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Comcast Discloses Throttling Practices

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the only-took-a-year dept.

Networking 206

Wired reports that Comcast finally provided information on its network management practices late Friday. In a report to the FCC (PDF), the cable company admitted to targeting P2P protocols Ares, BitTorrent, eDonkey, FasTrack, and Gnutella. Quoting: "For each of the managed P2P protocols, the [Sandvine Policy Traffic Switch] monitors and identifies the number of simultaneous unidirectional uploads that are passed from the [Cable Modem Termination System] to the upstream router. Because of the prevalence of P2P traffic on the upstream portion of our network, the number of simultaneous unidirectional upload sessions of any particular P2P protocol at any given time serves as a useful proxy for determining the level of overall network congestion. For each of the protocols, a session threshold is in place that is intended to provide for equivalently fair access between the protocols, but still mitigate the likelihood of congestion that could cause service degradation for our customers."

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Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (5, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084087)

Shocked, shocked I am! Evil in the telecoms industry? Never! Well, hardly ever.

Perhaps Google could develop a not evil telecoms company. (Or, as they did with the spectrum auction, play the evils off against each other and not actually spend ridiculous sums of their own money.)

I think we need a Microsoft telecoms company. Their evil has been slipping lately [today.com] . It's not good enough, Mr Ballmer!

(I'm picturing Steve Ballmer with his high-pressure used car salesman shout: "EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL!" Bouncing around the stage.)

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084135)

Move Along, Folks ... nothing new here...just missed first post!!

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (3, Insightful)

l0stmage (1268502) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084201)

I wonder if this will cause Comcast to change their advertising practices? Or perhaps they'll offer a truly unlimited service for more money. I think people won't mind paying the extra money if they know what they are truly getting is unlimited service, as opposed to 'throttled' service.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (5, Insightful)

theskunkmonkey (839144) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084487)

People forget what "unlimited" Internet means when used in marketing access plans. Back in the "old" days, your connection to the Internet was metered by time since everyone pretty much got the maximum available and you didn't have bandwidth tiering you have with today's massive capacities. You usually had X hours of service per month in your plan. This is the "limited" part of the sales pitch. Eventually the ISPs were able to offer "Unlimited" access, meaning you could leave it on 24/7 all month and only pay the monthly fee.

Now some people are clamoring that they were sold "Unlimited" service and they are being cheated. Bullshit. Your still allowed to stay connected for an "unlimited" amount of time which is exactly what your paying for and my guess is that your service contract states this, you get X bandwidth available 24/7. Even then, that 24/7 isn't guaranteed but it's the exception not the rule when there's a problem with connectivity [Insert chosen ISP bashing here].

I'm not saying this is a Good Thing(TM), but it's not like anyone has been cheated. It's just been a case of very slimy marketing by the ISPs.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (4, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084899)

Okay, simple example.

Just like their "up to" line, they want to advertise more than they can do while lying, as many businesses do. This is like having a 160mph speedometer on a bicycle. Sure, you can do up to 160mph, or have unlimited usage, but they hid the reality, which is "no, you can't have what we promised or else we will disconnect you".

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (5, Informative)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084919)

The thing is, time is no longer an issue in modern connections because they are packet-switched down to the bare wire.

In the old days you used a phone line, which was circuit switched, to call your ISP. They had a limited number of ports so they had to limit how long you could be online, otherwise folks would get a busy signal.

Since these days there is no customer-initiated circuit switching involved in cable and DSL links, the concept of "unlimited" can *only* apply to data transfer. There isn't anything else to limit.

Believe me, I remember the days of circuit switching and "hourly limits" quite well. I was on an ISDN connection from 2000 to 2004. Worrying about how *long* you're online is extremely irritating. Those are definitely "good old days" I wouldn't want to go back to.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (1)

eiapoce (1049910) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084943)

If they sell you "xMbps bandwith unlimited 24/7" and they plan to cap you then they have been committing at least misleading advertising. In my personal point of view this is more like a scam.

Want additional proof? Send comcast a letter that states "I am going to pay with "ulimited money transfers" and write in the small print underneath that the payment is capped to a maximum of 9.99$/month due to bank congestion. I guess they won't find it funny.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (1)

danwesnor (896499) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084957)

Um, no, sorry.

Unlimited [answers.com] : Having no restrictions or controls

If they say it's unlimited without telling you there are limits, and then they put a limit on anything , then they are ripping you off. It doesn't matter at all what limits there were 10 years ago, unlimited doesn't just mean one limit has been removed, it means all limits have been removed.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (1, Insightful)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085183)

If they say it's unlimited without telling you there are limits, and then they put a limit on anything , then they are ripping you off. It doesn't matter at all what limits there were 10 years ago, unlimited doesn't just mean one limit has been removed, it means all limits have been removed.

Sure. Post a copy of your service agreement that states your connection is "unlimited" or quit beating the old strawman to death. We're all pretty bored of it by now.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (5, Informative)

not_anne (203907) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084555)

Comcast hasn't advertised "unlimited internet" in many years. After a Google search, the only use of "unlimited" I could find in a current Comcast ad was associated with their phone service: "Make unlimited local and long distance calls with 12 popular features..."

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (1)

_merlin (160982) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084225)

Perhaps Google could develop a not evil telecoms company. (Or, as they did with the spectrum auction, play the evils off against each other and not actually spend ridiculous sums of their own money.)

