardless of whether the content is pirated or not, the overall protocol is legal and immensely useful, especially for smaller sites and those worried about bandwidth costs. Bittorent is used by many sites to transmit legal videos, music, scientific data etc that would kill their bandwidth if they needed to use their servers for the entire download. The fact that some use it for piracy should not mean that the many legitimate users are affected. $16 per customer isn’t much but I’m kind of shocked that they got even that much. At least this was brought into the open and Comcast might think about the consequences next time they do this. Still, I wish it was more and really hit them in the pocketbook harder.

  16. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    You are a head trip. Yes, clearly everyone else on this site thinks that there should be no remedy at all for abusive anti-consumer practices from major corporations. Obviously, that is what’s being said here. It is eminently clear that all of us guys are obviously anti-consumer ourselves.

    It couldn’t possibly be the case, could it, that tbax was instead suggesting that $16 per consumer was a useless amount to actually get to the consumer in restitution for the poor service they got? Such that, it should have been more? And/or or that perhaps the lawyers shouldn’t be getting massive amounts of such decisions to themselves, and rather that it should be passed onto the affected consumers?

    …no, there’s no way that’s what was meant here. Because we’re anti-consumer. You should go back to retreading the same woefully inadequate excuses as to why you use a Mac instead of a PC that have been irrefutably shown to be utter BS an essentially infinite number of times…

  17. RockaRolla says:

    see chavez v. netflix.

    Of course not all class action suits are bad and they often have the intended affect of changing the behavior of companies. But when the lawyers settle the case for basically nothing but their own fees it just seems wrong.

    Attorney fees being “scrutinized” by ex-attorneys (judges) reminds me a lot of corporate boards scrutinizing bonuses paid to their ceos.

  18. RockaRolla says:

    “as long as they dont block any sites”. So blocking legal torrents is ok, but blocking child porn sites, scams etc would be wrong?

  19. ktetch says:

    They are just using what is advertised. It is that simple. Who are you to decide that your occasional use is more important than my use? We both pay for the same product, that you choose not to use yours as much doesn’t make you more important when you DO decide to use it.

    The problem is the extensive overselling and lack of investiture in the network.

    When we reported this at TorrentFreak, a good percentage of the comments and emails we got suggested that the $16M would be better if it were invested in the network for increasing bandwidth, rather than mostly to lawyers and to some customers in the form of a pittance.

  20. ktetch says:

    In case you didn’t know, there’s no easy way for an ISP to know what you’re bittorrenting. Even systems like Audible Magic’s copysense can’t tell (despite their claims and hefty fees that claim they can).

    If I had 10 minutes to talk, I could explanto you the limited ways to know and proove what you’re torrenting, but mostly it invovles being either the originator of the torrent, having a copy of the fulll torrented data, or being a peer ont he torrent itself. You can’t look at torrent traffic and say ‘that was Thriller, that was Twilight, and that was Adobe CS4 suite’

  21. mythago says:

    Perhaps because the lawyers did all the work? Oh, right, I forgot. Everybody else ought to work for free!

    If you think Comcast owes you more than $16 you can opt out of the class and go after them yourself. Piece of cake, right?

  22. mythago says:

    [citation needed]

  23. mythago says:

    No, Trai_Dep is pointing out that y’all don’t really understand how class-action lawsuits work.

  24. Aesteval says:

    They do not need a dedicated pipe per user. They need adequate backbone running to the station and need to properly throttle user bandwidth by what they’ve been allocated. Perhaps we’re thinking of bottlenecks in different parts of the network (I suppose that I should point out that I’m specifically referring to cable networks and the local network congestion that occurs.)

    And if you think you know how much the telecom industry pays for what they sell than I encourage you to clue the rest of us in because it’s not a topic that they’re exactly forthcoming about.

    Otherwise I would say that the bigger issue at hand is that they are misleading in their advertising and need to be more straightforward in their advertisements. ISPs advertise bandwidth, not when or how often you’ll achieve that speed. If they can not supply what they are advertising than there is something wrong with what they’re advertising.

  25. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    I don’t believe you. I do believe you are misguided.

    There’s no point, at all, in giving each Comcast customer $16. Who give’s a rat’s ass about $16? If $16 means anything to you at all, you most certainly shouldn’t be spending any money on internet access to begin with.

    The OP’s point is quite valid.

  26. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    No, satellite is an utter failure. When I built my new house ~7 years ago, out in the boonies, there was no DSL or cable service out here. So, I signed up for DirecWay (nee HughesNet).

    It. Was. Awful. And I mean horrid. I mean “I think it’s better than dial-up” is about the best you can say for it.

    To be fair, downloading a large file was much faster than dial-up. But the latency was much worse. It would take longer to load a web page, like CNN for example, on satellite than dial-up because of the latency incurred on each bit of the page that had to come down.

    HORRID. Tethering to my Blackberry is infinitely better than satellite, in every way.

    The *instant* that DSL became available in our area, the satellite was gone. I can’t tell you how sorry I feel for anyone who can’t get any internet other than satellite. The best that can be said for it is “better than dial-up…maybe.”

  27. mythago says:

    Really? How about you PayPal me over $16, since it’s an amount of money that means absolutely nothing to you. I’ll be happy to take it off your hands.

  28. MauriceCallidice says:

    I’ll send you my address so you can send me that $16 that means nothing to you.

    While you’re at it, I have a bunch of friends and family who would appreciate certainly appreciate an extra $16. Let’s call it 25 of them. So how about you just send me $400 to share with them too, ok?

    Thanks. Glad to know you won’t even notice that it’s gone.

  29. Difdi says:

    The purpose of a lawsuit is twofold:

    To recover the damages the defendant caused against the plaintiff.

    To encourage the defendant not to do so in the future.

    The big problem with class action lawsuits, is while they may well accomplish the latter, they almost never accomplish the former.