Comcast Nixes VPN Restrictions - Multichannel

Comcast Nixes VPN Restrictions

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Comcast Corp. has made a concession to critics by dropping a restriction
in cable-modem-service contracts that allegedly blocked telecommuters from
tapping into corporate data networks.

Comcast lawyers told the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday that it
no longer required high-speed-data customers to sign agreements placing
restrictions on so-called virtual private networks.

"The `VPN restriction' about which certain parties have complained has been
eliminated from and is no longer part of Comcast's subscriber agreements and
terms of service for its high-speed Internet customers," Comcast said in a
two-page letter to the FCC May 7.

Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, has more than 4 million cable-modem
subscribers.

VPNs allow workers at home or elsewhere outside the office to connect to
office networks in a secure manner and access files resident in their office
desktop computers.

A group called the Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators urged the FCC
to consider Comcast's VPN restrictions as evidence that cable operators planned
to use their network control to discriminate against unaffiliated Internet
companies.

In the filing, Comcast did not say when the VPN restriction was removed. However, a Comcast source said Monday that it happened several months ago, and it was not directly tied to the CBUI's complaints.

The CBUI's roster includes Amazon.com Inc. (www.amazon.com), Yahoo! Inc. (www.yahoo.com), eBay Inc. (www.ebay.com
), The Walt Disney Co., RadioShack Corp.
and Microsoft Corp. Leo J. Hindery Jr.'s Yankees Entertainment & Sports
Network is also a member.

At a press conference last month, CBUI members alleged that VPN restrictions
were adopted to allow cable companies to reserve the right to create and market
their own VPN services.

The CBUI has asked the FCC to forbid cable operators from discriminating
against Web merchants and other Internet companies that they do not have
financial relationships with.

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