Google make one that's not evil? Judging from their other ventures, they'd make it free, but use it as a data mining and advertising platform (I know this has been tried before and failed) and you'd sign away all rights on your online activities to Google. They only keep that motto to distract people from the evil they want to do.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084729)

It'll be entirely secret between you and their marketing department. Honest!

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (1)

cryptodan (1098165) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085089)

Google make one that's not evil? Judging from their other ventures, they'd make it free, but use it as a data mining and advertising platform (I know this has been tried before and failed) and you'd sign away all rights on your online activities to Google. They only keep that motto to distract people from the evil they want to do.

In the middle of your telephone calls, you'd be interrupted with a telephone call from a Google Adsense Customer.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085235)

Perhaps Google could develop a not evil telecoms company.

They did. [wikipedia.org] Kinda.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085393)

I'd forgotten about that one :-D

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085497)

Shocked, shocked I am! Evil in the telecoms industry? Never! Well, hardly ever.

Perhaps Google could develop a not evil telecoms company. (Or, as they did with the spectrum auction, play the evils off against each other and not actually spend ridiculous sums of their own money.)

I think we need a Microsoft telecoms company. Their evil has been slipping lately [today.com] . It's not good enough, Mr Ballmer!

(I'm picturing Steve Ballmer with his high-pressure used car salesman shout: "EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL!" Bouncing around the stage.)

Shocked, shocked I am! Evil in the telecoms industry? Never! Well, hardly ever.

Perhaps Google could develop a not evil telecoms company. (Or, as they did with the spectrum auction, play the evils off against each other and not actually spend ridiculous sums of their own money.)

I think we need a Microsoft telecoms company. Their evil has been slipping lately [today.com] . It's not good enough, Mr Ballmer!

(I'm picturing Steve Ballmer with his high-pressure used car salesman shout: "EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL!" Bouncing around the stage.)

The only thing that would be different in a Google ISP is that they'd tie every website you visited to your permanent record.

Re:Evil from cable companies? Nevar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25085651)

Perhaps Google could develop a not evil telecoms company. (Or, as they did with the spectrum auction, play the evils off against each other

It's called "android". And it's more than a phone -- it's open specs that have the exact effect you just described. (For cell phones....you gotta start somewhere...)

Now what will happen? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084097)

Comcast will enforce bandwidth caps.

How's that better than throttling?

Re:Now what will happen? (5, Insightful)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084151)

That is better because now consumers can make an informed decision when choosing a internet provider.

An 'unlimited' internet connection at an affordable price may look like a good deal but if you knew in advance it was actually limited in some way you might have chosen another provider with a better offer. Now at least you know what you're getting for your money and you can make a fair comparison between different providers.

This improves transparency and thus competition and ultimately benefits the consumer.

Take it, leave it, or leave it (5, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084317)

That is better because now consumers can make an informed decision when choosing a internet provider.

Only one high-speed Internet provider offers service in many areas of the United States (home of Slashdot). This means choosing a high-speed Internet provider is like choosing any other public utility such as your power or water provider. What recourse do people dissatisfied with a public utility have?

you can make a fair comparison between different providers.

You get this provider if you live here; you get that provider if you live there. Should people really be choosing where to live based on the only ISP that isn't dial-up?

Re:Take it, leave it, or leave it (4, Interesting)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084425)

Only one high-speed Internet provider offers service in many areas of the United States (home of Slashdot). This means choosing a high-speed Internet provider is like choosing any other public utility such as your power or water provider.

The US is a capitalist economy, right ? Isn't the market supposed to fix this ?

Where I live (small city in the Netherlands), I can choose from dozens of ISP's, there's also at least 10 different power companies to choose from. Also, it's always possible to move to an area where there are more or better ISP's to choose from.

Last-mile natural monopoly (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084461)

The US is a capitalist economy, right ? Isn't the market supposed to fix this ?

How does the market provide for digging under a non-subscriber's real estate to pull cables in order to reach a subscriber?

Also, it's always possible to move to an area where there are more or better ISP's to choose from.

Part of my point is that moving every time an ISP noticeably changes its policy for the worse would be a drastic and expensive measure, involving finding employment for you and your SO and a school for your kids.

Re:Last-mile natural monopoly (3, Insightful)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084751)

The problem isn't logistics, it's political. ISP's cut deals with local government to ensure they keep their monopoly and eat the whole cake.

Re:Take it, leave it, or leave it (5, Insightful)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084685)

The US is a capitalist economy, right ? Isn't the market supposed to fix this ?

Free markets do not work like that. Free markets fix things when there is an substantial economic incentive. Broadband infrastructure is expensive, time-consuming to lay down, dominated by strong players with political capital and related technology changes rapidly. Given those, why would the free market invest (tens of) billions of dollars in a long term, difficult and risky project? If you have billions of dollars, there are many many more ways to make more money in much less time. Free markets don't magically fix things for consumers. Free markets are about providing the opportunity for capital to move freely and as a result, make the best use of said capital. That's it. The issue is that people apply all kinds of benefits to "best use", as in no monopolies, cheap products, etc., which just isn't how it works. Especially not in the short term.

I also live in a small city in the Netherlands btw. I can choose dozen of ISP's, but only one which is faster than 8 Mbps. Not sure about the figures, but despite what the OPTA (Dutch Telecom Watchdog) says, there does exist a monopoly for "fast" internet in a considerable part of the Netherlands (wet finger approach: 25-35%). And moving to an area with faster internet??? That is rather a ridiculously expensive solution.

