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Comcast's Congestion Catch-22

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the solution-looking-for-a-problem dept.

Networking 177

An anonymous reader sends us to Telephony Online for a story about Comcast's second attempt at traffic management (free registration may be required). After the heavy criticism they received from customers and the FCC about their first system, they've adopted a more even-handed "protocol agnostic" approach. Nevertheless, they're once again under scrutiny from the FCC, this time for the way their system interacts with VOIP traffic. By ignoring specific protocols, the occasional bandwidth limits on high-usage customers interferes with those customers' VOIP, yet Comcast's own Digital Voice is unaffected. Quoting: "The shocking thing is just how big a Pandora's box the FCC has appeared to open — and it just keeps getting bigger. When the FCC first started addressing bandwidth usage and DPI issues, it quickly found itself up to its knees in network management minutia. Not long after that, it followed another logical path of the DPI question and asked service providers and Web companies about their use of DPI for behavioral targeting. Now it seemingly has opened up huge questions about what it means to be a voice carrier in the age of IP. It's not hard to imagine the next step: What about video? Telco IPTV services are delivered in roughly the same way as carrier VoIP services — via packets running on the same physical network but a prioritized logical signaling stream. Is that fair to over-the-top video service providers?"

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Congestion? (5, Insightful)

Mooga (789849) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589315)

If Comcast is having major network congestion then why did they automatically double everyone's download speeds? I got a letter a few days ago saying that I now get 12 down rather then 6. Seems like a BAD idea if they are having congestion issues...

Re:Congestion? (5, Interesting)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589331)

Their issue is upload not download.

Re:Congestion? (2, Insightful)

stim (732091) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589347)

Yeah because they buy non symmetrical DS3's and above amirite?

Re:Congestion? (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589479)

Yeah because they buy non symmetrical DS3's and above amirite?

I doubt the problem is up at that level anyways. The price per byte on the backbone is so cheap it hardly matters. It's the few miles nearest end users - where most of the network actually is - that matters.

I wish they (all ISPs) would start honoring TOS flags and then start selling packages like X gigabytes of 1st class traffice, Y gigabytes of 2nd class traffic, and Z gigabytes of 3rd class traffic. Presumably people would use 1st for VOIP, 2nd for ssh or websurfing, and 3rd for bittorrent. But if somebody configures bittorrent to use 1st class, it's not the ISPs problem.

All that said, I have comcast's very slowest "broadband" - 768kbps (i.e. under 1 mbit), and vonage always works fine. I haven't noticed any congestion problems on their network.

Finally, why the submitter thinks video is such a dilemma is a bit of a mystery to me. 99.9% of video is download - not interactive video phones and such - so having some jitter isn't really a problem, easily solved with buffering. It doesn't need to compete on the millisecond scale with voice traffic.

Re:Congestion? (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589589)

The problem is that ISP's pay per megabyte for uploads. Downloads are free for them except for the cost of the line and equipment maintenance., etc. That's what this is really all about.

Re:Congestion? (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589693)

The problem is that the DOCSIS spec involves having your own little slice of frequency for downstream but everyone shares upstream. Your DOCSIS 1 stuff would let you dump 5 or 6 megabits to each of thousands (well, okay, maybe hundreds) :) of subscribers at once if you could actually feed the data into your head end fast enough. But sending the data back upstream is done on a shared frequency. Some line cards have multiple frequencies (no idea what they are now; when I worked for Cisco Santa Cruz when they were developing the Cisco DOCSIS modem ref design firmware it was the MC11 and MC16, I think, the MC16 had six upstream channels) so that you could send the same downstream to a whole bunch of places, but segment their upstream and feed it into the different upstreams (inputs on the line card.) If you run out of bandwidth you can charge more, and buy more bandwidth. But if you run out of upstream bandwidth on the line card, you have to add a line card and go forth and physically segment your network.

Re:Congestion? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589805)

The problem is that the DOCSIS spec involves having your own little slice of frequency for downstream but everyone shares upstream. Your DOCSIS 1 stuff would let you dump 5 or 6 megabits to each of thousands (well, okay, maybe hundreds) :) of subscribers at once if you could actually feed the data into your head end fast enough. But sending the data back upstream is done on a shared frequency. Some line cards have multiple frequencies (no idea what they are now; when I worked for Cisco Santa Cruz when they were developing the Cisco DOCSIS modem ref design firmware it was the MC11 and MC16, I think, the MC16 had six upstream channels) so that you could send the same downstream to a whole bunch of places, but segment their upstream and feed it into the different upstreams (inputs on the line card. ) If you run out of bandwidth you can charge more, and buy more bandwidth. But if you run out of upstream bandwidth on the line card, you have to add a line card and go forth and physically segment your network.

