back to article US cable giant to throttle P2P

Cox Communications - America's third-largest cableco - is on the verge of testing new network technology that will fast-track certain "time-sensitive" internet traffic during periods of congestion. This also means that "less time-sensitive traffic" will be slow-tracked. As it announced late last night with a post to its …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thorny, but better than Comcast...

    Cox is usually the fairest of the companies in the US, from what I've read. They have pretty good service and speed. Comcast also has great speed, but shit service. In principal I like what Cox is doing, but it still may not be entirely fair. The fairest approach would seem to be to take the current available bandwidth, divide it by the number of "active" users, then give everyone their fair chunk to with with as they please. But that is easier said than done (i.e. how the hell do you figure out what an "active" user is with POP clients constantly polling for email)

    I've hedged my bets now. I have Comcast and Qwest, and a dual-wan Netgear router to route traffic through the best network available. Its still not a panacea: Comcast is fast with low ping and fat upstream, but their billing department is so idiotic you stand a good chance of having them cut off your cable for a bill they already auto-charged your credit card.

    Qwest sells 20mb service, but after contention, that usually works out to 768down/256up during peak times, but hell when your DSL goes down they seem to be able to fix it while you are still on the phone, unlike cable. Once I had my cable go out for a week, and Comcast said that corporate couldn't talk to local, and that they had no idea when the trucks would go out, and that they could tell me no more. I spent a whole day on the phone, beating the hell out of the reps, and I gotta tell you, they were telling the truth. They had no freaking clue about the status of the repairs, and they couldn't even contact the local branches themselves.

    Fuck 'em both. I hope O'Bama's damned broadband give away forces these companies to sell something that isn't shit, and until then, I guess I have to pay for them both in the hopes that at least one will be up 99.9% of the time. Wheres the "I want my money back" icon?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how are

    web pages - "time sensitive" ??? I can understand video streams but general web pages???

  3. Doug Glass

    The Fat Lady ...

    ... is warming up.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    US cable giant to throttle P2P

    "customer-friendly user experience" -- Business speak for, "we're going to shaft you really good".

    @ Brent Gardner

    Yes, Comcast sucks royal ass. I had the same experience with cable out for a week.

  5. James Woods

    beat em at their own game

    Listen kids, I used to get angry about this kind of stuff. I have comcast and comcast just like cox isn't putting these restrictions on their business customers. With that said all people have to do is pay more for services and get involved in contracts to avoid these limitations. This means Comcast & cox are intentionally toying with their service to sell it for money & to gain contracts.

    I've had cable internet for years now, me and every other lasso on the street and you can't tell me that all of a sudden the bubble is about to burst. All these cable companies marketed the internet service as Unlimited, FAST (Comcasts ceo bragged about them having 100mbit access) that'll be real good with the data caps we have. So if these companies all want to toy with your connectivity FIGHT BACK. Downgrade your service, downgrade it to the point you can't subscribe to those internet video services and adult entertainment. I know it'll be rough, but the only way your going to change these companies is to stop playing into their hands.

    Once people slow THEMSELVES down the providers will have to put up or shutup, don't let them build these out of control networks that can't sustain the service they are selling. These companies are overselling service. If their networks are bogged down perhaps they can stop taking in new business, anyone ever thought of that?

    This is all greed from Cox & Comcast and nothing will stop them, nothing. You have to put your foot down and the only way they will feel it is with a lighter bill, let's go back to dialup if we have to. These broadband companies OVERSOLD THEIR SERVICE.

  6. Chris Rodriguez
    Black Helicopters

    This is nothing more than QoS for their Network

    Cox wants to treat their whole network like a large scale business with tools that have long been available to Network Admin. I understand that this seems a bit unfair and will probably invoke anger from many, however used properly this could be very useful to a company trying to get the most out of an overly taxed and outdated system (coax cabling). Until fiber becomes the norm, this kind of step up will be required in the antiquated technology environment Cox is living in. The days of overselling bandwidth and offering "unlimited" services has come back and bit them. With multimedia becoming more and more prominent on the Web this is going to be implemented by more companies even if the customers object.

    The black helicopter, because some people will see a conspiracy behind everything! This is nothing more than greed finally coming to a head. Cox really should be upgrading/have already upgraded its network instead of blaming P2P.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    If 5% of the users are what eating 90% of the bandwidth..... why not just disconnect those users for their unfair use of the bandwidth? this should be a lot cheaper then installing all that equipment, less of a PR disaster and above all, it will make the remaining 95% of the users happy plus it will save on bandwidth cost.

    then again, the fact that the ISPs are not doing this means that those are made up numbers by the ISPs.

    the troubling part is not that the extra equipment will deep inspect each pocket. It is the fact that this same equipment can be used to monitor *all* of the users activities even if those activities are encrypted (think man in the middle attack by the person controlling your router). This will make it easier for the government to get all your internet activities since the equipment is already in place that can do this.

    no matter how I look at it, the fact that ISPs are installing these equipments instead of removing users for their unfair overuse of the network (by their own words) makes me see a hidden motive to their actions.

    luckily, my tin foil hat is protecting me all the time.