Re:Take it, leave it, or leave it (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085767)

Free markets are about providing the opportunity for capital to move freely and as a result, make the best use of said capital. That's it.
...
And moving to an area with faster internet??? That is rather a ridiculously expensive solution.

Free markets are also about the mobility of labor.

Admittedly, labor is not as mobile as cash, but if people could not go to where the jobs are, you would never have had the railroads built, or silicon valley spring up or even the Gold Rush of [insert year here].

My point is that for many people, moving is not "a ridiculously expensive solution", it actually makes perfect sense for them.

Re:Take it, leave it, or leave it (5, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085353)

"The US is a capitalist economy"

Oh my god, that's *so *CUTE !!!!

The US, if you hadn't heard, is what we call a "mixed economy" -- with an interesting mix:

Profits are held by private individuals, and losses are distributed among the general public via bailouts, etc.

Re:Take it, leave it, or leave it (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084847)

You get this provider if you live here; you get that provider if you live there. Should people really be choosing where to live based on the only ISP that isn't dial-up?

I did. When I was looking for the home I am in now, I did remove a few places from my list because of limited internet access. It may not make you move, but it can make you "not" move.

Re:Take it, leave it, or leave it (1)

cryptodan (1098165) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085107)

Currently where I live, there are multiple ISP that offer different internet connections. Anywhere there is a DSLAM in place then any ISP who has the infrastructure can use it. Where I live I can pick AOL, MSN, SpeakEasy, Verizon, Comcast, and the local people. Its just a matter of how educated the person is when moving someplace. If you move then research the place where you are moving too and get a better idea of your service options.

Re:Now what will happen? (5, Insightful)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084197)

Comcast will enforce bandwidth caps. How's that better than throttling?

  1. You're told up front what the limits are.
  2. It's not discriminating against any application, not even the legal ones.
  3. It's fairly generous: 250 gigs lets you download at 0.77878308 megabit/s 24/7 (thanks, GNU units), or 8 gig per day. Plenty enough for a few aptitude full-upgrades, some online gaming and downloading a new distro to try out, plus some video to watch.

Even if it turns out that 250 gig limits make for a shitty service, at least Comcast are honest about the limits they put on you, so you know what you're buying and you can take the limits placed on you into account when deciding what to download.

Re:Now what will happen? (3, Funny)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084307)

so to sum it up, you are getting up the behind but at least you know how far itll go

Re:Now what will happen? (5, Insightful)

Twanfox (185252) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084377)

The idea isn't to guarantee the service you would want to have in your wildest dreams. It is to receive all terms and conditions prior to sale so that you can make an informed decision. It is fraud prevention.

Re:Now what will happen? (1)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084373)

The limit is not just download, it counts uploads against it as well.

Re:Now what will happen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084409)

Much better than the 40GB montly c(r)ap i have, 250GB is no reason to complain about! I wish i had those!

Re:Now what will happen? (2, Insightful)

djce (927193) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084433)

It's not discriminating against any application, not even the legal ones.

I hope by "application" you mean "use" (noun), as opposed to "software product".

BitTorrent, for example, isn't illegal (I hope). Using it to distribute some specific content might be.

Re:Now what will happen? (5, Informative)

Triv (181010) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084609)

From the FAQ:

How is this announcement related to the recent 250 GB monthly usage threshold?

The two are completely separate and distinct. The new congestion management technique is based on real-time Internet activity. The goal is to avoid congestion on our network that is being caused by the heaviest users. The technique is different from the recent announcement that 250 GB/month is the aggregate monthly usage threshold that defines excessive use.

Gizmodo's take on the thing [gizmodo.com] is much easier to read.

Going over the 250GB cap will get you disconnected, but your bandwidth will get throttled long, long before that if you do anything their software deems "excessive."

Re:Now what will happen? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084677)

I do tend to agree at least its upfront and not some back room shenanigans of arbitrary packet shaping ( or like i got once, ' you have exceeded the limits ', when there is no posted limit in the contract anywhere.. after asking for this new mythical limit so i could comply they finally backed down ' there really isn't a limit, but yo used too much, so use your own judgment and be reasonable' -- wtf? )

Now that said, I disagree with 250g being the limit, and i'm 100% against them canceling your service if you go over 2x within 6 months. There are other less anti-customer ways to address people going over the limit once in a while.

Oh, and not offering any way to monitor the use is not good customer service either. " go google it" was basically their response.

Re:Now what will happen? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085291)

250 gigs lets you download at 0.77878308 megabit/s 24/7 (thanks, GNU units), or 8 gig per day. Plenty enough for a few aptitude full-upgrades, some online gaming and downloading a new distro to try out, plus some video to watch.

For now. Just wait for the next YouTube-like bandwidth hog to come around.

Re:Now what will happen? (1)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084771)

It makes alot of sense from a business perspective. Think about it:

  1. Comcast discloses policy of capping your bandwidth
  2. As a heavy BT user, you decide to switch to a competing ISP
  3. Other heavy traffic users join you
  4. That ISP gets swamped in your area, and their moderate users decide that they need better service and switch to Comcast
  5. Profit!!!

Sorry if I ruined one of those steps for you... but this scheme might just work out alot better for them in the end by giving them more business from the moderate-use crowd.

Bullshit.. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084129)

That is worded to basically say 'if the bandwidth is available, anyone can do anything' but from what I've been reading, those affected have been saying it's 'no p2p no matter what.'

They're lying.

But either way, the idea of throttling is bunk. If their networks cannot handle the service they sell, then they need to upgrade their networks.

