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Comcast Defends Role As Internet Traffic Cop 425

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the this-is-going-to-get-worse-before-we-lose dept.
RCTrucker7 writes "Comcast said yesterday that it purposely slows down some traffic on its network, including some music and movie downloads, an admission that sparked more controversy in the debate over how much control network operators should have over the Internet. In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast said such measures — which can slow the transfer of music or video between subscribers sharing files, for example — are necessary to ensure better flow of traffic over its network. In defending its actions, Comcast stepped into one of the technology industry's most divisive battles. Comcast argues that it should be able to direct traffic so networks don't get clogged; consumer groups and some Internet companies argue that the networks should not be permitted to block or slow users' access to the Web."
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Comcast Defends Role As Internet Traffic Cop

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  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:01PM (#22406774) Homepage Journal
    Then they should not be protected from legal action regarding what flows over the network.

    Make that stipulation and they will stop in a heart beat.

    • by Aranykai (1053846) <slgonser@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:09PM (#22406908)
      Not a bad idea. If they are doing deep packet inspection to filter and slow traffic identified as peer to peer, are they not party responsible for the alleged infringment? I know if I offered a guy a ride in my car, then watched him shoot the person next to me, and continued to take him home, it would make me an accessory to murder
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        you HAD to bring in the car analogy, didnt you?
      • by Tassach (137772)
        I'm pretty sure they aren't doing any deep inspection -- before I dumped them they clamped down on any outbound file transfer. They would slow me down to about 40k/s after the first couple of MB when I was uploading pictures (that I took) to my photography website via SCP.
    • by harrkev (623093) <kfmsd&harrelsonfamily,org> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:12PM (#22406962) Homepage

      Then they should not be protected from legal action regarding what flows over the network.

      Make that stipulation and they will stop in a heart beat.
      Not at all. For cable internet service, an entire neighborhood typically shares the same chunk of bandwidth. Each cable modem has a bandwidth cap, but if you add the bandwidth for each subsriber in a neighborhood, it easily exceeds the available bandwidth. Also, there is a LOT less bandwidth alloted for upstream transmissions, so cable networks are a lot more sensitive to torrents, where up and down are roughly the same (or at least the should be). This has nothing to do with legality.

      So, from the cable company perspective, big downloaders affect the speeds of the entire neighborhood. I can certainly see their complaint.

      In fact, I have no problem with bandwidth limiting. When I grab torrents, I try to set reasonable bandwidth caps so as to not affect my neighbors (unless it is something that I need in a hurry, like when the latest Ubuntu is released).

      If Comcast wants to throttle the bandwidth on my torrents, so be it. I can live with that. But ABORTING a torrent is just plain nasty on their part. Delay the packets, fine. Drop a few packets, fine. But to inject an abort signal, dirty trick.
      • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:16PM (#22407022) Homepage Journal
        "..., it easily exceeds the available bandwidth"

        Then don't sell 'unlimited' sell a tiered system. Do NOT blame the consumer for your(Comcasts) bad business decisions.

        And if they were liable they would stop because no ISP wants to be liable for the consumers actions.

        • by harrkev (623093) <kfmsd&harrelsonfamily,org> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:34PM (#22407330) Homepage
          You are right about selling "unlimited" bandwidth. They do need to be more transparent with what they are offering.

          Their pricing is assuming that not all customers want to use their maximum available bandwidth at the same time, which is generally true. If they really DID beef up the system to handle ALL available bandwidth, then the price would likely double or more.

          Basicly, if you want cheaper prices, you have to make a sacrifice or two. If you really want dedicated bandwidth, pay for your own T3 to your house. Cable is marketed to typcial home user, where the use is rather bursty.

          This is kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet having the local pro football team stopping by for supper after practice five times a week. After a while, the restaraunt starts to loose money. They then have three choices:
          1) Raise prices.
          2) Put limits on the service.
          3) Go out of business.
          None of the three are great options, #1 hurts everybody, not just the heavy users. #2 keeps the prices low for most, at the expense of the heavy users, and #3 hurts everybody in general.

          Note that I am NOT defending Comcast. I understand to need to do something about heavy usage. However, I am vehemently agains the WAY they have done things. Secret bandwidth caps and cancelling transfers are just plain decpetive and customer hostile. Now, if they had implemented a more reasonable policy, and actually advertised it, that would be good for everybody. I would be agreeable to temporary bandwith reductions (maybe 25% to 50%) for heavy useres during peak usage periods.

          To summarize: I understand the need for limits and bandwidth control. But, Comcast has done a crappy job of implementing it, and has done it in such a manner as to stir up customer wrath. They could have handled things MUCH better.
          • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:43PM (#22407464) Journal

            None of the three are great options, #1 hurts everybody, not just the heavy users. #2 keeps the prices low for most, at the expense of the heavy users, and #3 hurts everybody in general.