Re:Congestion? (5, Informative)

grumling (94709) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590339)

You don't understand cable system design. The reason for the 6:1 ratio between upstream and downstream is not because Cisco (or anyone else) thinks you can oversubscribe the upstream spectrum, but because upstream carrier to noise ratios are much worse than downstream. Because of the lower CNR, upstream modulation has to have a lot more interleaving and error correction (and much lower symbol rates). It also helps isolate noise problems to a smaller service area.

Part of DOCSIS 3 spec is 64QAM upstream. Some operators are trying it now, and finding out that there's a whole new level of plant maintenance necessary to deliver a good upstream bit error rate. Meanwhile, the normal downstream carrier is 256QAM (6.4MSym/s symbol rate), which requires a 3dB improvement in CNR over 64QAM at the same symbol rate. As fiber is driven deeper into the cable network it will be much easier to increase the upstream modulation to 256QAM and downstream modulation at 1024QAM. Typical cable systems today use 16QAM modulation in the upstream, with a 3.2 MSym/s symbol rate.

And, it is fairly common to have multiple upstream carriers in a node (neighborhood). DOCSIS 3.0 adds support multiple downstream carriers* through devices called edge QAMS. The downside of that is most operators have 65 or so analog channels, several dozen digital cable channels, 4-5 VOD carriers, and one DOCSIS 2.0 carriers in the downstream. The push is to get rid of the analog channels, but that's politically unpopular since it would require all customers to get a set top box for every TV (someday tru-2-way TVs and set top boxes will be at Best Buy, but it's a long time coming). Once 3.0 is deployed, the typical system may have 3 or more bonded downstream carriers/service group, about 500 customers. End users will need a new modem to get full use of the channel bonding, but it should be worth it for the much greater increase in speed.

Finally, everyone always gets the "shared bandwidth" argument wrong. Most people think of DOCSIS like classic Ethernet, with a hub or daisy chain cable. This means that Ethernet NICs need to use CSMA/CA to avoid collisions. There is no way for a cable modem to hear another one, so the CMTS assigns a mini-slot to a cable modem when it is provisioned/registered (which essentially makes a TDMA channel). the ONLY time a modem is permitted to transmit is at it's assigned mini-slot. Over the years, CMTS software has improved, and operator's understanding of the configuration has become much more granular, to the point that bandwidth optimization is much better understood than it was 10 years ago, along with moving from 7200 series network engines to VXR and above (in the case of Cisco).

*There is some use of multiple downstreams now, it has been in the spec since DOCSIS 1.1, but isn't needed on much more than a temporary basis. Individual modems can only tune one carrier at at time, so it is typically used to get more customers on a node than it is used to get higher speeds. However, some operators have used multiple downstreams to isolate business class customers from everyone else.

Re:Congestion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26590781)

Um.. no. The reason the upstream is so small is because they only use the first 50mhz for return and the next 750mhz for downsteram. All modems use a 6mhz 256QAM channel for download and the return is a 3mhz 16QAM.

Re:Congestion? (0, Offtopic)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590253)

The problem is that ISP's pay per megabyte for uploads.

And the solution is net neutrality.

Re:Congestion? (3, Informative)

jo42 (227475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590341)

The problem is that ISP's pay per megabyte for uploads. Downloads are free for them except for the cost of the line and equipment maintenance., etc.

Horse crap. ISPs pay the same for bandwidth usage up or down.

Re:Congestion? (3, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589743)

start selling packages like X gigabytes of 1st class traffice, Y gigabytes of 2nd class traffic, and Z gigabytes of 3rd class traffic.

That seems like it would be a bit complex, and also problematic if they did not ship their own routers and instructions for configuring it.

Why not just sell pure bandwidth, and if people want to prioritize things, let them do it within their own networks? If I'm saturating my connection with BitTorrent, it's really up to me to QoS it down until Skype works. But, if I'm saturating my connection with BitTorrent, and someone else is having problems with Skype, that suggests they should buy more bandwidth.