Anything an ISP limits - whether it be browsing certain sites, severely limiting upload speed, or throttling p2p - is limiting free speech. They need to watch themselves. It's not hard to see that the 'big media' companies essentially want the Internet to turn into cable TV - where the customers are zombies that cannot contribute.

Re:Bullshit.. (5, Insightful)

stevey (64018) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084333)

I'm not an American - so my understanding may be off.

I thought "Free Speech" meant literally that you couldn't be arrested for saying "stuff".

Specifically it doesn't mean:

  • You have a right to yell "fire" in a cinema.
  • Whatever you want to say has to be listened to by anybody.
  • That your words must be broadcast as far as you want them.
  • That people must obey your commands.

So, with that in mind. How is imposing a bandwidth cap in any way related to free speach?

Sure I could see if they didn't let you visit some, politically derived, blacklist of websites then you could argue they were suppressing some topics. But otherwise?

Hyperbole - and the more times you do that the less people pay attention. Cry Wolf, anybody?

Re:Bullshit.. (2, Interesting)

Secret Agent Man (915574) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084407)

Actually the first amendment merely limits what Congress can and can't make into law. Private companies can do whatever the heck they want, provided you "agree" to it first before paying them for a service. I'm not saying what they do is right, but rather there's no constitutional case here.

Re:Bullshit.. (1)

stevey (64018) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084507)

In that case my understanding cannot be too far off.

I've always assumed when people bring the different Amendments into arguments they're irrelevant - unless the Congress/Government is involved.

Re:Bullshit.. (1)

burris (122191) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084975)

Sorry, but thats just ignorance. Some state constitutions have affirmative protections of free speech that can and do limit private entities. See Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74 (1980)

Private companies cannot "do whatever the heck they want." Private property is not absolute.

Re:Bullshit.. (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084471)

You have a better understanding of Free Speech than most Americans. I feel ashamed for my country.

Re:Bullshit.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084583)

Don't feel ashamed. If government entities always want to narrow the scope of the rights guaranteed us by the Constitution (e.g. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's comments regarding Habeus Corpus rights for the American citizen) then there's no reason why the people themselves can't always try to expand their scope. Maybe then we'll have some sort of equilibrium where we can stop losing slivers of our rights here and there in the interest of the cause of the day.

Re:Bullshit.. (2, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084573)

In fact, you can say "fire" in a crowded theater, especially if there actually is one. But even if there isn't, you can't be arrested for saying it. Although you do assume some liability for any damages that might result, which even if no one is injured will probably amount to thousands of dollars in re-issued tickets (it was a *crowded* theater, after all).

Re:Bullshit.. (1)

stevey (64018) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084587)

Thanks!

Yes, I guess that example wasn't the best - but I've seen it used by other people (Americans I assume!) so I hoped it would work.

Re:Bullshit.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084889)

You could probably be arrested for reckless negligence.

Schenck v. United States (2, Insightful)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084917)

Oliver Wendell Holmes, the judge writing the Unaninous(sp) brief for the case
used the fire thing as an example.

The private entities in the US operate under the US Constitution. Therefore they
must obey the law as written or ajudicated through precedence. Failing to do
so would open them up to a ton of lawsuits.

The tail shall not wag the dog. We ALLOW these people to do business here, not the
other way around.

Yeah, that was a good one (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085431)

The funniest part about people bring up ye olde crowded-theater-fire in support of limitations on free speech is that they rarely no the issue at hand in Schenk, viz.:

Prohibiting people from expressing opposition to the draft.

That's correct. Holmes et al (unanimous decision) felt that endangering hundreds of people's lives by causing a panic was morally equivalent (or at least morally relevant) to a guy handing out flyers saying that the draft is bad.

This is from the Woodrow Wilson era? (1)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085571)

I probably should do some research before posting - but, hey, this is Slashdot....

That sounds very much in line with the repression of free speech typical of the Wilson administration during the period that the US was involved in WW1. Didn't realize just how bad things were unitl reading Barrie's book on the Great Influenza (which he describes evidence as originating in western Kansas).

Re:Bullshit.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25085671)

Schenck V. United States [wikipedia.org]

Re:Bullshit.. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085689)

In fact, you can say "fire" in a crowded theater, especially if there actually is one. But even if there isn't, you can't be arrested for saying it. Although you do assume some liability for any damages that might result, which even if no one is injured will probably amount to thousands of dollars in re-issued tickets (it was a *crowded* theater, after all).

I do not know where you got the idea that an adult cannot be arrested for yelling fire in a crowded theater.

If you reasonably thought there was a fire, you have little to worry about. If you're doing it maliciously, your level of "I'm fucked" scales from not-fucked (just you in an empty theater) to semi-fucked (a misdemeanor charge) all the way up to totally-fucked (at least one person dies because you shouted fire).

There are catch-all laws against inciting a panic, disturbing the peace, etc. which is the minimum that you will be charged with for purposefully disturbing a metaphorical or actual crowded theater. If someone dies, you're looking at involuntary manslaughter charges [wikipedia.org] .

Whoever is modding you up has no understanding of the law and probably has never even watched a cop show on TV.

