Comcast / AT&T Anti-Consumer Proposal Doomed to Fail

Includes: CMCSA, T
by: Davis Freeberg

CNET reported Thursday morning that AT&T (NYSE:T) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) are planning on adopting a three strikes and you’re out policy for P2P users. The move is yet another desperate attempt by the media industry to try and regain control over content distribution. Because most broadband providers have government protected duopolies, they hope to use the MSOs as a chokepoint in their war on piracy.

If you don’t actively engage in P2P sharing, you probably don’t think you need to worry about this, but I think there are already reasons to be alarmed. Even before the program’s launch, we are seeing reports of innocent customers being targeted by Comcast’s DMCA enforcement division.

Recently, John Aprigliano received a letter from Comcast asking him to take down a torrent that he was allegedly seeding. As if hitting him with a bogus DMCA takedown request wasn’t bad enough, Comcast had to insult his taste in movies by accusing him of sharing Cadillac Records, a movie that he had never heard of.

When he called Comcast to figure it out, he got the usual runaround. After 4 different telephone calls and an hour of hold time, he was finally able to determine that Comcast sent him the notice because of an old modem that was now being used by someone else.

I find this scary because I tend to move around a lot. Over the course of my life, I’ve easily used ten different modems. Considering how popular Bit Torrent is, there is more than a good chance that one of my former modems is being used in pirate media. Why should I now have to worry about getting kicked off the net, just because Comcast can’t tell the difference between an IP and MAC address?

In John’s case, he was fortunate to be tech savvy enough to catch this, but what happens when some little old lady loses her broadband just because of a Comcast screw up? Are most people really going to know that they need to ask Comcast what they have down for their Mac address? Somehow, I doubt that my Mom would have been able to prove herself innocent in the same situation.

During the RIAA’s lawsuit blitz, there have been plenty of examples where they filed lawsuits against innocent “infringers”. Now the media industry wants to exploit government granted monopolies, in order to take away high speed internet from those same victims. Forgive me, if I’m more than a little pessimistic. Why Comcast or AT&T would even consider such an anti-consumer proposal is beyond me, but the whole scheme is doomed for failure.

The pirates will eventually figure out even better ways to encrypt their traffic and the end result will just be a bunch of ticked off consumers feeling like big brother is breathing down their neck. It’s hard to get excited about having Comcast monitor P2P activity, when they already have a history for screwing these things up.