I can see where TOS might be easier for the ISPs, let them squeeze a bit more out of their networks, maybe oversell a bit more and acknowledge that your torrent will slow to a crawl (but your voice will still work) during "peak" hours.

On the other hand, Amazon seems to be able to put a relatively cheap, relatively constant price on all network traffic to Amazon Web Services. I don't know if my bill is typical, but I pay $65 for fiber -- split evenly, that would be 300 gigs upload and 176 gigs download, or 150 gigs up and 265 gigs down... per month. I mean, I might do more than that torrenting, but not much, and I imagine that's a good deal more than Comcast currently provides.

Re:Congestion? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590277)

Why not just sell pure bandwidth

Because the telecoms want to control the supply, and because most of them also have huge investments in the production of content.

That's why the biggest ISPs all have their own branded browsers. They want to hook customers into the notion that the internet is just like TV, you take what you're given.

Re:Congestion? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590699)

I should rephrase that, then.

Why aren't there more ISPs who just sell pure bandwidth?

My biggest complaint about my current ISP is the bundling -- there is actually no way to just get Internet, it's Internet + Phone, or Interent + TV, or all three. However, it's also $65 for 100 mbit fiber, no installation fee, and in my experience, no throttling, no bullshit.

I don't really care for the ToS, so I suppose if they do start sucking, there won't be a lot I can do about it. But so far, they've been good.

So my question is, why is this so rare? Why are craptastic ISPs like Comcast so common?

Re:Congestion? (1)

droopycom (470921) | more than 5 years ago | (#26591429)

Because people dont want to pay $65 but $35 or $45 ? And because they already have Phone or Cable TV anyway ? Or because the fiber guy is not going to pull its fiber to their neighborhood ?

Seriously, if I could get $65 fiber, I might, but where do I need to live ?

Re:Congestion? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26591641)

If you've already got cable, it seems to me that getting TV with your fiber could still be an attractive offer. The $65 is the cheapest plan, but that's phone+internet, no TV.

Seriously, if I could get $65 fiber, I might, but where do I need to live ?

Fairfield, Iowa. [liscofiber.com]

If a town of 10k people, in the middle of nowhere, can get that -- or crappy DSL, or sort of decent cable, and there's another, business-oriented ISP around selling fiber, too -- why is Comcast winning everywhere else?

Re:Congestion? (2, Interesting)

stonefoz (901011) | more than 5 years ago | (#26591443)

Perhaps it doesn't need three tiers, but two would still alleviate real times problems. No, you can't just do router magic tricks on the customers end line, nothing there will affect their incoming traffic, it has to be done at the ISP. X (a much smaller percentage) of realtime bandwidth, and Y (all the rest of it). Customers wouldn't have to configure shit, Skype, Broadvoice and YouTube, etc.. would have to mark TOS on they're outbound. Customers would only have to be informed if they've asked to too much realtime data, opps you've ran out this month, prepare for shitty phone service. We wouldn't guarantee voip service unless the customer had one of our T1's or DSL so that we could throttle non-realtime bandwidth. For Comcast to play fair, they would have to honor other real-time providers QOS settings. Now if the customer "ask" for a bunch of crap off of a misconfigured service, it's there fault they run out of real-time. Two tier bandwidth would be a god-sent.

Re:Congestion? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26591523)

That seems like it would be a bit complex, and also problematic if they did not ship their own routers and instructions for configuring it.

Rely on the PC to do it. Users can run proprietary software on their PC that allows them to "select" programs for prioritized treatment.

And also shows how much "Class 1" usage is left for them this day.

I presume its best to give each user quota for usage of each class per 12-hour period.

I.e. you might be allowed 10 megabytes downloaded, 5mb uploaded at class 1, per 12-hours; 100 megabytes downloaded, 50mb uploaded at class 2, 600 megabytes, 300mb uploaded at class 3, 2 gigs d/l, 600mb u/l best-effort.

If you download more than 2 gigs in a 12-hour period, your connection gets capped at 256 kilobits down, 32k up, until the next 12-hour cycle starts.

Re:Congestion? (4, Funny)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590053)

I doubt the problem is up at that level anyways.

It's probably the NSA's traffic cloning and storage system that can't keep up with trying to record all of America's VOIP calls. We're sorry, but this mailbox...United States of America...is full.

