ATT, Comcast, Time Warner – Uploads and Downloads to Time Out Automatically

I got a letter today from one of our readers in the States, now if you are a heavy user of RDP and FTP this could affect you. Over to Don:

I would like to inform that anyone who is using ATT or Comcast in some areas are going to run into problems with WHS. I have been using WHS for several months and just last week I noticed that with RDP and the website that my download and upload dropped from over 300 – 400kbs to 15 -20kbs and timing out every time not only WHS, but my own web server hosted in Kansas City was timing out with not only FTP but any of my uploads for new content, so after hours of trouble shooting thinking maybe it’s the switch and so on and on I finally called Comcast who “well you know how they go”  have me running every test I already ran and stating they saw no problems.

Well, Comcast sends a tech out (Jim) who shows up to my door to run the same tests already ran and asks if I own a webserver? I tell him WHS and my primary sites hosted within a datacenter which I am having trouble updating from home on this network. I could not believe what fell out of his mouth! Comcast in some areas along with ATT and soon Time Warner are using data filters. Which send back a silent request from ISP to the customers on certain uploads and downloads to time out automatically. The software is designed to block torrents and file sharing, so there are no so-called “network degrades” for all customers. Wow! Not good at all!

I asked Jim what the fix was even for my hosted server (from my home network) and of course the normal Comcast answer of “I will forward this to techs in datacenter”, but nothing he could do for now!

I am a huge user of RDP and FTP. WHS has combined these functions plus added a lot more. When Comcast, ATT and Time Warner go nationwide with these filters this will affect the product and customers at every level and not just filesharing.

If this affects my hosting sites (even my blog to post a picture), filesharing and WHS for all reasons good or bad. What can be done to gain back are access to our property in which we pay for?

I would like to pass this on since I am a huge Microsoft fan and user, but also inform and help anyone using WHS under any of these providers may notice time-outs or degraded speeds if used from outside their home network or sharing items with family members outside the network.

Well this is not good news. Three of the biggest suppliers of Internet services are starting to use so called “data filters”. What’s your opinion?

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  1. Jay Schlackman says:

    Evidence has been mounting that this is the case for the last week or so – Ars Technica carried an article today outlining wha6 is known so far: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071021-comcast-traffic-blocking-even-more-apps-groupware-clients-affected.html

  2. Bob Crook says:

    Are you a Home or Business user? If you are not a Home user do you have the same issue?

  3. So basically they are telling millions of people who work from home and use RDP to access their company IT systems to “go to hell”. They want us to pay for bandwidth, but don’t you dare use it. That is like paying for 1,000 kW hours of electricity and the electric company only providing 250 kW hours.

    Is it any wonder that America lags behind other industrialized nations in broadband access? While countries like China and Japan enjoy 10MB/s and 100MB/s broadband access to their homes for less than $20 a month we pay $60+ a month and are lucky to get 6MB/s.

  4. JohnCz says:

    Comcast has recently stated, if you don’t want to be *managed* you should upgrade to their business internet access plan. Its just obscene and I think its time for the government to step in.

  5. Don says:

    Hi Everyone,
    To answer Bob Crook I am on the home plan for Comcast. I have tried to upgrade several times (which I don’t really want to pay 125.00 + a month for internet only + every FCC fee) thru Comcast to the business plan, but they refuse stating I don’t have a store front sign and my address is residental.
    Comcast locally and 1800-Comcast both have denied my request. Comcast won’t even provide a static ip for 6.95 a month untill I can upgrade.
    I agree something needs to be done! This doesnt affect just the teen trying to download a free movie, but as a web application developer, independent music artist, IT Pros and business travelers it affects all of us no matter what we do.
    According to the AP Comcast Canada will be affected as well!
    Cable company is a monopoly and needs to be changed!
    Competition needs to be allowed not only for options, but pricing as well.
    I would’nt be floored if Comcast added a middle option to the internet plan (home, unmanaged and business).

    I found info from the AP.org and some testing they had done (yes they were blocked from sharing a file also).

  6. Bob Crook says:

    Don, have you explored other services? I think we all appreciate your position and are saddened to hear about not only your plight but potentially lots of others too.