  8. Andy Worth

    Re:beat em at their own game

    I'm torn here, because I used to be a heavy user whereas now I am not. Part of me says, "great, all you heavy downloaders downgrade your service and mine will work faster", but then I'm also torn by the fact that I agree that broadband providers in general mis-sell their services.

    I think that any provider who puts ANY sort of throttling on their service should immediately be forced to remove the word "unlimited" from their adverts. Because if you're throttled down from 20MB to 512KB once you hit a certain limit, your connection is no longer any use, at least on the downloading side of things.

    So I guess when it comes down to it, I side with the users. While I may get annoyed that some people persistently drain bandwidth I don't believe it is their fault for utilising what their provider told them they could, simply by means of calling it "unlimited broadband".

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: How are

    >web pages - "time sensitive" ???

    How long do you wait for a web page to load before you decide to try a different page for the information you are seeking? I'll open a few tabs to source the same information. The first sign of flash and a tab will get closed, any page that is too slow also gets closed. If standard web pages were throttled I'd be pulling my hair out. I'd say the intertnet is principally for information, the streaming stuff is bells and whistles.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Degraded Service

    "During the occasional times the network is congested, this new technology 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," the post reads.

    "Our goal is to ensure that customers continue to experience the consistently fast, reliable Internet service they’ve come to expect from Cox."

    So does that mean the customers that used to have fast, reliable Internet service while using peer-to-peer and Usenet groups can sue them for degraded service since they are pay for this fast reliable service?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This isn't such a bad thing if done right

    In the past I have had the pleasure of being able to build broadband internet access networks for some clients and we used a layer 7 aware QoS device to enforce traffic management during peak times. These are the lessons I learnt

    1. Don't treat the customers as stupid ... be upfront about managing your traffic and explain how it is applied. People do in fact understand that a realtime voip session should be given a priority over a P2P or file download. I used to prioritise gaming and voip as top priority, web browsing second, web downloads third and P2P lowest priority. This only came into effect with point 2. Also advertise the fact that P2P can run unthrottled overnight during the quieter period and if their downloads are there in the morning waiting for them ... they're generally happy.

    2. Tell them what the trigger condition is for traffic management. This was only applied when the pipe is full. If you employ these QoS devices in local PoPs then it only kicks in when that PoPs upstream bandwidth is maxed out. If that pipe is maxed out more than X hours in a day then you need to upgrade that pipe. Historical data was available to monitor utilisation over time.

    3. Don't delay upgrades ... or people go elsewhere very quickly. Be pro-active in your traffic monitoring and always be ahead of your customers and already have upgrade plans in place before they complain.

    Employing QoS on a network should not be seen as a punishment or a handicapp. Everyone understands that an ambulance on a road must have priority because it's needs to get to it's destination quickly and reliably. Same with some types of network traffic. Just like the road system our networks do (and always will) fill up with traffic during peak periods. Also peak periods may be hard to predict. A sensible and upfront traffic management policy is there to ensure everyone can get what they pay for and things "just work" as intended as much as is practically possible.

    In all honesty I'd prefer a sensible traffic management policy from my internet provider rather than paying by the MegaByte .... also I think the all you can eat buffet will slowly disappear unless people accept paying more for their internet.

    Anyway .... I have one foot in the net neutral camp because in a perfect world there would be enough bandwidth for everyone to run 100% at all times.

    And I have a foot in the non-net neutral camp as I realistically accept that true net neutrality is a eutopian pipe dream which could never happen while people are trying to screw the internet for every penny they can.

    This is just my opinion... no flaming necessary.

  12. Lionel Baden
    Paris Hilton


    Its no good p2p filesharers will just change packet headers and replicate allowed services.

    there we go its already been done.

    Paris Cause her video gets streamed alot in real time

  13. Anonymous Coward

    James Woods is right!

    The ISPs shouldn't be overselling themselves. They've been having issues like this for years now- and have done nothing, even with an increasing revenue stream.

  14. Paul M.
    Thumb Up

    Freetards won't pay.

    "These broadband companies OVERSOLD THEIR SERVICE."

    Er. Probably to freetards like you.

    Do the maths: one 24x7 Torrent users wipes out the profit margin of hundreds of users who don't leech porn and movies all day. A single tard also chokes the network. Do you expect Comcast to come round and give every Freetard a smoked salmon breakfast?

    Of course they'll downgrade the service. And yes of course they'll try and manage badly behaved applications like Bittorrent.