Re:Bullshit.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25085543)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_liberty
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_liberty

Re:Bullshit.. (0)

ygbsm (158794) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084475)

First of all - cost is cost. If you want them to upgrade their networks (agian - the cable companies have spent significant amounts of money in the last 10 years upgrading their networks) - expect to pay more. Remember - these are for profit enterprises, not charity networks. Congestion means that use is outstripping capacity and current pricing is based on current capacity. So you can add capacity at an increased price or you limit use (caps or throttling). There a reason why you can get residential cable with 5M/2M bandwidth for less than $50 / month but pay more than $300/month for a full T1 (1.5M) - its called dedicated bandwidth and service level agreements.

Second - private companies don't have a requirement to protect free speech. In the US, the only thing they need to do is protect their common carrier status. If you don't like the cable companies, pay for a real connection.

Re:Bullshit.. (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084523)

Anything an ISP limits - whether it be browsing certain sites, severely limiting upload speed, or throttling p2p - is limiting free speech

That's preposterous.
I agree not getting what you think you paid for is a crock of shit, but to say that this is "limiting free speech" is going a little too far.

That's like saying a drunk driver is limiting free speech if they crash into someone, paralyzing them, and making it so that person has to communicate by blowing through a straw.

Re:Bullshit.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084823)

Free speech refers to government, a company can do what they want, just like you.

VOIP and anti-competitive practices (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084159)

Comcast offers a voip product. Would anyone like to guess how the throttling practice was applied to traffic that was catagorized as VOIP but was not associated with Comcast's subscription service? Can anyone out there say anti-competitive practice? Real easy for Comcast to put those copyright infringers out front as the rationale for this policy but when one reads between the lines..... things are not quite as pristine as outlined. Connect the dots and get a clue.

Re:VOIP and anti-competitive practices (2, Insightful)

Anon E. Muss (808473) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084431)

I have Comcast cable TV and Internet service. I have personal experience with them, and don't like 'em very much. It pains me to defend their sorry asses, but in the interest of intellectual honesty, I'll do it.

Comcast doesn't offer a "VOIP product" -- they offer phone service. The handoff to the consumer is an analog POTS connection. Using VOIP as the transport mechanism is an implementation detail. As a facilities-based carrier, they have every right to dedicate bandwidth on their network to carry this phone traffic. It's no different than AT&T dedicating bandwidth on their networks to carry traditional circuit switched voice traffic.

Re:VOIP and anti-competitive practices (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084477)

[proof needed], before i put on my tinfoil hat, id like to see some proof, hell even a couple of anecdotes?

Re:VOIP and anti-competitive practices (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084489)

[citation needed]

Look, I hate Comcast as much as the next guy and think this is all crap, but 'would anybody like to guess' what actually happens?

That's right, nothing. Vonage works fine over Comcast - Comcast isn't that stupid.

This is not official, only anecdotal, but from about 8 people scattered around the country with Comcast+Vonage... so it's a pretty fair statement.

Re:VOIP and anti-competitive practices (1)

Tynin (634655) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084709)

I was one of those people using Comcast + Vonage. I had to drop Vonage after months of fighting with Comcast. Phone service was decent overall, but there were times when the phone would suffer latency on my downstream, where the person on the other end of the phone could hear me clearly, but I couldn't hear them as the voice would get all chopped up.

I could understand, maybe, if it was my upstream that was the problem (since I only get around ~50kb up compared to the 800kb down), or if I was saturating my bandwidth, or had a few dozen open connections, but these random occurances would happen even after rebooting my modem with no activity trying to come in or go out of my network aside from the usual port scans and the like that are always trickling in.

The only thing I could conclude was my neighborhood was abusing some bandwidth to the point it was causing enough latency to kill my VoIP, or that Comcast was causing the problem though who knows it was intentional or not. Comcast was no help, and Vonage just kept trying to give me another free month to get my to stay, but after a while it was no longer worth the effort.

Re:VOIP and anti-competitive practices (1)

fatboy (6851) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084545)

Comcast offers a voip product. Would anyone like to guess how the throttling practice was applied to traffic that was catagorized as VOIP but was not associated with Comcast's subscription service?

I have never had any problems with my Vonage TA on Comcast. It just works.

Actually, this was put in place to HELP VoIP (5, Insightful)

nweaver (113078) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084565)

This was put in place per Comcast's talk at the IETF largely to IMPROVE VoIP service from Vonage et al. You look back to 2006, before this was deployed, and there were lots of complaints about "Comcast is disrupting Vonage and other voip services..."

Those complaints largely dissapeared after Comcast started policing P2P uploads.

Re:VOIP and anti-competitive practices (1)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084747)

Would anyone like to guess how the throttling practice was applied to traffic that was catagorized as VOIP but was not associated with Comcast's subscription service?

Whenever there is a shortage of any resource — such as bandwidth — somebody is going to receive less of the resource, than they would like. It is inevitable. So, somehow a decision has to be made on how to divide, what's available. Other things being equal, giving a higher priority to one's own customers can hardly be illegal in such situations.

But I'd like to see your evidence of Comcast hurting other providers' VoIP traffic in favor of Comcast's own p2p downloads... Just to stay on-topic...

Comcast blows (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084219)

Choice? I wish! In my area Comcast bought out everyone and now they are the only player in the game. Needless to say their service is horrible and their customer service is horrendous! Something really needs to be done about these ridiculous cable monopolies.

Almost Worse than Legalese (4, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084237)

You have to love how the text is carefully crafted to be virtually incomprehensible to the average person. Actually, check that - totally incomprehensible to the average person and virtually incomprehensible to all but the hardest core network tech geeks. Of course, it's intentional because saying, simply, "we slow down users who utilize programs we don't like" is too easy to understand and rally against, which, of course, is exactly the opposite of what Comcast wants. This Byzantine text just sounds like a lot of techno-mumbo-jumbo so it has to be ok, right? Thankfully, Slashdot is filled with hard core network tech geeks so I'll be reading comments with interest to get an informed synopsis rather than staring at Comcast's text and thinking "huh?"

