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Comcast settles data discrimination lawsuit

By Deborah Yao
AP Business Writer / December 23, 2009

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PHILADELPHIA—Comcast Corp. has agreed to pay up to $16 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing the cable TV operator of delaying transfers of large movie and music files despite promises of unfettered Internet access.

Comcast, which is the nation's largest Internet service provider, did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement, but said it wanted "to put this matter behind us."

The company said it no longer engages in the network-management practices in question.

Comcast has argued the techniques were necessary so that the few people who download large amounts of files through BitTorrent and similar file-sharing programs won't slow down the Internet for others. The company believes its practices were appropriate, clearly disclosed and in the best interest of its customers.

But the Federal Communications Commission ordered Comcast last year to change the way it manages its Internet traffic, following an investigation by The Associated Press.

Delays in peer-to-peer traffic could affect a variety of high-volume content, from someone pirating music over the Internet to independent movie producers who want to distribute their work using BitTorrent.

U.S. District Judge Legrome D. Davis in Philadelphia gave the settlement preliminary approval last week, with a hearing for final approval scheduled for June. The preliminary approval gives time for affected Comcast subscribers to submit claims for the settlement.

The lawsuit consolidates seven similar cases filed around the country.

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."

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