Regardless of where you stand on Net Neutrality, you have to admit, the field of battle over who controls the pipes is fertile ground for legal analysis. Consider this latest tidbit from the Comcast BitTorrent Saga. Now Comcast is being accused not only of clamping down on traffic generated by BitTorrent users, but also of doing so in a disingenuous fashion. According to cyber-security Ph.D. student Chris Soghoian, Comcast is using one of the tricks from the Chinese government’s playbook. According to Soghoian:
They are instead sending a reset (or RST) packet to the Comcast customer, pretending to be from the host at the end of the BitTorrent connection. This RST packet is the TCP equivalent of stating “I don’t want to talk to you anymore, please terminate the connection”. It is extremely important to note that when Comcast creates and sends this packet, they do not identify themselves as the the source of packet, but instead impersonate one of the parties involved in the BitTorrent connection.
That last part leads Soghoian to wonder if it is possible that Comcast could be running afoul of state law in states that have “criminal impersonation” statutes on the books. Connections between BitTorrent users are anonymous, in the sense that someone’s IP address may or may not tell you anything important about them, and isn’t usually enough on its own to tell you the specific identity of the person using the IP address. There are more than a few defendants in RIAA lawsuits who have brought up that very point; in a household with two adults and three children, sharing one IP address, who would Comcast be impersonating if it sneakily resets a BitTorrent connection?