            Upgrading their network isn't an option?

            would be agreeable to temporary bandwith reductions (maybe 25% to 50%) for heavy useres during peak usage periods.

            I wouldn't be agreeable to those. The applications that are used by the minority of internet users today are going to become mainstream tomorrow. Everybody is slamming bittorrent but missing the point that internet video is probably going to be the next killer app.

            I don't know about you, but the typical "infringing" bittorrent download in my experience doesn't exceed 1 - 2Mbits because they usually have an unfavorable seeder/leecher ratio. Contrast that to Netflix instant view which consumes more then 2Mbits the entire time you are watching it.

            If they can't handle either of the above then how the hell are they going to handle HD video streams? Should we just give up on IP-Video because the cable companies say they can't handle it? Why did we even bother upgrading from dialup technology if they aren't going to be able to keep pace with the times?

            • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @01:05PM (#22407806)
              >Upgrading their network isn't an option?

              Upgrading to what exactly? Double the speed. Fine now all my torrents are twice as fast.

              The idea is that if 5% use 90% of the bandwidth its time to start adderssing that in a fair and honest manner. If that means I have to move up to a Pro account and I get all the bandwidth advertised to me, then thats fine. Unfortunately, too many people have a free lunch mentality when it comes to bandwidth and media downloads.

              Seems to be working fine for the T1/T3 system. Want bandwidth? Pay for it. No more of this fake unlimited marketing bs.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Some_Llama (763766)
                "Fine now all my torrents are twice as fast."

                and take half as long.

                if you are downloading at 3-6 Mb/s and they upgrade everyone to 100Mb/s that's a 15-30x increase, so instead of something taking 8 hours to seed it takes less than 20 min.

                That would relieve congestion, unless you are hosting the library of congress.
              • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @01:24PM (#22408100) Journal

                The idea is that if 5% use 90% of the bandwidth its time to start adderssing that in a fair and honest manner.

                And what happens when the other 95% of your users discover internet video? Or do you think that these services are going to remain obscure forever?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by harrkev (623093)

              Upgrading their network isn't an option?

              Yes, it is. That is covered under the "raise prices" option. Apparently you missed that part.

              Internet service providers are not in this for the warm fuzzy feelings of helping people. They do it for a profit. Network upgrades raise costs. Yes, they are a necessary part of business, but they also cost.

              You are right that more and more bandwidth will be needed. They will have to upgrade in the future. Evrhything in a business is a balancing act. If you don't upgra

            • by GreggBz (777373) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @02:20PM (#22408820) Homepage

              I wouldn't be agreeable to those. The applications that are used by the minority of internet users today are going to become mainstream tomorrow. Everybody is slamming bittorrent but missing the point that internet video is probably going to be the next killer app.


              Since I admin a smallish ISP, I can tell you that it's already the next killer app. We've been monitoring network demographics with NTOP for quite some time.

              This past year, we've seen a 10% increase in subscribers and a 60% increse in traffic. That increase is almost entirely http.
              P2P protocol usage, on the other hand, plateaued last year. It is becoming more and more insignificant.

              You can watch 20 episodes of Lost commercial free in "HD" full screen at nbc.com. I watched the Sarah Conner Chronicles [fox.com] (brought to you by Cisco, the irony..) at home last night and monitored my bandwidth consumption, which saturated at around 3Mb. This isn't youtube, the picture is great. It's very impressive, and easy to do. It was a 10 second pluggin install on my Windows machine.

              People are rapidly finding this. An informal survey of our CSRs reveals that they are getting increasing volumes of calls where the subject comes up.

              Never bet against the Internet, as they say.
          • by russ1337 (938915) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @01:01PM (#22407764)

            This is kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet having the local pro football team stopping by for supper after practice five times a week. After a while, the restaraunt starts to loose money. They then have three choices: 1) Raise prices. 2) Put limits on the service. 3) Go out of business. None of the three are great options, #1 hurts everybody, not just the heavy users. #2 keeps the prices low for most, at the expense of the heavy users, and #3 hurts everybody in general.
            I'm not sure I agree 100% with your analogy. It's more like you only have 100 seats, and every night paying customers are filling them, leaving cues of people waiting outside. The answer is get more seats -i.e spend some more of their 13 billion [google.com] gross profit on infrastructure to meet the growing demand.

            Interesting fact: The same number of Old people eat FAR more than a football team. This comes directly from a friend who ran a restaurant with a lunchtime buffet. I said to him I thought young people would take advantage, but he reckons young people tend to eat during the day, so 'all you can eat' is less. Old people however: They *plan* to go to an all you can eat and get the most for their money. They don't eat breakfast, and make that their only meal of the day - and they're usually have much larger stomachs from years of practice and riding those little cart things. He had busloads of sports teams stopping in, but was much more fearful of bus loads of oldies on a tour coach. - He tried serving more slowly, but they just stayed longer till they were full. - same as p2p. Someone downloading at their full rate will do so even if that rate is lower - just for longer. p2p downloading a movie will still 'eat' the same number of bits. If you want to sell more bandwidth, then you have to *have more to sell*. So more seats - more pipes.