Re:Congestion? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590475)

I wish they (all ISPs) would start honoring TOS flags and then start selling packages like X gigabytes of 1st class traffice

That's not how the TOS flags work. Bits 3-5 are the relevant ones:

  • bit 3 - Low Delay
  • bit 4 - High Throughput
  • bit 5 - High Reliability

These are generally mutually exclusive. High Reliability is pretty much obsolete - no one cares about packet loss at the IP layer. The important ones are bits 3 and 4. For VoIP traffic you want low delay, but you don't care much about throughput - a mobile phone only uses 9.6Kb/s and no one complains much about voice quality there. For HTTP or SCP traffic you want high throughput but don't care much about latency. You could interpret 5 as low-jitter, which is also useful for VoIP.

Most of the reason routers ignore these is due to Microsoft, since the Windows IP stack sets them all.

Its not so hard (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 5 years ago | (#26591099)

ISPs need to be held responsible for the bandwidth they sell! If they can't do it then they shouldn't advertise it.

ISPs should NOT be allowed to legally prioritize any traffic. This does NOT exclude the ability for ME to prioritize my OWN traffic making it my responsibility and freedom.

Now you network minded people will say: How do they know what traffic of yours is important to you when you and your neighbors peak above the base guaranteed rates they advertise?
The solution is more simple than many of the schemes they are trying or wishing to implement in the future: user flagged prioritization!

You flag your important traffic yourself they guarantee up to the advertised amount bandwidth will not be dropped.

Problem solved. If you flag too much they have the right to drop anything over the limit just like they can (have done and may be still doing) with not prioritized data we have today.

Re:Congestion? (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589649)

No, the problem is the design of the network. The uplink and downlink use completely different paths. The uplink path has limited capacity.

Re:Congestion? (4, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589715)

Is that why they instituted download caps?

Re:Congestion? (1)

MastarPete (790343) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590813)

I wish it were only a cap on the download, but the last time I looked at their fine print it appeared to imply download and upload combined.

http://help.comcast.net/content/search/bandwidth (click on "Frequently Asked Questions about Excessive Use")

What is data usage or bandwidth usage?

Data usage, also known as bandwidth usage, is the amount of data, such as images, movies, photos, videos, and other files that customers send, receive, download or upload over a specific period of time. Data usage is not the same as the speed of an Internet service. For example, a typical customer who uses the service to send and receive email, surf the Internet, and watch streaming video may consume 2 to 4GB of data in a month (these numbers may vary on a monthly basis); while another customer who uploads or downloads 1,000 pictures in a month may use 10GB. In both cases, however, the speed of each customer's service could be the same (for example, 6 Megabits per second ("Mbps") downstream and 1 Mbps upstream).

Re:Congestion? (1)

danwat1234 (942579) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590203)

I too received a letter a while back, I don't remember if they upgraded me from 4 to 8 or 4 to 12Mb/s, but they did also double the upload rate to mid 80KB/s instead of 42KB/s. Good for me and Utorrent.

Re:Congestion? (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26591161)

For Voip, this issue is latency not throughput.

Re:Congestion? (2, Funny)

stim (732091) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589335)

Step 1) double every users available bandwidth Step 2) charge by the meg Step 3) PROFIT!

Re:Congestion? (-1, Offtopic)

Andaratos (1460721) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589569)

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Re:Congestion? (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589877)

Comcast is having big issues in my area. The initial time to hook up to my ISP every day is between three and five minutes. That is lousy service.
          Now that they are providing phone service on the same cable lines if they cause a death due to net congestion or not being able to hook up to their service then huge damages as well as punitive damages should apply.
          I don't give a hoot if they have to run two cables into every home this nonsense needs to be stopped dead in its tracks. We need a class action suit against Comcast right now.

Second Post... (4, Funny)

paintballer1087 (910920) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589329)

It would have been first, but someone was on the phone.

Re:Second Post... (1)

quonsar (61695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589997)

ROFL!

Re:Second Post... (1)

Narnie (1349029) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590717)

Oops... meant to mark as underrated but selected overrated. Posting to cancel moderation.

