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Update: Comcast has no traffic management plan yet

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 22 Aug 2008 17:00 User comments (6)

Update: Comcast has no traffic management plan yet On Wednesday we reported that the ISP Comcast had set up a proposal for a new traffic 'throttling' system in which the heaviest users would see their top speeds reduced for periods lasting up to 20 minutes at a time.
Today however, Comcast has responded by saying they have yet to make a final decision on how they will manage network congestion from here on in.

The ISP has been under scrutiny since it was revealed they had throttled traffic speeds of BitTorrent and other P2P users without telling customers they were doing so. The case went to the FCC which found Comcast guilty of breaking net neutrality laws. The ISP now needs to set up a new traffic management plan and submit it to the FCC before the end of the year.

The main proposal has been that of slowing the Internet of heavier users at times of congestion, which it claims will keep the "service" flowing for all customers. "It's the heaviest of users that are directly contributing to the degradation of the service for the other people on the network," said Charlie Douglas, a Comcast spokesman.

Ben Scott, Free Press (digital rights advocacy group) policy director said that Comcast has been dishonest in the past and now users must be suspicious of any new traffic management plan.

"We have to be skeptical and vigilant," Scott said. "The FCC has required them to disclose all the details so we look forward to seeing that before we can fully evaluate. Any move that doesn't involve blocking consumers' access to the Internet is a positive step but we won't know for sure about this particular practice until we see the details."

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6 user comments

122.8.2008 18:35

It is typical that Comcast wants to throttle heavy users as a prelude to charging them more. However, pendulums should swing both ways. Will they give refunds, or extend service periods, to people who use less than average internet traffic? Three guesses, the first two won't count.

Moreover, heavy user communities will vary, from students downloading lectures to teenagers downloading myspace or youtube videos to linux customers to other teenagers downloading games, movies or music. Comcast can't differentiate who is legal and who isn't and shouldn't try.

The only solutions have to be "non-normative". Namely net neutrality or price by use with light users being charged little and heavy users more. Perhaps a subscription model in advance will work. However if suppliers want to sell bandwidth then there needs to be a market, as in free market. Monopoly or near monopoly is not a way to improve service, it is a way to rape consumers. In addition, there is a technical truth underlying all this: bandwidth is a commodity whose supply can be increased by adding more server racks.

222.8.2008 20:51

Originally posted by jobardu:
In addition, there is a technical truth underlying all this: bandwidth is a commodity whose supply can be increased by adding more server racks.
If only it was that simple. Not that I'm supporting crapcast.

323.8.2008 1:03

Comcast and every other cable provider needs to get off there money grudging ass and get new infrastructure. the old stuff just ain't cutting it no more.

423.8.2008 3:15

Blaph3my you are correct it's not as simple as adding servers. It's the lines that connect them and the equipment that runs those fiber optic connections. That equipment can run into the 10's if not 100's of thousands of dollars.

The only way the providers can get around adding this equipment is to have a tiered structure. Then again that structure may be hard for them to implement as cable providers operate their internet connections differently than dsl. There is one problem for both however and thats when you have lots of users there is eventually a bottleneck in the system somewhere!

What ever way they choose to go be prepared to pay more. Don't laugh at comcast subscribers just yet though, other isps are sure to follow when it comes to increasing prices!

523.8.2008 12:26

Blackjax is correct about the need to couple server racks to more cable and repeaters and routers and related infrastructure. That is a cost of doing business.

But Blackjax is not correct in the equation of more users requiring rate increases. More users mean more income and also more advertising revenue. It allows economy of scale so that equipment can be purchased in bulk more cheaply or in sizes that lower unit costs. So more users can, and perhaps should, equal lower costs and more profit.

Any professional network model must perforce include a distribution of loads from users. Heavy use can occur in short bursts of high use or long steady loads such as people communicating on NET 2 applications.

What is clear is that Ma Bell and the other telecoms using price per bit nearly cost the US market leadership in the INTERNET. Only military intervention through DARPA and a supreme court decision allowed the net to begin growing. Thus returning to price per bit raises a lot of blood pressure in experienced people in this field.

A rational solution, which may exceed present political will, is to have open competition. That is what led to the present INTERNET, cable and wireless communications. In a competitive environment Comcast can propose whatever they want as long as there are a couple of other cable companies around who can offer (non-collusively) other alternatives. Also, Comcast needs to be open about making substantive changes to existing contracts. Such changes are, after all, a partial breach of contract that customers should be able to respond to by changing services, canceling service or changing plans. If they were justified in doing what they say then they should be able to say it publicly and not have a back door policy requiring customers to litigate and federal intervention.

Thus the market can work as long as government functions to maintain truly competitive markets. When there is no or marginal competition in certain geographic areas then the temptation to maximize profit at customers' expense becomes too great and politics and litigation take the place of economic laws, with the attendant distortion in each and all.

624.8.2008 6:32

As I have been saying hidden throttling is not worth their time, be open about it and offer more plan rates.

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