  7. George says:

    It is exactly this kind of monopolistic practice that makes me dislike such monopolies. Our systems like this in the US are broken. We need to start fresh with an open system. Every time the government creates a monopoly it ultimately comes down to decisions like these that work against the consumer. I am not sure what the answer is, I just know the one we have here in the US does not work well. Maybe we should look at how such companies are regulated outside the US? This will affect all that I intended to do with WHS. Leave it to a monopoly to mess up a decent product like WHS!

  8. Don says:

    I have not explored other options as of yet or what other options are even present. Talking to associates at work some are finding the same problem with SBC dsl and updating there blogs or photo albums from home, but no problems when they are at work, so that might eliminate one option already.
    I will look into what options are available tomorrow. The only problem is no ISP will state anything about data filters being in use or not.
    Maybe we can add this to the forum and collaborate information as it is available?

  9. George says:

    I believe a grass roots effort by WHS and other intereted users might eventually have an impact on the ISPs decision to add data filters. So the idea to collaborate informaiton IMO would be useful. The WHS forum would be a good place to get this grass roots effort started.

    Also, it occurs to me that the practice of data filtering by the ISPs would have a major impact on the success or lack of success for WHS. Maybe with enough attention from the WHS community we could get Microsoft itself to apply pressure to the ISPs?

  10. Bob Crook says:

    How is data filtering done? Is it by Port? If so maybe a DDNS service might help.

  11. Don says:

    Data Filtering is done thru software which according to some news reports that the ISP’s have invested millions of dollars into (why they didnt put this into their network I don’t know).
    The software from what I can tell thru my own test are analyzing packets being sent. Have ran a packet analyzer test and the packets sent from my computer where not the same when recieved to my developement server.
    Running pingpath and tracert I notice after the 3rd hop my packets just drop to nothing, so I am guessing that is where the filtering is coming into play. By the 5th hop I hit at&t network and I time out.

    Thinking on this last night! Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner hate nothing more that negative attn within the community from a PR stand point, so today I am filing with the Missouri Attorney General, City Cable Commision and I am in the works for all 4 local news stations, since this will affect the public at whole.
    Sadly Dysdns webhop has the same trouble with Comcast also. Comcast adds them to the black filter list and web mail cannot be forwarded.
    Microsoft has power and I know in some way they could be useful.
    I will keep everyone posted!

  12. reddragon72 says:

    Welcome to the United States of your screwed at ever corner!

    This will not change and will only get worse. Your best bet at this point it to pay extra money for a good proxy service that has encryption so that Comcast never knows what you are sending and receiving. But then they will eventually kill your service all together cause as you know encrypting something adds bloat of about 15-20% so you will be using allot more bandwidth, and they’ll start chopping you off when you have chewed up to much.

  13. MattP says:

    I live on the Kansas side of KC and I’ve got TimeWarner. So far, knock on wood, they haven’t blocked or throttled my connection. If they were to start, my only other option is SBC DSL, which I’ve heard is “OK” in the KC area.

  14. Brian says:

    I really have no options other than Comcast without spending even more than I’m already being extorted for by them. I don’t have a phone line at my house at all, so to get DSL would require setting up a phone line in order to get the DSL connection. Plus I’d still be paying Comcast for television service unless I switched to satellite.

    I really don’t do tons of downloading/uploading and I really only rarely use the remote features of WHS, so the filtering/throttling doesn’t really affect me directly that much, but the principle of it bugs the crap out of me.

    I’ll be watching for the reports on the KC news, as that’s the area I’m in.

  15. Don says:

    I may not have to go any further!!!!!!!!!
    Slashdot just reported and confirmed our problems!

    Header Reads:
    Comcast May Face Lawsuits Over BitTorrent Filtering!

  16. Don,

    I live in Missouri as well. If you decide to pursue this, please let me know as I’ll be more than happy to get in line with you as well.


  17. Mr. Nerd411 says:

    The original author of this posting as well as many other readers need to enter reality. There is a difference between “home” and “business” usage. It is clearly defined by ISP’s and is normally contained in their Acceptable Usage or Terms of Service agreements. Secondly, it seems these same individuals need to pay closer attention when they sign up for service, and understand that there is a difference in what they are entitled too under contract and what their service providers have been letting them get away with. Let’s take a look at what exactly Comcast’s agreement says.