Re:Almost Worse than Legalese (1)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084353)

Comcast claims they did this:

For each protocol and geographical area they said that they will allow X connections, for example they might have decided that bittorent is allowed 1 million connections in new york(made up numbers).

Then when someone tries to open connection one million and one comcast goes and says "No, we can't allow you to do that since we already have too many bittorrent connections in this area", they do this by sending fake reset messages (Which is arguably fraud).

They also claim they only have had to block 10% of P2P traffic.

Re:Almost Worse than Legalese (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084553)

Then when someone tries to open connection one million and one comcast goes and says "No, we can't allow you to do that since we already have too many bittorrent connections in this area", they do this by sending fake reset messages (Which is arguably fraud).

Tbh that doesnt sound too bad, i mean at least your web browsing isnt effective. Im on virgin and i think they use the same software, but its configured so that whenever im 'caught' (what i need to do get caught varies on time, upload speed, number of unencrypted bittorrent handshakes*) i either get slowed down (google ping goes from ~20 -> 200) which is annoying but useable for browsing or beaten with the slow stick (ping go to ~3000) which makes browsing impossible.

*is there any way to avoid these, all the actual connections are encrypted but the handshakes are still open, is this a protocol limitation or a client problem.

Re:Almost Worse than Legalese (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084737)

Except that it's nonsense. There's a decent analysis at http://torrentfreak.com/comcast-throttles-bittorrent-traffic-seeding-impossible/comment-page-20 [torrentfreak.com] . What they were actually doing was far more subtle than merely counting and blocking connections: they were forging packets to pretend the connection was there, but confusing the client about it so that it would keep trying the dead connection and not go on to another one. That's intentionally interfering with high-number-of-random-connection services such as Bittorrent, in a way that doesn't affect other traffic anywhere near so awfully.

Re:Almost Worse than Legalese (4, Informative)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084521)

"For each of the managed P2P protocols, the [Sandvine Policy Traffic Switch] monitors and identifies the number of simultaneous unidirectional uploads that are passed from the [Cable Modem Termination System] to the upstream router.

Sandvine checks uploads without downloads. It does this 'above' (in the hierarchy) from the head-end of the cable network (neighborhood box).

Because of the prevalence of P2P traffic on the upstream portion of our network, the number of simultaneous unidirectional upload sessions of any particular P2P protocol at any given time serves as a useful proxy for determining the level of overall network congestion.

P2P is used a lot, and fairly consistently. Therefore, the number of one-way uploads (not SSH or rdesktop like somebody else said) can be used to extrapolate the total congestion for much less 'thought' (for Sandvine)

For each of the protocols, a session threshold is in place that is intended to provide for equivalently fair access between the protocols, but still mitigate the likelihood of congestion that could cause service degradation for our customers."

We count the number (like, only 500 BitTorrent sessions) and cut off after that.
--
My thoughts: I don't think this helps anything. I doubt anybody has much of a problem with them legitimately throttling P2P protocols, as long as it's done consistently and fairly (no need to throttle with plenty of upstream, right?). The real problem are the RSTs which impersonate each side of the connection to the other, saying that the other closed the connection. That's like Bob passing messages between Alice and Candice, and telling Candice that Alice called her a bitch, and telling Alice that Candice called her a bitch.

QoS isn't that hard, and I'm sure they know how. It's fairly easy to throttle back without sending RSTs, and allows for the full utilization of 'open' bandwidth.

This statement explains the rationale, but not the choice of methods.

I have a sneaking suspicion (1, Redundant)

LuxMaker (996734) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084245)

That the 250GB limit will not be applied to traffic within Comcast's own network. Can you say anticompetitive? I thought so.

Re:I have a sneaking suspicion (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084313)

That's not really anti-competitive. It's progressive in fact.

The bottom line is that ISPs pay for out-of-network traffic and they can't expect to take that cost and not pass it on.

So, for an ISP to recognize that they are only out of pocket for traffic that goes outside their network and not limit your in-network traffic is actually good.

If P2P protocols were smart enough to recognize and use in-network peers (which could simply be a product of latency perhaps, but better methods are probably possible) before going out of network, think about how much more you could download without hitting your cap.

Re:I have a sneaking suspicion (3, Insightful)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084381)

well, let them go home if they're not going to offer service like a big boy does. This is the Internet we're talking about. INTER being the key word. They're not being progressive here. They're being very regressive. Comcast wants to be the sole content provider to their subscribers like AOL did back in the 90's. Until AOL subscribers discovered the actual Internet.

This is what Comcast wants. They want their users to use their services. This is purely anti-competitive behavior. I say, if Comcast doesn't want to provide true undiscriminatory Internet access, get out of the damn business. They're already screwing their customers. Deregulation has allowed Comcast to act like this.

True competition would allow me to jump to an ISP who would provide the same level of service at the same cost without these BS tactics to force me to use their content.

Unfortunately, there's no other ISP here who provides cable. And no DSL providers want to provide me DSL despite having fibre to the curb. Since AT&T hasn't disclosed that I have fibre to the curb. Speakeasy thinks I can't only get 144k IDSL. AT&T knows I can get 100Mbit if they offered it. Comcast just wants me to stop using the service altogether. I hope the FCC really drops the hammer on these anti-competitive greedy bastards.

