Bit Rate

Comcast: Still Testing Bandwidth Clamps

8/21/2008 11:27 AM

Comcast is being required by the FCC to turn over a plan for how it will stop targeting P2P applications in the next 30 days. 

Bloomberg News article Wednesday made it seem as if Comcast had settled on a specific time limit for putting Internet hogs in the penalty box — 10 to 20 minutes of reduced bandwidth for those who eat up too much space on the network.

But Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said the particulars of how the MSO will curtail the heaviest users have yet to be nailed down. He said testing of three different vendors’ systems in three markets — Chambersburg, Pa., Warrenton, Va., and Colorado Springs, Colo. — is continuing, as Comcast announced in June

The point is, Comcast had already disclosed its intention to move to a "protocol-agnostic" management technique, in March, once it became clear that the FCC was rattling its sabers and the whole P2P-throttling issue was becoming a big PR headache.

Meanwhile, at June’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia, Comcast CTO Tony Werner provided a few general details of the protocol-agnostic bandwidth management strategy: The MSO expects to identify the 2% or 3% of customers who over the last hour or two have consumed more than 50% of the capacity on the network. Those heavy users are then given lower priority and will have their bandwidth limited for a temporary period of time. 

But, in a dig at telcos’ DSL services, Werner said, “even those who go to that lower state will be above DSL. So it’s not terrible.”

Comcast hasn’t disclosed the vendors it has in the bake off, but Sandvine is said to be in the mix. Sandvine is the vendor that supplied the original P2P-throttling systems, and after the issue was fanned by some very squeaky wheels into a conflagration, the company quickly developed a "protocol agnostic" platform.

By the way, if Comcast misses the 30-day deadline, here’s what will happen, according to the FCC’s Aug. 20 order:

To the extent that Comcast fails to file the information required above within 30 days of the release of this Order, three steps will occur: (1) interim injunctive relief automatically will take effect requiring Comcast to suspend the network management practices described above within 35 days of the release of this Order; (2) the Enforcement Bureau will immediately issue an order directing Comcast to show cause why a permanent cease-and-desist order should not be issued against it; and (3) a hearing will be set for thirty days after Comcast’s receipt of that order. Similarly, to the extent that Comcast does file the information required above within 30 days of the release of this Order but does not follow through on its commitment to end its discriminatory network management practices by the end of the year, three similar steps will occur: (1) interim injunctive relief automatically will take effect requiring Comcast to suspend immediately the network management practices described above; (2) the Enforcement Bureau will immediately issue an order directing Comcast to show cause why a permanent cease-and-desist order should not be issued against it; and (3) a hearing will be set for 30 days after Comcast’s receipt of such show-cause order.

Is that clear? Basically, if Comcast doesn’t meet the deadline the FCC will have to, um, set some additional deadlines.

 

September