Slashdot please advise me.? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589343)

When using the Comecast, I am is occasionallye being hungry. Then the funey people on my window start to yell at things to me wwin a bad voices lougd? The result is, that when you mix the roptozoa it us nut linguine smorones, you are gay. Lenin is the dictatorship of the prolentarion? I saw the box and it said click who will blame me now, please marry me. So when I have bread but no penut butter, how is ti that I am to make a sandwich, you great intelligente bnenigs?????

No peanut butter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589985)

Consider yourself lucky [google.com] .

I think this could speed things up (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589357)

* 1 Case Regular Pint size Mason Jars ( Used for canning)
* 2 Boxes Contact 12 hour time released tablets.
* 3 Bottles of Heet.
* 4 feet of surgical tubing.
* 1 Bottle of Rubbing Alchohol.
* 1 Gallon Muriatic Acid ( Used for cleaning concrete)
* 1 Gallon of Coleman's Fuel
* 1 Gallon of Aceton
* 1 Pack of Coffee Filters
* 1 Electric Skillet ( If you don't know what iam talking about i will have pics later)
* 4 Bottles Iodine Tincture 2% (don't get the declorized it won't work)
* 2 Bottles of Hydrogen peroxide
* 3 20 0z Coke Bottles (Plastic type)(with Lids/caps)
* 1 Can Red Devils Lye
* 1 Pair of sharp scissors
* 4 Boxes Book Matches (try to get the ones with brown/red striker pads)
* 1 pyrodex baking dish
* 1 Box execto razor blades single sided
* 1 digital scale that reads grams
* 2 gallons distilled water \
* 1 Roll Aluminum foil tape

That's what you would have to go buy if you wanted to make meth.

First things first -- the Iodine Crystals. Take one 20 oz, plastic Coke Bottle and pour 4 Bottles 2% tincture into it.

Add Hydrogen Peroxide to this. Use only 1/2 a bottle of Hydrogen peroxide. After this you know, the gallon jug that the Muriatic acid comes in take the cap off and fill this cap level with the acid. Add the acid to the coke bottle (Place in a freezer for at least 30 mins).

While the Iodine crystals are being made we are going to extract the Phsuedo from the Contacts. You are going to need a towel for this so go get one. Take the pills out of one box, add it to one of the mason jars fill with rubbing alchohol just enough to cover the pills let set for 3 minutes. Remove pills and take the towel and wipe the top coating off the pills this will remove the wax. Do the same with the other box of Contacts as well, after this add those wiped off pills only 10 to a clean mason jar. On top of this add 1 bottle of Heat do the same for the other box of Contact. Let theese two mason jars with pills, heat stand for 30 minutes. Then shake the jars till pills are completly broke down then let the jars sit again for 4 hours or until the Heats is completly clear . Once clear cyphon the heat off (Not the powder stuff at the Bottom you don't want this it will fuck your dope up).

Well anyway syphon the heat off with a piece of the sergical tubing syphon this into a pyrodex baking dish place in microwave on high till the heat is almost evaporated. Take out of microwave. Now plug up your electric plate set the pyrodex dish on this on about 180 deg continue evaporating till you get a white powder on the pyrodex (Carefull not the burn the phsudo if it turns yellow it's burned) after you get it dried take a razor blade and scrape this powder up. (put this asside for later use)

Now we are going to get the red phosphorus from the book matches take a pair of scissors and cut along the edge of the phosphorus do the whole four boxes of match book matches then take 1 small coffee cup will work to this coffee cup add about 1/4 the way with Acetone dip the match book strike pads into the acetone for 10 seconds this will loosen the phosphorus so it will be easier to scrape with the razor blades. ( put the phosphorus in an empty match book box to let dry. Now it's time to get the iodine crystals get a clean mason jar on top of this place 1 coffee filter and pour the contents of the iodine +muriatic+Hydrogen Peroxide into the filter ( do it slowly don't over pour) well once you get though with the filtering on top of the coffee filter will be a black substance ( This is iodine crystals) dry them by wraping in more coffee filters till you get a pretty good thick pile around the original filter place on ground and step on it to get the rest of the liquids off save this for the cook.