    I took a look at Comcast.net (since they are the original author’s service provider). On the Comcast site I located their “Terms of Usage” documentation. Using direct quotes from Comcast’s “terms of Usage” I will demonstrate why Windows Home Server (and almost all other “server” based products)indeed violates most ISP policies and why Comcast (and other ISP’s) have the right to block their usage.

    “Prohibited Uses and Activities”

    “Prohibited uses include, but are not limited to, using the Service, Customer Equipment, or the Comcast Equipment to:”

    “viii. restrict, inhibit, interfere with, or otherwise disrupt or cause a performance degradation, regardless of intent, purpose or knowledge, to the Service or any Comcast (or Comcast supplier) host, server, backbone network, node or service, or otherwise cause a performance degradation to any Comcast (or Comcast supplier) facilities used to deliver the Service;”

    You bring up Windows Home Server. You enable the Web Services to host a personal website, setup I-Drive-E to do remote backups, as well as using RDP to access your lan from the office. If during your initial backup you are moving 100gb’s of mp3’s and photos. Nine times out of 10 they could argue that you just violated your terms of service, and shut you down (or throttle you).

    “xiv. run programs, equipment, or servers from the Premises that provide network content or any other services to anyone outside of your Premises LAN (Local Area Network), also commonly referred to as public services or servers. Examples of prohibited services and servers include, but are not limited to, e-mail, Web hosting, file sharing, and proxy services and servers;”

    Once again, the terms of acceptable use are very clear. You cannot host a server on their network. Windows Home Server is clearly a violation of the rules.

    Now in regards to all of my “work from home” folks I present the following:

    “ix. …The Service is for personal and non-commercial use only and you agree not to use the Service for operation as an Internet service provider or for any business enterprise or purpose…”

    You cannot use the Comcast network for any commercial purpose. Plain and simple. If you work from home, you have to get business class service. This is why most companies will pay part or all of the bill for their remote workers. It is to offset the difference in costs among the plans (because no company would knowingly ask workers to commit theft of service).

  18. George says:

    Mr. Nerd,
    I see your point of view. However, my use is strictly residental/home use. I have friends that I discuss stocks and stock market investing via an investment club ( a not for profit loose organization of three people at the moment). They access my WHS server for info we pass back and forth to each other. As I understand the agreement with my ISP this does not qualify as a business activity and does not require a business account.

    Respectuflly submitted,

  19. Wayne says:

    Ok Mr. Nerd:
    They refuse to allow me to upgrade to a business class connection because its a residence. Yet, I cannot have a server on a residential connection. Catch-22.

    That is why a lot of ISPs clearly state that you cannot host any commercial for-profit site or service on a residential account, but anything and everything that is free, or personal can be hosted as long as it is legally distributable content. Comcast is one that is too grey in this area.

  20. Don says:

    Mr. Nerd must work for the ISP! Reading will tell you that I and many others have no problem paying double my monthly fee to upgrade to business class, but they won’t allow it, but now thinking about this? Comcast has cut us off due to illegal practices, so why should anyone pay more?

    This about censorship! Comcast does not own me or my property I pay to use Comcast Service.
    I am in the postion that if I need to drop the funds for a T-1 I can, but what about all the folks that do not have this option!
    For me it’s about people helping people and not letting big companies take control.
    Comcast does not state within it’s contract anything about what is reasonable? The contract was designed as open not stating or defining any numbers, MB or Gigs for uploads or downloads.
    My contract was signed 2005!

    Thanks Robert S. I will keep everyone informed within the forum.

  21. George says:


    Another, breaking news and interesting article on this post subject. I know that we *here in this thread* are talking about concerns of data filtering on legal and home/personal WHS transfers by Comcast and others, but this article (link abouve) is relevant anyway. They do mention the interference with Lotus Notes traffic which is probably more in line with the concerns for dropping transfer to/from WHS like we *in this thread* probably have.

    Note to all: I have noticed some comments about the forum in this particular thread. Are you guys talkinng about the Windows Home Server Forum on Microsoft Connect or some other forum. Any response will be appreciated and I will probably stop posting here and go there if it seems more appropiate.

