Comcast to Install Speed Bumps for Bandwidth Hogs

Updated: Comcast has filed its plan with the Federal Communications Commission detailing how it intends to govern traffic on its network, and says it should affect less than 1 percent of its users. It will start to go live commercially as of Nov. 15, and will be implemented  throughout Comcast’s network by the end of the year. As expected, the plan hews closely to what Om laid out back in March in a piece he wrote after sitting down with Comcast CTO Tony Werner. Essentially, folks using a lot of bandwidth at any one time on a crowded network will see their traffic slowed temporarily. The management will affect uploads and downloads and will be protocol agnostic.

The cable company was ordered to file such a plan last month, after the FCC censured it for throttling peer-to-peer traffic on its network. The FCC determined that the Comcast network management was problematic because it was done without informing subscribers and targeted a type of traffic that might be considered a competitor to Comcast’s cable business. Comcast maintains it did nothing wrong and was trying to maintain a good user experience on its network.

That will comply with the letter of the FCC order (which Comcast is appealing), but we had some additional questions of our own, as we detailed a few weeks ago in our post on the topic. Comcast answered our worry about bandwidth caps with its announcement of a 250GB-per-month limit. Judging from the information on its site about the new plan, Comcast answered all but our questions about who is providing the equipment to enable it’s efforts. Update: Sandvine will be providing some of the equipment as will Camiant. The plan will affect both uploads and downloads whenever the network is congested as detailed below:

Assuming that is the case, customers’ accounts must exceed a certain percentage of their upstream or downstream (both currently set at 70%) bandwidth for longer than a certain period of time, currently set at fifteen minutes.

A significant amount of normal Internet usage by our customers does not last that long. For example, most downloads would have completed within that time, and the majority of streaming and downloading will not exceed the threshold to be eligible for congestion management. And the majority of longer-running applications, such as VoIP, video conferencing, and streaming video content (including HD streaming on most sites) will not exceed these thresholds either.

All in all it looks pretty neutral like it may cause objections, but we’ll be digging through it a bit more and I’ll update the post with more in the next few hours. Update: Theoretically it would be possible to cut off a person’s traffic using this method if the entwork were incredibly congested for a long amount of time. From the filing:

NetForecast, Inc. explored the potential risk of a worst-case scenario for users whose traffic is in a BE state: the possibility of “bandwidth starvation” in the theoretical case where 100 percent of the CMTS bandwidth is taken up by PBE traffic for an extended period of time. In theory, such a condition could mean that a given user whose traffic is designated BE would be
unable to effectuate an upload or download (as noted above, both are managed separately) for
some period of time.

For those who want to check it out on their own, below are links to download the files.

Comcast’s Current Network Management Plan

Comcast’s Future Network Management Plan

Comcast’s Compliance Plan