    Why are you surprised?

  15. David Wilkinson

    Playing games

    My old cable company was oversold. Anyone who used more than X in upstream would get disconnected. X was a number defined as whatever they felt like at the time.

    So I could upload files at 40 KBps and be ok, my friend on the same plan but in a different neighborhood would cap his FTP upstream at half that and get immediately disconnected for abuse.

    They were horribly oversold and yet they were never stopped selling and they never stopped increasing the numbers in their marketing.

    Its like having an all you can eat buffet that doesn't have enough food. You keep letting more pay for all they can eat... and then kicking out (without a refund) anyone who takes more than a nibble.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm, definite food for thought

    There are a lot of comments here which contain more than a grain of good sense, and the usual "it's the user's fault/it's the ISP's fault" nonsense.

    ISP's do still try to get away will calling their offerings unlimited even though world+dog know better. This is something the regulators should be stamping on as it is clearly mis-selling. Additionally, as has been mentioned, as with many other aspects of the modern world they have been seeing this as an endless cash-cow but which has suddenly become very sick, a victim of it's own success.

    User's have seen the unlimited part of the offer and some have tried to make use of that which is causing problems with overloaded segments. This has been encouraged by people who understandably see offers of *unlimited films and music for pennies a day* concept ads.

    In reality, ISP's now need to do better analysis of their traffic to see what is happening where and as part of that they may need to limit some areas to get better figures for the spread of user's activities. They also need to be building up their networks based on that analysis to enable a better proportion of their subscribers (yes, the ones giving them the money) to achieve what their adverts say is possible (and no more of this 'fair use policy' crap, if people can't do it then the ISP's can't sell it) and to have some resilience for when demand spikes.

    User's need to accept that what has been declared as available in the past is unrealistic at the prices quoted and if you want to have guaranteed service then you need to look at the price small businesses are paying, this is likely to be where you will be too.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Re: This isn't such a bad thing if done right

    >I used to prioritise gaming and voip as top priority, web browsing second, web downloads third and P2P lowest priority.

    This is plain wrong. You've given priority to services which require, in the case of voip, a constant stream thereby blocking out the intermittent requests of plain web browsing.

  18. P. Lee

    re: This isn't such a bad thing if done right

    Hear! Hear!

    It would also be nice if ISPs could negotiate bandwidth reservations/priorities with customers' routers. I don't want my VOIP strangled by someone else in the house started a BT client.

    My ISP gives me a larger download quota off-peak. Scheduling is easy for BT so everyone is happy.

  19. jason

    I'd go with a company that did this!

    I dont do much P2P stuff so obviously the hardcore P2P'ers wil move off their infrastucture elsewhere, leaving us normal users with more bandwidth. Updates can trickle down, no biggie.

    Nice one.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    "leaving us normal users with more bandwidth"

    You "normal" users would have plenty of bandwidth if the companies selling it only sold what they could provide, instead of weaseling out of their responsibilty to you by blaming it on other users who have every right to use the service they've paid for.

    It's your ISP who is causing you a lack of bandwidth, by selling you something they haven't got.

  21. Toastan Buttar
    Paris Hilton

    Bad things will happen...

    ...when you try to suck too much from Cox.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    What are these people doing?

    Yes, if sold "unlimited", you should ideally get it, but let's be sensible. You technically get water at unlimited, but you shouldn't waste it, otherwise the local supplier will be round trying to find the 50 gallon/min leak in your house's supply!

    I use P2P for TV episodes and other, ahem, things, I thump it overnight sometimes but sooner or later you run out of stuff you want or can make use of. What the hell kind of pressure are these people putting on these pipes to force companies to spend thousands on throttlers to get the traffic under control? I shift maybe 5GB in a very bad week, most of the time maybe 20MB a day tops, which is nothing. Where the hell are they storing this stuff?! The HD storage manufacturers and blank media makers must be rolling in it!

    Just 'cos the buffet says free-for-all, doesn't mean you have be Mr Creosote and eat fit-to-bust you know! I tend to follow the line, when you want something, beat the life out of your link, but then ease off to next to nothing for a few days or a week, to make up for it, leave some slack for others to use, then go back for more a bit later, that way we all get a good share of the local links and we don't get silly letters about abusing the privilege. Yes, internet access is a privilege, not a right!

  23. Tom

    I don't see the question as neut vs. anti-neut,

    the question is: Is the vendor being transparent about what they are doing? If the vendor is transparent about their service, and you agree to the terms, I don't have a problem with it. The problem I saw with the Comcast throttling was that they:

    1) Didn't announce what they were doing to their user community.

    2) When their user community determined what they were doing, denied to the user community that they were doing it.

    3) Lied to a federal agency which has a fair amount of oversight in their business.