Re:I have a sneaking suspicion (2, Informative)

stevey (64018) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084319)

No.

Its more like they're saying "traffic outside our network will cost you; internal stuff is free".

In other words it is no different to the way many ISPs behave in the UK. They have mirrors of things people might want to use - so that their customers don't use more external bandwidth than they need to.

For example Virgin Media's Debian mirror [virginmedia.com] .

Re:I have a sneaking suspicion (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084481)

yeah but i download the distros from my ISP's mirror, and then torrent them.

Re:I have a sneaking suspicion (1)

Plantain (1207762) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084337)

Hardly. They pay for traffic out of their networks, and they don't pay for traffic within their networks...

It's common practice here in Australia for an ISP to provide a large amount of unmetered content aside from the usual draconian caps.

Compare to AU/NZ cap policies (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084339)

That the 250GB limit will not be applied to traffic within Comcast's own network. Can you say anticompetitive?

As I understand it, it's fairly commonplace in the Internet access industry not to charge end users for traffic that doesn't cross the ISP's upstream connection. For example, ISPs in Australia and New Zealand, two countries that have a slow, expensive pipe to other anglophone countries (USA, Canada, Ireland, UK), follow this policy of not counting accesses to, say, Linux distro mirrors on the ISP's network against the user's cap.

interpreted to mean (2, Insightful)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084309)

our big fancy piece of software slows your download speed to a trickle if you use hardly any of your upload speed. so god forbid you try to ssh or rdesktop into your box

Re:interpreted to mean (2, Informative)

amayain (1186069) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084479)

Although Comcast has brought my p2p to a crawl, i have never had problems with rdesktop. Anyone else?

I Hope My Service Improves (2, Funny)

superid (46543) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084335)

For well over a year I have had intermittent but persistent dropouts during primetime (Comcast). I've put in about a dozen service calls and had a tech at my house just the other day. I've had two new cable modems and the tech confirmed that the signal is fine.

I used tcpdump to show him the traffic scroll by at a nearly constant rate (I have a very active home network) and then *bam* it's dead. He looked at the lights and from his point of view says "the signal is fine". It's not my network because I see the same dropouts when connected directly to the cable modem, and it's apparently not the signal.

So that leaves the network. I think it's saturated. I can see 30+ ARPs per second immediately after service comes back up. And if this new policy helps that, then I'm all for it.

Speaking of Networking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25084449)

Did you see that the gal suing that city said thanks and offers a link for ya? It's on this discussion: http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/09/17/0238226 [slashdot.org]

Yikes. Marketing speak (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084639)

Sounds like the marketing guys got to answer to the FCC.

Cable (4, Interesting)

Shenzhov (1299257) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084649)

Personally I don't thinks this has anything to do with what they claim. I see it more as comcast realizing that people are starting to get content from iTunes, or off the Xbox 360 or from Netflix and they are going to lose cable advertising dollars as well as customers paying for pay per view or home box office type services. Cable companies do not have a history of being customer friendly and have pretty much always taken the position of "you will pay us through the nose for our crappy signal and you will damn well like it" attitude. Now consumers are getting some choices of how to get their entertainment and I'm sure this just burns them up. So if they give you a 250 gig limit now, you can bet it won't stay that high and you can bet that if they can start throttling traffic they will. If it takes mom 14 hours to download that episode of Lost in HD, you can be sure she will just go back to the lovely ad packed version on TV. Just like newspapers, cable tv has become irrelevant and we all just want pipes to our homes, not the crap they give us over them. Just like when AOL came along and shook up the industry with the one price for all you can eat internet, someone will come along again and kick these greedy crooks in the nuts.

Mod parent uip -- only insight shown in this topic (1)

swb (14022) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085261)

Cable companies are in a tight spot and they really do not want to sell us the rope (bandwidth) that we will hang them with (lost advertising dollars) by ultimately allowing other people to provide content and undermine their primary business model, infotainment content delivery.

I'm not sure they will "win" though in the long run. There will be too many other options for both data and content delivery --- even though the menu is small and the content kind of crappy, cell phones are already showing TV and providing low-end broadband data connectivity, and there's no reason to believe that future network upgrades and signaling schemes will enable greater wireless data, allowing cable to generally be bypassed altogether.

They do have a short-term advantage with their symbiotic relationship with networks as well as a largely convenient and 'solved' technology that allows high definition viewing without rocket science, but this will gradually evaporate, too.

If they can throttle bandwidth... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084679)

... Can't they ensure minimum bandwidth as well? Why not sell a plan that guarantees a certain minimum bandwidth 24/7, so that the people who feel they need to download so much material constantly can do so without worrying that (favorite pr0n) 7 might take longer to download than did (favorite pr0n) 6?

For that matter, isn't that was the "business-class" broadband does?

Maybe I'm just not angry about this enough yet. I use a cable modem (though not through comcast) and haven't really been found bandwidth to be a problem yet. Maybe our connection has been throttled at times, but if it has, I haven't noticed it.

Cost is irrelevant (1)

deAtog (987710) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084761)

Some people have been defending Comcast based on the amount it would cost them to upgrade their network and provide their current customer base with unlimited network bandwidth as advertised. If cost were really an issue, their overall profit would not be nearly as high as stated in their annual and quarterly earnings reports at http://www.cmcsk.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=118591&p=irol-earnings [cmcsk.com]

Based on these reports Comcast has had plenty revenue to spare which could have been spent on upgrading their network for quite some time. Instead, they choose to throttle their network users in order to increase company profits and earnings per share for their stockholders.