    Sorry if I am posting in the wrong place.


  22. Bob Crook says:

    So can someone start a business and use Comcast as its business class service and add business class service for those “employees” who gladly pay/subscribe to be listed as employees? Sounds like a business opportunity!

  23. Don says:

    Good question!

  24. Mr. Nerd411 says:


    I fully understand what you are saying and the frustration that this “catch-22” can present. As a former Network Services employee for Worldcom/Cable & Wireless, I am very aware of how sales agents can sometimes “misinform” folks in order to get credit for a sale. I am also very aware of the fact that often times what folks think they are getting and what they actually recieve are two totally different things.

    In regards to the Comcast service, they should not be denying you the opportunity to upgrade the business class service. Generally speaking, business class services are only denied when:

    1) For DSL subscribers – You live to far away from the local access point to guarantee the service level commitments provided by the contract.

    2) For Cable subscribers – I have only encountered this when the local access point is already achieved saturation, however there is not enough projected usage to justify adding additional bandwidth capacity.

    These both are generalizations, but they are based on many years of experience. Business class service is generally a much better profit center for a service provider. Therefore, they try to move people to business class or higher tier service whenever they can.

    Specifically in George’s case, I understand his statement that he is not running a for profit service. However, per past experiences, my representatives would tell him that the hosting of his WHS is a violation of his service agreement. However, he is free to use the free web page space that we provide to him as a customer to exchange information with his club and that is perfectly fine. That is the reason why we provide the free hosted service to our customers.

    In regard to Wayne’s comments… I would say that he may be confusing his high speed access accounts terms of usage with a hosted account. Most ISP provide free space for you to host which is located on a server farm, that is cached, and located on a local connection to their backbone. Residential service contracts do not generally allow you to “host” anything that will use a persistent connection because $49.00 a month will not allow them to profit over the bandwidth that you could potentially use. There would be no incentive in such a plan for you to ever migrate to the more “profitable” service agreements.

    Don, you obviously feel passionately, however you once again are ignoring the service contract that you agreed to. They have every right to censor you. You specifically gave them that right by agreeing to use their service. Just as when you attend a concert or ballgame you give them the right to use your image, release them for responsibility for injury and agree not to cal your friends and provide play by play. The fact that you didn’t read the contract (on back of the ticket stub) prior to being paralyzed by that errant baseball makes no difference.

    All, I agree with the spirit of the argument that you make. However, when people start threatening lawsuits and class actions without knowing what they have agreed to, that is a different matter. In closing, using Comcast as our focus company, any Server posted to their network is a violation of their usage agreement. It doesn’t matter what it is used for.

  25. Mr. Nerd411 says:

    Oh and sorry, Bob Crook, you are right. If someone were to setup a commercial account and contract with Comcast to provide discounted rates to all of their “service representatives or field agents” around the country, that would be perfectly legal. Hospitals, Dental Associations, Independent Insurance Agents and many others do it all the time.

  26. George says:

    Some Things Eventually Do Change… for the better.

    I remember, back in 2001, I had ATT Broadband, my first ISP that was not dial-up. It was in Fort Collins, Colorado just north of Denver. ATT kept cutting my connection when I left the “always on” connection connected while I was away from the computer (after about 20 minutes of keyboard *in*activity ATT sent a disconnect signal to my PC and wacked the connection). I called them about it. They said they did not allow “an always-on connection”. It violated the terms of *their* agreement between us, which, of course, I had no choice but to accept if I wanted broadband service in Fort Collins. The rep I talked to said I would just have to reconnect to the new high-speeds service I had just contracted for (and was paying a premium price for) each time I returned to my computer after an absence of 20 minutes or more. The reason they gave was that leaving me connected took “too many resources” away for customers who *were* at their computer and wanted to use the service. Of course, the *real* reason is it cost them money for more ports (or some other cost reason I am not technically capable of knowing because I do not work in the industry). Since ATT had no competition for broadband in Fort Collins they could just arbitrarily decide to make decisions like this without regard to the customer’s needs (and IMO without regard to what the customer was already paying for). Through a search on the internet, I found a piece of software that someone hacked out to “keep me connected” which apparently blocked the disconnect signal sent by ATT. Shortly after my conservation with the ATT customer service rep (I think it may have been six months later) ATT Broadband started advertising there broadband service with the “always on connection” as a main feature of their service.

