Comcast's Kinder, Gentler Network Management

After getting lambasted on blogs and dragged before the FCC for its former network management practices, which included surreptitiously throttling P2P video traffic, Comcast this week will make good on its announced plans to change the way it keeps its tubes from clogging.

Instead of throttling specific applications, the cable giant will throttle heavy users. According to the company’s FAQs it will “focus its management efforts on those individuals who are using a disproportionate amount of Internet resources for a specific period of time and are contributing to congestion that degrades the online experience for other users.”

Trials begin tomorrow in Chambersburg, Pa., and Warrenton, Va., followed later this summer by one in Colorado Springs, Colo. ‘Trials’ is the operative word here. This punish-the-evildoer strategy is clearly a better marketing position for Comcast with both its users and the FCC, but it’s also wrong.

Heavy user’s aren’t necessarily criminals operating illegal filesharing rings or managing botnets; they very well may be people like you and I. Given the rise in all kinds of content (video) and services (VoIP) delivered via the Internet, it’s only a matter of time before we all become heavy users. The solution is to upgrade the tubes — not to watch ever-increasing loads of data to trickle through them or cap usage altogether.