What a joke FAP and caps. Other ISP do it in bette (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084777)

What a joke FAP and caps. Other ISP do it in better way like have A download threshold when if you go over it you get slowed down for as long as it takes for you to Recover it but they also have FAP free times and / or a Pay for the data over the limit with no CAP. Some ISP do have FAP free zones but COMCARP dose not even want to do that.

Comcast problem in Denver (2, Informative)

Davin811a (817610) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084897)

I have Comcast in Denver. I can not get a VPN connection to work now. The packets get to the gateway but get dropped on the way back. Also, I cannot load www.parts-express.com, it consistently fails when I know the site is up. This has been consistent for a month. Will Comcast fix this if I call with a tracert, or is Qwest an alternative?

Which is why p2p should move to UDP (3, Insightful)

Danathar (267989) | more than 6 years ago | (#25084947)

And move the TCP part into the application. You can't break a session where there is none to break.

Azureus already has UDP support, but it very rarely falls back to UDP unfortunately.

Re:Which is why p2p should move to UDP (1)

deAtog (987710) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085425)

This may not actually help. In the cases where I've noticed filtering being applied, I still experienced connection timeouts after filtering out TCP reset packets at both ends of the connection. This is an indication that some blocking is done after the reset has been sent. In the case of UDP, the carrier would simply drop any suspected P2P packets and the connection would eventually timeout.

Since UDP is not a guaranteed network protocol, the strain from having to implement packet ordering and retransmissions for every connection and every application would become very processor intensive if implemented on a per application basis. TCP was designed specifically for this purpose and provides a central system for performing these services. The abuse it has been receiving lately by network carriers shouldn't be taken lightly.

Re:Which is why p2p should move to UDP (2, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085437)

very good observation!

in fact, in my world (snmp) its ALL udp for this very reason. as I explain it, the same 'work' is done by tcp or udp based apps by the time the top 'layer' edge is reached; but the diff is WHO does the work - the app or the stack. in snmp, its the app since the app 'knows better' how to manage its segmentation, retries and timeouts. letting tcp do that is convenient but rarely optimal. that's why a lot of protocols run on udp - they want more control over the aspects of their comms nature.

tcp connections are sometimes NOT what you want when you are trying to get data thru a congested network. exactly 100% the historical reasons for why udp is the layer of choice for snmp (netmgt control to shut down 'noisy' ports during a broadcast storm, etc).

Re:Which is why p2p should move to UDP (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085589)

And move the TCP part into the application. You can't break a session where there is none to break.

There's still a session. The fact that you have moved the session-state bits into a different part of the packet won't stop them for long. You can add encryption, but then key distribution becomes a problem -- without that, Comcast can just MITM everything.

It's an arms race, and Comcast will win it, simply because they can cancel the account whenever it discovers that it is losing to someone. There are two solutions: Real competition and government intervention. You probably don't get the first solution without some kind of government involvement, though.

just limit it in a protocol-neutral way (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085179)

I think it's reasonable for ISPs to limit the number of connections and sustained upstream bandwidth if they disclose what they are doing.

However, they should not try to inspect packets or limit specific protocols. First of all, doing so is pointless given the existence of so many encrypted protocols. More importantly, what matters to me is whether my QoS gets degraded because my neighbor is tying up the line; which protocols he is using makes no difference to me or the degradation.

Re:just limit it in a protocol-neutral way (1)

Dogun (7502) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085327)

I'm not sure there's such a thing as protocol neutral. Different shaping tactics are going to affect different protocol's performance characteristics in different ways.

They don't Throttle, they Forge Reset Packets (5, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085255)

Per that PDF, on page 10 Comcast described how they "delay" the packets, using "reset packets." Stop letting them get away with calling forging reset packets "throttling". Instead, they are blocking connections via forgery.

Except, they admit that packets with the reset header are only supposed to be used by the two end computers, and not by any of the routers in between, which should be handled by ICMP [wikipedia.org] .

They say, in that pdf, "As used in our current congestion management practices, the reset packet is used to convey that the system cannot, at that moment, process additional high-resource demands without creating risk of congestion.", which is just crazy.
Reset isn't a "slow down" message, it is a "stop sending me any kind of data on this connection" message.

Re:They don't Throttle, they Forge Reset Packets (3, Insightful)

dunnius (1298159) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085629)

Wow, I actually had to read that page for myself to verify that. So they actually admit that they are engaging in "man in the middle attacks." I hope they get in big trouble for hacking and forgery, since that is what they admit to doing.

Throttling Lotus Notes? (1)

dgrant116 (572004) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085707)

When Comcast's behavior first started getting attention, P2P protocols as well as Lotus Notes traffic were proven (I thought) to be affected. Now they say "targeting P2P protocols Ares, BitTorrent, eDonkey, FasTrack, and Gnutella." What about Notes? Was it mischaracterized by Sandvine, not actually a problem, or is Comcast lying again? Perhaps someone with more detailed knowledge than I could comment...

defeating sandvine with packet filter software (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25085849)

There are a few sites like this now, but I hope this can work for people

http://www.overclock.net/networking-security/276902-sandvine-fix.html

They're not telling all (1)

SpiceWare (3438) | more than 6 years ago | (#25085869)

They throttled my iChat video conferences to less than dial-up speeds, effectively making it useless.

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