            • by ACMENEWSLLC (940904) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @02:01PM (#22408556) Homepage
              What I don't understand is why everyone is so big on rate limiting, versus priority queuing?

              If Comcast has 100Mb/s of bandwidth for 500 subscribers (just making up numbers) Their 100Mb/s pipe is not 100% full 100% of the time. Prioritize my P2P traffic to be low priority. That way, if Joe Blow is trying to pull up his sports scores on ESPN, and the pipe is full, then my P2P is put on low priority to burst his ESPN page through. If it's 3AM and it's just a bunch of P2P freaks downloading over an otherwise unused pipe, let us have it.

              TCP/IP has an issue with slow start. If the pipe truly is 100% utilized, it will take some time for the QoS to down shift my P2P to allow the ESPN page through. So I can understand a hard limit that 100% of all P2P/Movies/Downloads shall take no more than 75% of the available bandwidth.

              Anyway, I run a company Firewall & that is what we do. Works very well as long as you have the proper ratio of bandwidth to users.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by arth1 (260657)

            This is kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet having the local pro football team stopping by for supper after practice five times a week. After a while, the restaraunt starts to loose money. They then have three choices:
            1) Raise prices.
            2) Put limits on the service.
            3) Go out of business.
            None of the three are great options, #1 hurts everybody, not just the heavy users. #2 keeps the prices low for most, at the expense of the heavy users, and #3 hurts everybody in general.
            I agree that they should be free to im

      • by Altus (1034)

        It would be one thing if they made traffic like HTTP higher priority than Torrents but from what I understand they are throttling torrents automatically, even if their aren't any HTTP requests on the local network... like say, in the middle of the night when your entire neighborhood is asleep, torrents still run much slower than the amount of bandwidth your supposed to have.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ferzerp (83619)
        And so the "cable is shared! dsl is not!" myth still survives.

        They are all shared and technically oversubscribed (were everyone to use their advertised bandwidth). *Where* the "sharing" starts is irrelevant.
      • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:33PM (#22407316) Journal

        For cable internet service, an entire neighborhood typically shares the same chunk of bandwidth

        And they can get around this by splitting their network into smaller nodes, devoting more channels on the HFC network to HSI services and investing in new technologies (DOCSIS 3.0) as they become available.

        Also, there is a LOT less bandwidth alloted for upstream transmissions, so cable networks are a lot more sensitive to torrents

        That's not as important as you might think. On DOCSIS 1.1 it's 38Mbits down/9Mbits up. On DOCSIS 2.0 it's 38/27. Even with DOCSIS 1.1 though it's not really a limitation because they typically have multiple upstream channels on the same node. In my area Roadrunner always uses the same channel/frequency for downstream (609mhz) but they have multiple upstream channels on each node that the cable modems are randomly assigned to. My neighbor is connected to the exact same cable drop as I am -- yet her modem is on a different upstream channel then mine is.

        I can certainly see their complaint.

        I can see their complaint too, but they need to be investing in upgrades. They don't have an interest in doing that though because the next killer-app on the internet is going to be video that directly competes with their own video offerings. They'll try to kill it by instituting bandwidth caps (like Time Warner is trying to do) and when that fails they will offer a "video-grade" service that costs a shitload more then a regular internet connection.

        Where would the internet be if nobody had invested in upgrading beyond dialup technology?

      • Not traffic shaping (Score:5, Informative)

        by Akaihiryuu (786040) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:36PM (#22407362)
        For the trillionth time...what Comcast SAYS they are doing is NOT what they are doing. Traffic shaping is fine, as long as it does not differentiate by source. Even if they were just throttling or "slowing down" bittorrent, it wouldn't be nearly as bad as what they are doing. They are doing man-in-the-middle attacks on bittorrent connections, and actively impersonating one of the parties in the connection. This is actually illegal.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        obviously you aren't a comcast subscriber then. I've been dealing with this shit for about a year now.

        Comcast sends fake packets to both the sending and receiving end of the transmission telling the programs that the other end has closed transmission. AKA, my upload speeds are virtually 0. well, when you don't upload, you can't download as fast. I'd love to host a torrent for a while to help keep the torrent network alive, but how can i do that if my upload ability is non-existant.

        Next, my web surfi
    • by Moonpie Madness (764217) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:28PM (#22407242)
      I don't think that makes any sense. I will stop kids from smoking crack in my living room, but if I don't notice it, it's still their bad, not mine.

      The only problem with this is that consumers don't really have any choice in internet providers. Comcast should be allowed to do whatever the hell it wants with its business, slowing down pink pictures and speeding up blue ones if it likes. So long as the customers know what they are getting and have a choice.

