back to article Comcast reveals it is protocol agnostic

As part of its response to an August order from the FCC, Comcast has unveiled a new "protocol-agnostic" method for managing heavy traffic on its cable-based network. Currently, the big-name ISP blocks uploads from BitTorrent and other P2P apps when they exceed certain thresholds. But with the new method - to be rolled out by the …

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Alert

This sounds familiar

Do these guys have a stake in NTL/Virgin? They seem to have picked the most irritating punishments for actually using the bandwidth they supply. If they don't want you to download things then they might as well just give you 2Mb and tell you it's tough luck.

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Anonymous Coward

Sockpuppets instead of spokespersons

it would be cheaper and just as believable.

They can pick from a thesaurus list of positive words like:

Super

High Speed

Stable

Customers

All

Value

Smashing

Great

Wonderful

You would have thought spokespersons would be the first to be digitised - we could also do all those annoying TV presenters as well, just a sock puppet on a stick, controlled by a digital computer system; we are in a depression all savings count.

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Thumb Up

Sounds good

This is the point of net neutrality, after all. If you're using too much bandwidth, they throttle you. If you want higher priority, they're allowed to charge you more for it. But they don't get to care what you're doing with it, which means you get to develop new and interesting ways to use the bandwidth.

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Anonymous Coward

250GB sounds fair

250GB is equal to 0,8Mbps * 1 month, 24/7.

Although 250GB sounds like a small chunk, it is equal to downloading a 8GB HD movie *every day*. If you have a life, you would not be generating this amount of traffic. So to me it sounds fair.

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Paris Hilton

Bad for pr0n

To quote another story on this issue:

"To run afoul of these limits, Comcast said, customers would have to do one of the following: send 50 million e-mails; download 62,500 songs; download 125 standard-definition movies; or upload 25,000 high-resolution digital photos."

So does this mean spammers will have to find another ISP? Hmm i can see some advantages for the bandwidth cap but throttling is just completely wrong, I pay for "High Speed" bandwidth and if im within my limits its not my fault that I happen to be on itunes for hours at a time getting the lastest Britney and pop music and what about netflix and their on demand. Seriously why don't they just light up some of the dark fiber and stop this non-sense. They are just angling for a better payoff from what I see. Less for more seems to be the model now days.

>/Paris cause she knows all about max bandwidth!

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Gold badge

Why do it at all

"...so few people who [...] are only slightly impacted," he told The Reg. "I've got to wonder why do it at all?"

I see no units attached to the words "few" and "slightly", so I'm guessing that the reason lies there. My guess is that a statistically invisible number of users get about an order of magnitude less bandwidth than they request.

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Linux

distance over time

Speed is a well known calculation of the distance covered divided by the time taken.

Broadband speed is a calculation of data rate over time.

This figure is already by definition your limit in downloading.

If i have a speed of 1Mbit per second, then i can transfer a million bits of data each second.

Any other limitation on your download means you dont get your advertised speed.

So, yet another argument for ISP to have to stick to the speed advertised.

As a fairly normal user (in my view) who may want to watch some iplayer or download a new linux distro dvd image, then i should be able to.

Stop penalising the consumer for the failure to plan by the telco and the lies they have used to sell it.

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Alert

Or, translated to real English...

"We manage our network for one reason: to deliver a superior, reliable, high-quality experience to every high-speed Internet customer, every time they use our service,"

or in real English: "We manage our network for one reason: to get as many people to think they're using the internet at full speed, so we can make as much money as possible from all those subscribers, without having to actually say what we mean with terms like 'high quality experience' or stating how much speed constitutes 'high speed'."

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Anonymous Coward

Wankers

"The new approach will focus on managing the traffic of those individuals who are using the most bandwidth at times when network congestion threatens to subscribers' broadband experience and who are contributing disproportionately to such congestion at those points in time,"

Translation: "Oy, who do you think you are, trying to use a service that you've paid for? Stop that!"

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Anonymous Coward

Two cheers and a rotten egg

At last, some semblance of fairness: nobody ever seriously believed that 'unlimited' bandwidth was technically or economically feasible, and announcing a service that guarantees 24-7 speed for all *up to a limit* is a sound and sensible policy.

Is it possible to be fair to the majority, and to a minority of network-intensive users? I would say yes, if you're open about what you're doing, rather than promising - and taking money - for a service that you have no intention of delivering. Comcast can, and do, deliver reliable high-bandwidth services to commercial users, at a price; and if you're open about what you're doing, it is entirely fair that a minority who use so much bandwidth as to cause a network slowdown for others should either be 'capped' or asked to move on to a higher-spec service with dedicated infrastructure:

I hardly need to point out that if they'd been open about the limitations imposed by physics and infrastructure and said exactly what they were able to offer at the mass-market rate - and delivered it - we wouldn't be here.

'Here' as in honesty and fairness emerging - at long last - from a company providing a congested service to all, through a web of misleading advertising and outright untruths which were only forced out into the open by arcane technical investigation and the intervention of the Federal regulator.

Let's all offer two cheers for a fair and honest pricing policy - but our praise is muted because of the manner in which it was forced upon a reluctant Comcast.

Further: who'd trust them to deliver, after all this?

