Rogers Pulls Plug on Internet Throttling

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How do you fit eight lanes of traffic onto a four-lane highway without traffic jams? They’re about to find out in the Great White North.

Rogers Communications, Canada’s biggest cable operator, on Friday told the country’s communications regulatory body, the CRTC, that it will start phasing out its bandwidth-management system starting next month, targeting a complete shutdown by the end of 2012, according to Light Reading and DSLReports.

The move came after the CRTC said Rogers was apparently degrading the performance of applications using peer-to-peer ports — in violation of Canada’s recently adopted network neutrality regulations. Online gamers had complained the MSO’s throttling was cramping their World of Warcraft play.

Rogers claims it will be fine without the throttling technology, with senior VP of regulatory affairs Kenneth Engelhart telling the commission that “new technologies and ongoing investments in network capacity” will keep it ahead of the bandwidth-demand curve.

But certainly, Rogers would have preferred to have the bandwidth-management tool at its disposal, particularly as Internet video streaming threatens to make the issue of congestion worse than it’s ever been.

Down here in the States, the “protocol-agnostic” methods of managing congestion remain alive and well.

Comcast’s official policy is that it temporarily degrades the speed of the heaviest users over a “very recent” period: The MSO’s network-management technique “will identify which customer accounts are using the greatest amounts of bandwidth and their Internet traffic will be temporarily managed until the period of congestion passes.”

Recall that Comcast’s targeting of P2P led to the FCC (under Kevin Martin) to rule that the MSO violated its Internet policy, while a federal court later said the commission had overstepped its authority. Fast-forward to the fall of 2011, and the FCC’s adoption of network neutrality rules — which allow bandwidth throttling, as long as it’s disclosed.

Among other U.S. operators, Cablevision says it uses “industry-standard Subscriber Traffic Management (STM) technology to temporarily manage upstream and downstream traffic during times of peak congestion in a protocol-agnostic manner.”

Not every MSO employs throttling. Time Warner Cable, in its FCC-mandated Internet management disclosure statement, notes that “Time Warner Cable does not currently engage in network management practices to address the effects of congestion. For example, it does not block specific applications or traffic that may tend to increase congestion. Instead, it focuses on anticipating and avoiding congestion by monitoring network usage and augmenting capacity in a targeted manner.”

However, TWC reserves the right to use the technology at some point hence: “Time Warner Cable expects that as Internet traffic volumes continue to grow, it will not be possible to manage network congestion through capacity upgrades alone. As a result, Time Warner Cable will continue to evaluate its practices in this respect and will revise its approach as needed to deliver a quality online experience.”

In other words: Good luck up there, Rogers.


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