      The whole problem is that there really is no market (which is also why these networks are so easily overwhelmed). It's time to dereg all local cable monopolies.

      • by radish (98371)
        slowing down pink pictures

        Don't give them any ideas! That particular strategy would probably work pretty well...
  • Slowdown (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stanistani (808333) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:03PM (#22406796) Homepage Journal
    >Comcast... purposely slows down some traffic on its network, including some music and movie downloads...

    Perhaps Comcast will experience a 'slowdown' in its profits...

    At least it's all coming out in the open, instead of the issue being met with bland denials.
    • Re:Slowdown (Score:4, Insightful)

      by truthsearch (249536) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:06PM (#22406854) Homepage Journal
      It would be great if it hits their bottom line. Except for many people the choice is between Comcast broadband, AOL dialup, or no internet. Which do most people choose?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by fohat (168135)
        Perhaps people have more choices than they are aware. For example, my friend is in an area where comcast has not run their cables and he's too far from the Central Office for DSL. Therefore he called Sprint and obtained a broadband wireless card which is plugged directly into a router (no laptop required). Granted the speed isn't as fast as Comcast, however he gets about 1 Megabit down and 600 Kilobits per second upspeed regularly (with very few connection interruptions). There's also Satellite internet
        • There are many places with no choices at all. I'm 10 minutes from the state capital in Richmond, VA. I had no possible choice for anything other than dial-up until Comcast finally offered broadband in 2001, a few years after all my friends had it. Due to the James River and whatever weirdnesses exist in the Verizon planning office, I'm too far from the CO for regular DSL and might have been able to get ADSL, but even with other companies that offered it, that was doubtful. For me, it was either Comcast
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shakrai (717556) *

          So there are viable alternatives to Cable Internet

          Neither one of those options you provided is "viable" if you want to stream video or use VoIP. Streaming video will often require more then 1Mbit (Netflix goes up to 2.2Mbits for the highest quality -- just wait for HDTV and that will probably be 8Mbits or more) and the latency on either of those solutions is usually too high to work effectively for VoIP.

    • Re:Slowdown (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:06PM (#22406866) Homepage
      That's just the thing though...it's not coming out in the open. Numerous studies have shown that they are in fact BLOCKING some types of traffic, which is backed up by countless consumer complaints both online and in print.

      Comcast seems to be hoping that your average everyday joe says "oh, they are just slowing it" and that be the end of it. Well, when downloading one version of Ubuntu was nearly 500k a second and then a few months later the next version downloaded at 2 KB per second from my house and roughly 400 KB from the same torrent at a friend's house that DIDN'T have comcast...yeah. I've seen it first hand. This isn't delaying or throttling...this is damn near blocking.

      Besides, injecting their own packets into the communication between my computer and another computer...shit, if I did that to two random people, I would be brought up on criminal charges.
      • Re:Slowdown (Score:4, Insightful)

        by whoever57 (658626) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:17PM (#22407052) Journal
        A few years back, I could see that Comcast was blocking VPN traffic. The block was such that the VPN session would be set up, but then the actual traffic would be blocked (different protocols). I could be certain that that the traffic was blocked because I could use tcpdump at both ends. I called them and they denied the block, but a few days later, my VPN started working again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vertinox (846076)
      Perhaps Comcast will experience a 'slowdown' in its profits...

      That said, FiOS can't be rolled out fast enough. Sadly, most people have either cable or DSL and sometimes only cable as a choice for broad band.

      I'd love to vote with my wallet, but its either them or dial up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bassman59 (519820)

        Perhaps Comcast will experience a 'slowdown' in its profits...

        That said, FiOS can't be rolled out fast enough. Sadly, most people have either cable or DSL and sometimes only cable as a choice for broad band.

        What makes you think Verizon (or whomever) won't throttle traffic on a FiOS network in the same way?

        -a
        • Re:Slowdown (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:51PM (#22407614) Journal

          What makes you think Verizon (or whomever) won't throttle traffic on a FiOS network in the same way?

          Because Verizon's main source of revenue isn't derived from video or intellectual property. Because they are losing POTS customers left and right and need SOMETHING to use as a contrast between themselves and the cable cos that are kicking their ass. And because they've come out and said that they don't think bandwidth caps are the "right direction for us".

          I fucking loathe Verizon for some of their actions (especially those of Verizon Wireless) but they've been on the right side of this issue for as long as I can remember. If that changes they will deserve our scorn but I don't think it's fair to give it to them just yet.

      • by kimvette (919543)

        Perhaps Comcast will experience a 'slowdown' in its profits...

        That said, FiOS can't be rolled out fast enough. Sadly, most people have either cable or DSL and sometimes only cable as a choice for broad band.