    I've sort of come to expect the 1st from most businesses. The second was bound to cost them in the long run. As for the third, well let us just say I've never been able to fathom the stupidity of people who don't realize the worst thing you can do to a government oversight dweeb is blatantly lie to him.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Do the maths: one 24x7 Torrent users wipes out the profit margin of hundreds of users who don't leech porn and movies all day. A single tard also chokes the network. Do you expect Comcast to come round and give every Freetard a smoked salmon breakfast?"<---

    that network would be bloody awful if a single person USING THERE ALLOWED BANDWIDTH clogged up the network , unless your talking about the number of connections, which is a different matter but considernig isps have to deal with lots of connections a day anyway they again should be able to handle it.

    If isps want to have a fail use policy i'm ok with it, if they put the policy in writing, something that the user has to sign WITH EACH CHANGE, and shows actual limits and times , not using "peak time" and "unfair usage", actually show figures. Then fine, i'm ok with it.

    Otherwise i will use what i have been offered thansk very much, stop me ans its a breach of contract.

  25. Edward Miles
    Thumb Up

    I have no problem...

    ...with a company doing this, as long as it is upfront, in their marketing, and they don't try to sell it as an unlimited service.

  26. Dave


    ...when was the last time that the cable co's invested heavily in their infra-structure? Seems to be at the back of all of their priorities. More a case of screw as many customers for as much as they can get and only on pain of death should extra capacity be added.

    Granted in the US and Canada, adding capacity is going to be obscenely expensive due to the distances, but sooner (rather than later) there will be no option to and the longer it is put off the more it is going to cost.

    The same applies to the UK with Virgin and BT. Years of neglect and massive over-selling of capacity. And now everyone and their dog are flogging their services because "look how fast you can download video and music". Cogeco do that in Canada. Advertise their standard net package, 10Mb cable with a 60GB cap and throttling - but it's great for downloading video and music.......... shame that 60GB in a month doesn't go very far when you start looking at streaming video and music.

  27. Lionel Baden


    is a bullshit sell ....

    if its limited i dont mind but i spend shed loads on my connection so that i have the most amount of traffic possible and if im spendin 50< and it states unlimited then it should be.

    As long as the isp's are upfront about what they are selling then i am happy

  28. Jamie Bowden
    Black Helicopters

    On Cox and fiber...

    Cox actually upgraded a huge portion of their network just a few years ago. Everything is fiber except the coax from the head end to the house. I used their network for almost ten years (from the early @home days) until I switched to FiOS a few months back. I had no problems with Cox, but Verizon was offering a higher tier of service for the same price.

  29. AJames

    Maybe a rational approach

    The approach of prioritizing time-sensitive traffic makes sense to me. Who wouldn't want that? I'm an occasional bittorrent user, not a heavy bandwidth user, but I appreciate getting decent speed when I need it. I hate the idiotic cableco scheme that indiscriminately cuts your bandwidth to about 5% of max for p2p - so much so that I disconnected the cableco and went to ADSL. But p2p traffic is not time-sensitive, so I would be fine with a scheme that de-prioritized it, even if it meant somewhat lower throughput at peak times. I totally disagree with the people who toss around loaded words like "unfair" use of bandwidth without understanding how other people use the internet. The ISPs already have bandwidth limits - if they don't intend people to use them, then they should change them instead of cheating their customers (now there's my contribution to the loaded words!).

  30. Anonymous Coward

    @"internet access is a privilege, not a right"

    It's neither.

    It's a service which I'm paying for, so I'll damn well use it for what I paid to use it for.

  31. Rob Dobs

    All Voips are not equal?

    I can see that COX "appears" to be making an honest attempt at managing their overall bandwidth to improve the overall customer experience.

    Here is where the MAJOR problem comes in.... COX also sells VOIP service over these same lines and in some regions that have total control of. In some areas the local government has given them a total monopoly. What will stop them from treating 3rd party SIP/Voip providers as P2P traffic, or worse, and making their VoIP phone service faster?

    This would allow them to control the market place or shelves so to speak, and make their product appear to be better than the competition when it actually isn't.

    Without FCC or some other independant body investigating and checking up on this there is really nothing to stop them from practicing very anti-competitive, (and un-fair) behaviour.

  32. Goat Jam

    OMG You yanks have it tough

    @Andy Worth

    "Because if you're throttled down from 20MB to 512KB "

    OMFG. Here in sunny Australia we consider 512Kbps to be "fast broadband" and when the throttling starts we are dropped to 64Kbps.

    Oh how I would love to be "throttled" down to 512

  33. BioTube

    Just let the user set his priorities

    Have the router able to configure several priorities(according to user will, of course) and, when the pipes get clogged, send a signal to not send more than x packets per second until a cancel singal or new limit is sent. Only in extreme cases would the upsteam routers need to do any manhandling of the packets.

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