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Summary:

Comcast sure is bearing the brunt of the anger being levied against broadband providers these days. Earlier this year it was hauled before the FCC over allegations that it was blocking peer-to-peer traffic. During the subsequent hearing the FCC made clear that it, too, was unimpressed […]

Comcast sure is bearing the brunt of the anger being levied against broadband providers these days. Earlier this year it was hauled before the FCC over allegations that it was blocking peer-to-peer traffic. During the subsequent hearing the FCC made clear that it, too, was unimpressed with Comcast’s so-called network management efforts because it felt that customers were not adequately informed about them. Further, as the agency acknowledged, “managing” P2P traffic could result in competitive video content being blocked. However, unlike other ISPs, who have admitted to blocking P2P, Comcast denies it.

And still does. I chatted with Comcast CTO Tony Werner on Friday and got a copy of the company’s most recent FCC filing, submitted yesterday, and in both cases Comcast maintains that it does not intentionally block P2P traffic and that 90 percent of P2P upload traffic isn’t managed at all. And by the end of this year, as Om has detailed, Comcast plans to shift the way it manages its network to slow down those using unreasonable amounts of bandwidth.

While the traffic management issue appears to be what’s drawing the ire of the FCC (and a meeting to decide on an enforcement order on Aug. 1), FreePress has also knocked the cable provider for upgrading modems rather than the cable company’s core network. Werner begged to differ, saying modem upgrades were for speed and that Comcast upgrades its network for capacity on a regular basis. As he explained it, once an area node that serves a group of customers reaches a roughly 70 percent saturation point (measured by traffic at the node staying at about 70 percent of the capacity for one hour a day for five consecutive days), that node is split to make the service area smaller. Werner estimates Comcast splits about 10 percent of its nodes each year as part of regular network upgrades.

Comcast is changing the settings on some of its modems to offer services such as its PowerBoost product, designed to offer bursts of speed at the beginning of the download. This will boost load times of web sites and sending emails, which requires delivering a concentrated group of bit and bytes, but will do little for streaming video, voice calls or other services that require a continual stream of data. Splitting nodes, and upgrades to the underlying cable, increase capacity while products such as PowerBoost handle speed increases.

Comcast is making a concerted effort to refute the P2P blocking allegations and detail its network management practices. Perhaps when it reports its latest quarterly results on July 30, we’ll see if this attention is a result of increased churn or declining subscriber numbers (although last quarter that certainly wasn’t the case).

  1. Traffic will consider you customers under allegations. Modem upgrades used to encrypt/decrypt is a very long number and capacity prescribed is 64-bit. Whatever the settings, it might come as soon as speed from now.

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  2. [...] yes, Kevin, go ahead and call Comcast out for practices it has probably already stopped using, and won’t ever use again. And then don’t say anything about metered services, or paying for QoS or traffic [...]

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  3. [...] appears that messing with P2P traffic, the likely enforcement order from the FCC and worries over tiered broadband have done little to [...]

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  4. [...] with its wrist-slap of Comcast today, voting 3-2 in favor of calling Comcast naughty for its BitTorrent-throttling efforts. Here’s the official release from the FCC, which basically tells Comcast to stop using the [...]

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  5. [...] thinks that 250 GB is a lot of bandwidth, then why impose a cap at all? After all, their CTO claimed in an interview with Stacey that an average consumer takes up about 2 GB of data transfer every month. I think they are being [...]

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  6. [...] August 20, 2008, in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This appeal is the latest chapter in ongoing traffic management saga that began with shocking revelations that Comcast was slowing down P2P traffic. In a statement, [...]

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  7. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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  8. [...] There are two problems with this plan, beyond the main issue that it is consumption-based and a threat to innovation. First, instead of throttling back speeds when the network is actually congested as Comcast does, it assumes congestion all the time. If that’s the case, then a network upgrade or at least a few node splits may be in order. [...]

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  9. [...] 2008: Another net neutrality bill introduced in Congress. The FCC found Comcast was blocking P2P files on its network as part of its network management practice. The FCC under Chairman Kevin Martin censured Comcast for blocking such files and ordered it to implement and file a new and non discriminatory network management plan. [...]

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