        One of my friends who works for Comcast tells me Comcast at large is terrified of FIOS because they are rapidly losing their local television monopolies and FIOS is simply a better product when it comes to bandwidth delivery.

        I use Bittorrent a couple of times a month to download Linux distributions, and

    • Re:Slowdown (Score:4, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:11PM (#22406954) Homepage
      Perhaps Comcast will experience a 'slowdown' in its profits...

      You're hysterical! When people don't have much of a choice about what provider to get they're going to choose what's available and unfortunately for about 25 million people (and ~8 million of those for broadband), that's Comcast.

      Nothing will come of any of this and just like the telecom immunity bullshit, this too will pass over Comcast w/o much more than a few news articles and possibly a rebate for one month at $5/subscriber while they continue to control their network as they see fit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jessiej (1019654)
      I for one wouldn't want to pay for "High Speed Internet" that advertises 8 Mbps "with an extra burst of speed up to 12 Mbps when you're downloading large files like videos and games" (taken directly from a price quote on comcast.com) only to find that when I download those large files, the 12Mbps ends up being 3Mbps.

      Sounds like very misleading advertising to me.
  • by 2phar (137027) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:04PM (#22406828)
    This seems reasonable in principle.. but it should be made clear in the contract exactly what you are paying for.

    There could ultimately be different subscription rates for how fast you want different types of traffic to go.

    The problem is the issue of snooping on traffic and comcast being able to reliably decide what traffic is what class.
  • by Aranykai (1053846) <slgonser@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:04PM (#22406832)
    The situation in most places is unfortunately this: There is ONE cable company offering high speed access, and perhaps ONE dsl company that servers your next door neighbor but not you. Theres not enough competition yet, so these idiotic companies stay in business simply because they have a monopoly.

    So, until that changes, theres no point in bitching and moaning every time some company admits to doing what we all know they are doing. You can always go back to dial-up...
    • by Sfing_ter (99478)
      indeed, but a t1 could be shared via wireless or other means between a bunch of neighbors. Where i am i can get a t1 for around $250 per mo split 6 ways that's less than comcast charges for their "ultra superfast basic broadband" :D

      Most people won't even think of looking into these things i realize, but there are other options out there.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Blakey Rat (99501)
        You're comparing a $250/month, 1.5mbit connection to:

        1) A $25/month, 3mbit steady DSL connection
        2) A $35/month, 5mbit shared Cable connection

        And saying that it's viable competition? When shared with 5 other people? You're crazy. My dirt-cheap DSL is much faster than a T1 will ever be. And you're crazy.
    • by Mindwarp (15738)
      Exactly! I'm in the situation where I either have Comcast, AT&T DSL at 17,500 line feet from the DSLAM, or nothing.

      Until there's decent deregulation of the local cable industries then companies like Comcast will do whatever they feel like with impunity.
  • Here we go again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trailer Trash (60756) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:05PM (#22406846) Homepage
    There's a world of difference between "slowing traffic down" and spoofing rst packets. I don't mind them slowing down huge downloads or whatever to allow faster web browsing. That's not the issue at hand. I can't use bittorrent to download legal torrents. *That* is the issue at hand.

    Trying to change the subject isn't going to help them.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:09PM (#22406912)
    From TFA:

    The FCC prohibits network operators from blocking applications but opens the door to interpretation with a footnote in a policy statement that provides for an exemption for "reasonable management."

    So who determines what measures fall under the vague umbrella of "reasonable management"? Sure, Comcast can't block applications, but if they slow throughput from said applications down to a crawl, it constitutes a de facto block.

    This should be interesting to watch unfold, especially since I myself use Charter. ^_^
  • WSJ doesn't get it. (Score:5, Informative)

    by robkill (259732) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:12PM (#22406958)
    It's distortions, statements, and mindsets like this [wsj.com] that have to be refuted.

    From the editorial:

    Big broadband companies are headed for a clash with Washington over whether consumers have a right to get as much as they want from the Internet, as fast as they want it, without paying extra for the privilege.
    The editorial goes on to conflate neutral treatment of packets with "neutral pricing" (their term for flat rate).
  • by TheHawke (237817)
    These guys are killing me with their excuses as they do not want to scale up- or outward with their networks, instead staying oversold and overcapacity just to make their quarterlies.

    For sheer PROFIT! They are willing to sacrifice QOS and customers just to make that little bar on their gross profit margins tick that much higher.

    What kind of business are they in? One guess; SERVICE. In operating a customer service company, one always keeps in mind that you need to commit back into infrastructure and upgrades
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      I looked up Comcast [uncyclopedia.org] in the uncyclopedia. It says:

      Comcast
      From Uncyclopedia, the content-free encyclopedia.
      Jump to: navigation, search
      This article may be Overly American. Brits may not understand humor, only humour. Don't change a thing to remedy this.

