According to at least two Comcast users, agents of the company recently contacted them and told them to quit using Tor — or face a ban from Comcast’s service. The reason, according to these users, Tor provides access to illegal sites such as Silkroad. Shortly after these reports surfaced, however, Comcast issued a statement denying they had threatened anyone for using Tor or Silkroad and saying Tor users were welcome at the company.
In other words, though it’s not clear whether Comcast went after Tor or Silkroad users in the past, it’s unlikely they will try and go after Tor or Silkroad users in the future.
The controversy began when someone posted in the Reddit /r/darknetmarkets forum (where people discuss markets like Silkroad) claiming they’d received a call from a Comcast agent. The agent supposedly told this person Tor was an illegal service, using it was against the Comcast Terms of Service, and provided access to illegal markets like Silkroad.
The user asked to speak with the manager and was told the manager wasn’t available, so he called Comcast back the following day. An agent named Kelly roughly confirmed the policy, saying people who try to cover their tracks are usually doing things that aren’t legal — again, assuming that all Tor users are Silkroad users.
A second report of similar treatment by Comcast agents was submitted directly to the Deep Dot Web darkweb news site, which covers Silkroad and similar markets.
The implication of this policy is that Comcast actively monitors its users’ online activity to check whether they are following the Terms of Service. The Tor Project has previously listed Comcast as a “bad ISP” which is not Tor-friendly, though not because of any specific anti-Tor or anti- Silkroad policies — Tor’s objection is that the Comcast Acceptable Use policy forbids running proxies or servers.
Comcast, on the other hand, states they do not monitor specific accounts unless they are presented with a court order. Even then, according to Comcast, they would attempt to notify the affected user so they could hire a lawyer and deal directly with the judge.
Deep Dot Web notes that Comcast’s behavior in the “Dread Pirate Roberts” Silkroad case is strongly at odds with this claim. Comcast also actively monitors the internet usage of its customers as part of Comcast’s Six Strikes program.
This program has nothing to do with Tor or Silkroad, but rather focuses on copyright infringement. If Comcast catches its customers pirating copyrighted material, they receive an email from Comcast telling them to stop doing this. After a total of six such infractions their account may be terminated.
Two days after the Deep Dot Web report hit the internet; Comcast released a statement from its VP of Internet Services, Jason Livingood, denying many of the claims made by Deep Dot Web. According to Livingood, the idea that the company has “declared war” on Tor or Silkroad” is “totally inaccurate.”
Livingood states that Comcast is not asking users to discontinue using the Tor browser software or any other browser. The company has no policy against itor any other specific software, and customers can visit any website or use any app they like with their Comcast service.
Furthermore, Livingood’s statement claims that Comcast does not monitor customer software or web usage. The “chat room” evidence from the Deep Dot Web story is, in his eyes, not accurate. Instead, Comcast only investigates or discloses information about customer accounts when presented with a valid court order.
What’s more, the Deep Dot Web claim that Comcast terminates customers under the Six Strikes program is (according to Livingood) false — he calls it a voluntary, educational, and non-punitive program. He does not, however, deny monitoring internet activity under this program.