    Here’s my point. These monopolies (or at least oligopolies) are very short-sighted when new ideas surface that their lawyers have not accepted yet. Eventually the companies (and their lawyers) have to yield to the will of their customers (usually due to competition but it is much more difficult when a monopoly or oligopoly is in place) as they lose their stranglehold on the customer when the market dynamics begin to change. You will see that this is the way this “data filtering” issue will go as well (in favor of the people) but it usually takes the lawyers for the ISPs like Mr. Nerd a while to figure it out that the company they work for will not survive if they don’t change.

    It’s all about money, pure and simple. The last post by Mr. Nerd placed above pretty much says this in so many words. It’s clear (at least to me) that the companies are *really* pretty much concerned with their profits as, I might add, they should be. They just shouldn’t be concerned with profits at the expense of the customers that produce then. The short-sightedness comes into play when the lawyers and others who are not visionaries in the company (and there are many of those) don’t seem to be able to realize that profits actually increase when you give your customer what he wants and stop using their lawyers to fight the trend. The other (incorrect) path taken to the extreme eventually leads to destruction of the very company they are trying to “protect”. I could think of several examples of taking the other path but I will mention only one…AOL. And that’s all I have to say about that 🙂 .

  27. George says:


    Another current news article covering this subject.

  28. George says:

    A quick scan of a Google Search using the term “Comcast data filtering” (without the quotes) produced search results that show the press is all over this story. Here is one more relevant link.


  29. Dave says:

    @Nerd411, your reading of the contract is somewhat one-sided. For example, if we stick with your literal interpretation of “viii. restrict, inhibit, interfere with, or otherwise disrupt or cause a performance degradation, regardless of intent, purpose or knowledge”, then simply *using* the connection is a violation since it necessarily causes some degradation of service.

    Likewise, “xiv. run programs, equipment, or servers from the Premises” is awfully murky. When I post an item on eBay, I run an ActiveX control (a program) that uploads (serves) images to eBay (the client).

    I understand why the IPs have contracts like this, but they simply don’t work in the real world.

  30. Hi Dave,
    I am sure a lawyer would have a laughing fit looking at some of these contracts.

  31. Mr. Brown says:

    What is it that motivates corporate entities to become such rabid control freaks when they become so successful (read monopolistic)? Yes, a strictly rhetorical question, as we all know the answer to it… But it is simply amazing how blinding this success-bred greed becomes. It is *very* counterproductive to bite the hand that feeds, especially from a business standpoint. The corporate graveyard is filled with examples of this. Rather than waste untold millions on filtering software, lawyers, and such, it would be far wiser to invest said dollars into infrastructure enhancement and development. Blanket punishment policies that affect everyone suffer are ridiculous.

    This is BS. First it was port 21. Now I have 21, 80, 443 inbound, all blocked, and possibly there are others. Now throw in some forged RST’s, (and initially denying it – this *really* pisses me off), and I’m simply being slapped in the face. This by a company that gets $100/month from me.

  32. Hi Mr. Brown,
    Thanks for your comment. I totally agree. For $100 I would want no ports blocked. Thanks goodness here in the UK £25+ per month buys us unlimited broadband with NO throttling or port blocking.

  33. Mike says:

    This filter is killing a game application I have(station launcher). At first I thought the launcher got a bad update so I sent a ticket in. After a couple replies from the tech rep we came to the conclusion that its the ISP. The launcher is perfectly legit. Its made by SOE to make organizing there MMO games easier.
    I doubt ATT will give a crap. Guess I have to wait till these lawsuits pan out. Hopefully it works out in the end.

  34. Hi Mike,
    It’s bad news when an ISP’s actions start interfering with our apps and services. They are supposed to be providing US with a service we want!

  35. J S says:

    If you’re using torrents, you can get around the filtering by turning on encryption in your torrent client. That way the filters can’t see what the traffic is.

    As for web servers and blocking port 80, just host your page on a different port. You’ll have to add the port number to the web address to get there, but at least it will still be accessible.

  36. Hi J S,
    Thanks for the tips.

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