      The red C of Comcast, along with the name of both the religion and the god, Comcast

      "No block sync? No problem!"
      ~ The Comcast.net AI Chatbot on Home Networking

      Comcast (formely Comca$$$t)is a monotheistic religion in which the only god is Comcast. A

  • What is the web? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:14PM (#22406976)
    consumer groups and some Internet companies argue that the networks should not be permitted to block or slow users' access to the Web

    It's precisely so that what most users ARE trying to do (access "the web") will continuie to work that some giant, bandwidth-hogging apps are throttled. A crush of bittorrent traffic isn't, for most people, "the web." They want their mail to flow, and their CNN.com and facebook etc to work. The audience here on this message board are way, way outside the norm in terms of the type of traffic they'd rather burn bandwidth on. But here in my town yesterday and this morning, we had a nasty ice storm. I'm sure a lot of people were very glad to have a workable RDP session, and would certainly prefer that the chunk of router they're sharing with their fellow neighborhood broadband users didn't dry up because one kid three doors down is busy "sharing" his anime collection.
  • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:14PM (#22406978)
    All the shrill and panicky anger I hear about this seems a bit suspect to me. Anyone who has studied operating system code should know that trade-offs are always required in the design of systems that manage a limited resource. If you are coding a scheduler [wikipedia.org] to manage access to the cpu, there is no perfect solution. You have to make decisions about when to run BIG jobs (like computing PI to the 6-millionth decimal place) and when to run small jobs (like responding to a keystroke).

    Handling network traffic is an analogous situation. There are big jobs (e.g., transferring that multi-GB collection of secret MySpace photos) and there are small jobs (e.g., signalling a head-shot in a game of Counterstrike). In order to make room for the applications that need immediate response and low latency, you have to limit the big jobs so you have some overhead in which to move.

    I hate my cable company as much as anybody does, but let's not fly off the handle until there is more damning evidence.
  • I don't get it... (Score:3, Informative)

    by wattrlz (1162603) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:14PM (#22406984)
    Isn't this a form of unauthorized wiretapping?
  • by moore.dustin (942289) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:15PM (#22406998) Homepage
    I will not fault a company that throttles some of its users in order to maintain the integrity of their service for all their customers. Provided that the contract/agreement states something about it and it is done blindy, not targeting specific users, then fine. The second they pick and choose who gets what and when(or what and at whos expense), then it becomes a real issue.

    If you look at it from the point of view of the customer that got the bandwidth at the expense of the guy that got throttled, they are probably pretty happy about it. Again, provided it is permitted and a blind process which does not target individual users unfairly.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:15PM (#22407012) Homepage Journal
    It didn't appear in the linked article but in this AP news article from Excite [excite.com], the following comment by Comcast stood out in my mind:


    Comcast says it must curb some file-sharing traffic because some subscribers would otherwise hog the cables with their uploads and slow traffic in their neighborhood.

    In other words, despite what Comcast and every other cable provider who offers high-speed access to the Net will have you believe, you are still sharing one line with all your neighbors. This is different than FiOS or other non-cable connections where you have your own line.

    They'll never admit to it but their own comments prove otherwise.

    • by techpawn (969834)

      This is different than FiOS or other non-cable connections where you have your own line.

      The way this was explained to me and I say it to other (and PLEASE correct me if I am wrong).
      A cable modem, is a large pipe for a section and everyone in an area plugs into it and opens up as much as they use. So the up side is that you can get a very large amount at one time if you don't mind screwing everyone else. The downside is that you might be the one getting screwed. DSL on the other hand, you are given a much s

      • That's my understanding as well. Cable = sharing a big pipe with others, fiber et al = smaller pipe dedicated to you.

        Both have their merits but Comcast and others don't tell you that so you can get inconsistent speeds whereas with fiber and others, your speed is pretty much constant. They will claim this is no longer true but obviously it is.
      • At some point there is going to be a bottle neck. There is an aggregation point. Whether that is in the field or at the central office makes no difference. I have a 20MB down/5MB Up FiOS connection. Let's say my CO has a single GB connection to the "cloud", that means at most 50 similar users could suck down 20 MB/s traffic before impacting others. It's a simple and largely inaccurate illustration, but the point is there will always be a bottle neck.

        I haven't experience a particular performance hit becau
  • But not Time-Warner [slashdot.org] for doing similar things? And shouldn't things be worse when you hobble competition to promote your own services [slashdot.org]?

    What Comcast is doing is bad. But if they're injecting RST packets indiscriminately (i.e., on long-lived connections, be them VPN, SSH, long downloads, etc), that's far less offensive than what TW is doing. Yet the FCC is only going after Comcast?
  • First post (Score:5, Funny)

    by Goffee71 (628501) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:18PM (#22407054) Homepage
    First post man, woot, woot, wo**** *** Post intercepted by Comcast bandwidth preservation system! ACK*Metacheck - Checking for music, video, first post messages... DELAY*Post... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Service now resuming
  • Let's convert our interstate system over to a system of privately owned roads, and let middle managers decide on the speed limit and tolls as they see fit. Better yet, we'll let all of the road providers merge into two or three corporations so we can be gouged more easily. And if we have non-authorized purchases in our trunk (say, from the Pirate States of Canada), the corporate cops will have the right to confiscate our vehicle.

