Cox Will Shape Its Broadband Traffic; Delay P2P & FTP Transfers

Cox Communications, the third-largest cable company and broadband service provider, is joining Comcast (s CMCSA) in traffic shaping and delaying traffic it thinks is not time-sensitive. They call it congestion management, making it seem like an innocuous practice, though in reality it is anything but. Chalk this up to yet yet another incumbent behaving badly!

To be fair, in the past Cox has made it pretty clear that it was going to play God with the traffic flowing through its pipes. Next month, it will start testing a new method of managing traffic on its network in Kansas and Arkansas. Cox, outlining the congestion management policy on its web site, notes:

“…automatically ensures that all time-sensitive Internet traffic — such as web pages, voice calls, streaming videos and gaming — moves without delay. Less time-sensitive traffic, such as file uploads, peer-to-peer and Usenet newsgroups, may be delayed momentarily — but only when the local network is congested.”

My views on all this network shaping are pretty clear, as outlined earlier when Comcast (s cmcsa) started to mess with P2P traffic. The FCC ruled against Comcast and eventually it was proven that Comcast was messing with even legal peer-to-peer file-sharing. The guys at Free Press, a Washington D.C.-based group, feel pretty strongly about Cox and its traffic-shaping tricks.

“The information provided by Cox gives little indication about how its new practices will impact Internet users, or if they comply with the FCC’s Internet Policy Statement. Cox customers will certainly want to know more about how the company is interfering with their Internet traffic and what criteria it uses to discriminate.

Who is Cox to decide that a certain FTP transfer is not time sensitive, or that some software update is not time sensitive? More importantly, why should consumers trust cable companies, whose record of giving customers the short end of the stick is pretty well known? (What is time sensitive and what is not time sensitive, according to Cox, can be found below the fold.)

Unfortunately, as long as we have this comfortable duopoly in the broadband market, we the broadband consumers are going to have suffer from these kind of practices as we don’t have much of a choice. Hopefully a post-Kevin Martin FCC will be more citizen-friendly, and will act promptly against Cox and other traffic shapers.

Time Sensitive:

* Web (Web surfing, including web-based email and chat embedded in web pages)
* VoIP (Voice over IP, telephone calls made over the Internet)
* Email
* IM (Instant messages, including related voice and webcam traffic)
* Streaming (Web-based audio and video programs)
* Games (Online interactive games)
* Tunneling & Remote Connectivity (VPN-type services for telecommuting)
* Other (Any service not categorized into another area)

Non-Time Sensitive:

* File Access (Bulk transfers of data such as FTP)
* Network Storage (Bulk transfers of data for storage)
* P2P (Peer to peer protocols)
* Software Updates (Managed updates such as operating system updates)
* Usenet (Newsgroup related)

From notice about congestion management.