Bluntly, I don't think ComCast will deliver a reliable 24-7 service at a stated maximum bandwidth to all: Marketing will always exaggerate and overrule Engineering and reality, even when the technical ability exists - and especially when Accounting display the universal incompetence of cutting deeper than commercially-sound 'cost-cutting', eroding the quality of service and their competitive advantage.

Let the corporate PR flacks say what they will - this is exactly how they got here so far, and it is exactly how they will continue: there has been no word of discipliniary action and boardroom changes, let alone sweeping reforms in policy, culture and direction. The future of Comcast's service is the same company, trying to do the same things under new constraints and communicating the truth just as badly.

So we'll be left with a fair policy and patchy delivery, and no hint from the company about what caps and capacity constraints the customers are likely to actually get.

I guess it's progress of a sort. If there was a free market in telecomms, there would be some hope of a competitive solution: but the industry is a patchwork of natural monopolies imposed by geography and infrastructure, occupied by a network of companies who are trying very hard to be all the worst things we observe in monopolists. Federal regulation is an unpleasant necessity and it will never be fully effective - can anyone suggest a better way?

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Boffin

Finally, sanity prevails

Their own test results show that so few people who be impacted by this and they say that those that are impacted are only slightly impacted," he told The Reg. "I've got to wonder why do it at all?"

Doing it this way is actually the only right way by the way.

The observation is correct, it will impact even the heavy users very rarely. This is the exact underlying idea - not to punish them as they are users too, but to ensure that they leave enough resource when needed to provide everybody else with good end-user experience.

It is quite funny - how little is actually necessary to provide this fairness and how small is the actual effect of it on the heavy users. It is on an order of magnitude cheaper than all the anti-P2P heavy artillery deployed into the network at present. And most importantly it works - regardless of what evasive measures have been taken by the P2P client developers.

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Stop

Do they notify those customers that go over their limits?

So, if you go over twice in six months, you get suspended. Do they notify you the first time? If not, how can you be expected to change those downloading habits?

From the way they describe it in the article, since they're assigning a lower priority to your data if you get throttled, it seems that the only time you should notice any change is during high network demand- if you're the only person using it, you get all your connection can support, but if you're one of a few thousand, you get pushed down a little in the queue so that granny can actually see those pictures of her grandkids in a reasonable amount of time, because your porn collection is always increasing in size, you can afford to have a slightly slower connection during that time.

The warning seems important to me, as a Comcast customer- I'm the sort that I'll use my net connection for a month or two for little more than updates and basic web browsing, then I'll decide I want to get the entire series of <insert not yet on DVD TV show here>, which suddenly spikes my net usage. Hell, I've even been known to download shows/movies that I own on DVD just to have them on an external hard drive, instead of having to worry about the scratches. Makes traveling with it a heck of a lot easier, and most of my friends and family don't have big enough screens to notice the difference.

Heck, will I even get a warning when I approach that limit? Say, at 150 or 200 GB?

If it's done in a manner that makes it clear to the customer what's happening, I'm OK with it. I just want to know if I'm approaching any limits or similar.

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Flame

The bandwidth cap is a concern...

... when you share a Comcast account with roommates who all like to torrent.

I don't even understand the point of a monthly bandwidth limit. They claim that they've got traffic shaping under control, so that heavy bandwidth users won't slow other users down during peak usage times. So why bother counting my bits, if we've already established that I can't be slowing anyone else down? Both policies don't seem necessary.

Terminating a user's account for a year is just childish. Why not just make it impossible for a user to exceed the bandwidth cap - once the counter reached 250GB, terminate the account until the end of the month. Why not take the opportunity to let the users purchase more bandwidth? A company should rejoice in having customers who demand more service. It should mean that they get to sell more, not punish them like schoolchildren.

And can they now stop with all the bloody adverts telling us that the purpose of "Comcastic" Internet is to be able to download large files quickly? Because it's apparently only true for sufficiently small values of "large".

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Flame

Jermey said it best

Bandwidth is a calculation based on amount of data over time. If you cap my total data usage in a month, then you have capped my bandwidth. You are not giving me what you advertised and I paid for. I can see this coming up and biting them in the ass. I am looking into switching to DSL just over principal. At least the phone company tells me how much they are going to screw me up front.

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re: 250GB sounds fair

"Although 250GB sounds like a small chunk, it is equal to downloading a 8GB HD movie *every day*. If you have a life, you would not be generating this amount of traffic. So to me it sounds fair"

Except when you stop and think that most people watch TV an average of 2-4 hours per day. So one movie per day is *NOT* a lot. Also keep in mind that Comcast (along with the other "high-speed" carriers) explicitly advertise streaming HD video as a selling point of their service. Add to that the fact that various studios, distributors, companies, etc are trying to entice people to legally download their (HD) content instead of buying DVDs.

When you add it all up, 250GB per month is *NOT* a lot. Yes, it's more than most people will currently use, but in this day and age, it's not a lot.

Having said that, I'm extremely happy to finally have a number instead of having Comcast require me to agree to limits that are never disclosed, limits which they actively refused to disclose. It's just sad that this is what it took for them to disclose the limit.

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Thumb Up

Sounds good as long as they don't call it unlimmited.

Neurtallity is important. Transparency is also important.

If they offer the service as up to x GB a month thats good. If they have a foot note explaining why they might artificially lower your internet speed thats good.

If they advertise unlimited service then hide the limitations on page 20 of their TOS thats not so good.

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