    And then we hit the sidewalk fees....
  • by Hoplite3 (671379) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:20PM (#22407096)
    Comcast: Sorry, our video-on-demand has used up all of the bandwidth. You can't watch that video-over-ip site now. Have you thought about getting a digital dvr from comcast? And while you're at it, why not a digital phone? We know you've been having problems with Skype...
  • Just another symptom of the internet becoming popular and any moron being able to download anything they want. I remember when finding a pirate download source took a little effort and know-how. Now anyone can find just about anything they want, and because of this they take and take without contributing whatsoever, all the while complaining that the product "wont work 4 me!!!11".

    Thanks torrents!

  • I'm not sure that traffic shaping like this violates network neutrality. It would be different if they were to throttle iTunes and favor some Comcast music service, but this is more targeted at high-bandwidth traffic that could make it hard for some subscribers (like me) to VPN into work and do some casual surfing.

    Of course it might be better if they had clear bandwidth/month caps and charged a bit more for higher bandwidth usage, then used the profits from the beefed-up service plans to expand their inf

  • Slowing down traffic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:29PM (#22407254)
    Comcast is taking over my current cable provider, which is a less than pleasing fact given all the news about them lately. Still, I don't have a problem with them slowing down certain traffic, so long as certain conditions are met:

    1. They clearly disclose their policies about slowing traffic.
    2. They don't discriminate by specific domains, IPs, or traffic content. They should only discriminate by broad categories, such as prioritizing all http traffic over all p2p traffic.
    3. They don't interfere with packets, drop them, or modify them. They don't force connections to end as they have been accused of lately. They apply a speed limit and that is it.
    4. They only limit speeds when necessary based on network traffic. If the network can handle the current traffic load, don't slow anything down.

    It makes sense that perhaps my p2p download (of linux isos of course) shouldn't slow my neighbors' web surfing to a crawl. But it shouldn't be restricted if there is plenty of bandwidth available. And the Comcast Sports website definitely should have no advantage over espn.com.
    • by dr_d_19 (206418)
      ...or perhaps they should just stop selling 10Mb services to 672 people when they are all connected through a single T3 or so, which is actually what got them into this mess in the first place.

      You neighbours internet connecting is coming to a crawl because they sell bandwith they don't have. To compare: you are essentially saying that it would be OK for an airline carrier to overbook 99% of the seats in every flight as long as they disclose that they "might be overbooked on certain flights". I can really sa
  • Comcast probably should be allowed to sell whatever product they think will do well in the market (provided that they adhere to whatever consent decree they signed to get the geographic monopoly). On the other hand, they shouldn't be a mysterious black box that sometimes passes packets unmolested.

    If you ask me, the essence of net neutrality should be that an IP provider precisely document what they do to their traffic, and provide a mechanism for users to easily understand when traffic is blocked, altered,
  • provide acceptable levels of service for all of their customers. Yes, they are a monoploy, because Cable franchises are awarded by area and for the vast majority of customers there are no real alternatives. I live in a major city (Houston) and because of where I live, I have 1 choice for high speed internet - cable. DSL is "coming soon", as is fiber and other options, but right now - if I want high speed internet I have cable. And there the city/state has decided who my provider is going to be. It used
    • by bhtooefr (649901)
      Technically, satellite counts as high speed internet, and I'm sure you can get a T1 for somewhere in the ballpark of $250/mo...

      Also, there may be EvDO in your area.

      It's a sad day when wireless is a better transmission medium than copper, due to the market.
  • QoS is a lie. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:32PM (#22407310)
    I think there were studies done to show that using QoS on an ISP level is not cost effective compared to just upgrading to more capacity. On an ISP level, you just got to have the equipment necessary to handle the traffic on your network, there is no working around of that. Comcast must know this, so they have an ulterior motive in pushing QoS and differentiationg content from content. They might use this as a prelude to introduce tiered pricing. This just goes to show why net neutrality is necessary.
  • Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:35PM (#22407346)
    I would find it very interesting to see a major digital content provider sue Comcast for interfering with their ability to conduct business with the end consumer. If Comcast is degrading consumers' ability to enjoy digital content, much of which is surely provided legally and via commercial transaction, I would think that would be viewed as illegal. Of course, I am not a student of business nor law so I could well be wrong, but it would certainly be interesting to see some major content providers take exception to Comcast messing with their bottom line.
  • Comcast is making the mistake that many companies managers make: Not scaling up infrastructure. My company is recovering from this sort of shortsightedness right now... We added 35% more employees but didn't grown bandwidth on the WAN even one iota... Now everything is slow and voice-calls are starting to drop (despite fairly aggressive compression and QoS) and they're looking at band-aids like the Riverbed Steelhead, which does TCP optimization and "accelerates" your WAN... Because its cheaper to buy
    • The WAN optimization you describe does work for certain kinds of file transfers like pushing docs, spread, preso's, files, etc around a network. If you have peered appliances, you can see a significant reduction in WAN bandwisth utilization within a few weeks.

      It's just compression with a big, honking dictionary built from the bits that have been sent before. Random data, network traffic that is encrypted before hitting the WAN optimizer, and real-time media can't be optimized in the same way (as much as
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:45PM (#22407506) Journal
    Comcast defends role in Internet based copyright theft: legal team claiming common carrier status not revoked by packet based filtering.

    Film at eleven (if we get rebroadcast rights)
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @12:45PM (#22407510) Homepage

    Yes, they have to do some traffic shaping, but it can be done better.

    If the problem is bandwidth hogging by individual residential users, the answer is probably some variation on fair queuing. There's class-based fair queueing in most Cisco edge routers; it just has to be used correctly.

    I'd argue that, for residential connections, you need only two basic classes of service - high bandwidth, high latency, and low-bandwidth, low latency. VoIP and real-time game transactions should be low-bandwidth, low-latency; everything else should be high-bandwidth, high latency.

    For the low-bandwidth, low-latency streams, the per-IP-address queue should have priority, but the maximum number of buffers on the queue should be deliberately limited. If you try to send too much too fast with low latency, you lose packets. The high-bandwidth, high-latency streams have lower priority but can buffer up to available router memory. That works for streaming video, music piracy, and similar non-time-critical loads.

    Note that putting a high precedence on a high-bandwidth stream increases the packet loss rate, so there's no win in doing that. VoIP should request high precedence, but video should not. Clever game developers should put a high precedence on the traffic that needs it, while letting the background traffic that loads assets run at a lower precedence.

    High-bandwidth, low-latency is really needed only for real-time interactive video, and that's a premium service, because it really does need more capacity behind it.

    Multiple consumers on the same cable segment contend for upstream bandwidth at the router that connects the cable segment to the larger network. That's where fair queuing has to be applied. Similarly, it has to be applied at the router that connects the backbone to the downlink to the cable segment. Fair queuing is only useful at choke points where the number of streams is limited, but the cable modem industry has exactly that situation.

    The cable industry problem, I suspect, is that many of the routers out on the pole are still too dumb to do this. This is a killer for P2P traffic, which saturates upstream bandwidth. Upstream bandwidth has to be properly queued at the router on the pole; it can't be managed from the head end of the cable system. The Comcast "fake RST" interference with connections was an attempt to deal with the problem from the head end, which is the wrong answer.

    If the players in cable and DSL would agree on policy in this area, or the FCC mandated a standard, cable performance would degrade gracefully under heavy load. Without idiocy like faking connection resets.

    A standard on residential IP precedence handling would be a big help. If application developers could rely on the rules, VoIP traffic would work better. Games could get better latency; only some game traffic, the actual user action traffic, needs high precedence. The background loading of game assets should be running at lower priority. When there's a penalty for requesting too much bandwidth at high precedence, it gets used properly.

    From a technical perspective, that's how to do "network neutrality".

  • Port 25 egress (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nsayer (86181) * <nsayer&kfu,com> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @01:22PM (#22408054) Homepage
    Here's the issue. I'm all for net neutrality, myself. But a legitimate argument against it is that it would eliminate the ability of ISPs to block port 25 egress, which would lead to a multiplication of the number of spam bots out there. So do we say that ISPs must be net-neutral except for TCP port 25? It's the camel's nose.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by grcumb (781340)

      Here's the issue. I'm all for net neutrality, myself. But a legitimate argument against it is that it would eliminate the ability of ISPs to block port 25 egress, which would lead to a multiplication of the number of spam bots out there. So do we say that ISPs must be net-neutral except for TCP port 25? It's the camel's nose.

      Net Neutrality has exactly nothing to do with port blocking.

      Net Neutrality does not stop a carrier from blocking certain traffic. It only says that traffic rules cannot be applied with prejudice i.e. You can't single out individual sites/customers for 'special treatment'.

      Everybody does QoS and transparent proxying, and the Net is better for it.

      We need to be clear about the problem, and we're not being. So let's try to keep this topic simple:

      The Net Neutrality Debate [sic] is about letting carrier

  • by Monoman (8745) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @01:50PM (#22408446) Homepage
    You local power company said they are going to decide how much power will be allocated to each device in your house.

A large number of installed systems work by fiat. That is, they work by being declared to work. -- Anatol Holt

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