next take your digital scales wiegh your pills first say you had 2 grams of pill powder then weigh out an equal amount of iodine crystals then for the phosphorus devide the total weight of pills by 3 3 will go into 2 1 time so if you had 2 grams pill powder you should have 2 grams iodine crystal 1 gram phosphorus Now its time to make the cook jars you will need 2 clean mason jars with lids 1 foot surgical tubing poke a hole in both jar lids place one end of the tubing into each jar lid and seal with foil tape (buy this at walmart for about $ 1.60 well anyway seal off the tubes as well as you can so you should have 2 mason jars with lids that have surgical tubing foiled taped and sealed. ok this is the cook in one mason jar add distilled water in it fill it half way close the lid on it. now get you hotplate hot first at 180 degreese F when the plate get hot then its time to add the Iodine+pill powder to the other mason jar not the one with water in it once you get both Iodine and pill powder to the jar add 6-10 drops of distilled water to this place it on the hotplate now add the phosphorus once you put this in the jar there is going to be a imediatereaction place the other lid with hose onto the jar screw on tightly then turn your hotplate up to 400 degrees f let this cook for 1 hour to an hour and a half the best way to tell when it is done is when the contents of the cook jar doesn't boil anymore once this has happened turn the hotplate off and let the jar cool so you can touch it now its time to see if we have dope once it has cooled open the lid and you should smell rotten egg like smell if it has this smell congrads you have dope now we have to remove the dope from the black goey substance to this jar add about 1/4 cup of distilled water and seal the jar with a lid that has no holes in it and shake the jar till all the substance on the botom of the jar has come off into the water

next take another clean mason jar and place a coffee filter and filter the cook jars contents though the filter now on the filter is your phosphorus save this for another cook later on just putt it in a dry coffee filter and put it somewhere dry and safe now you have a jar filled with a yellow honey looking substance if its this color you have done good at cooking the dope now to this add colemans fuel fill the jar about full just leave anough room for shaking now add 1-2 table spoons red devil lye let the jar sit for about 5 mins then place lid on the jar and shake the hell out of it then sit the jar somewhere to rest for about 30 mins Now we are going to pull the dope out of the coleman fuel and the product is going to be 90% methamphetamine to do this fallow what i say exactly syphon the coleman fuel into an empty 20 oz coke bottle syphon off much as you can trying not to get the substance off the bottom of the jar once you have the coleman fuel in the coke bottle add about 4-6 coke bottle caps of water to this now add one drop of muriatic acid to the coke bottle place lid on bottle and shake the hell out of it place upside down so it want fall and get your hotplate hot 400 degrees f on top of the hotplate place a clean pyrodex bowl on it now take the coke bottle still upside down and loosen up on the cap let the water drain into the pan don't get any coleman fuel into the pyrodex bowl now the water will evaporate while it is doing this take a coffee cup add acetone to it fill it 1/4 the way up now once the water has dried on the plate take plate off with gloves and add a small amount of acetone to the pyrodex bowl it will sizzle swirl it arouund and if all works out good ther will be cirle crystals all over the pyrodex bowl scrape up with a razor and enjoy Methamphetamine :-) This with 2 boxes of Contacts will make anywhere from 2-3 grams meth....

Re:I think this could speed things up (1)

samriel (1456543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589407)

Good lord, call the feds...

Re:I think this could speed things up (2, Funny)

jimpop (27817) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590149)

That is just way too much effort for pleasure. It's much simpler to twist a belt around your neck until you pass out. The rush is amazing! Every AC should try it a few dozen times a day. :-)

How much is self intereference? (4, Interesting)

nweaver (113078) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589383)

If someone is doing very high traffic, enough to get into Comcast's temporary "QOS Low" category, they are probably sending and full rate. If you are sending at full rate, the typical end-host NAT and buffering alone will cause bad quality for VoIP (search for VoIP and BitTorrent for a lot of such tales). There is nothing Comcast's network management really does to affect things in this case anyway.

Comcast's network management should only cause additional VoIP issues when the big transfer STOPS and the VoIP call is made within only a few minutes (before the user's link is reclassed back into the "QoS normal" category).

Re:How much is self intereference? (4, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589703)

Did you read the part in the summary which said that Comcast VOIP was unaffected by this problem?

Re:How much is self intereference? (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590219)

Did you read the part in the summary which said that Comcast VOIP was unaffected by this problem?

What was not mentioned is that Comcast's VOIP is out of band. I'm no comcast apologist (comcast's policies were the straw that broke the came'ls back and got me to move to a new house where I could get verizon FIOS) but this is less of an issue that it has been made out to be. From day one, comcast's VOIP has used seperate channels from their internet services. Their VOIP is limited to connecting to POTS or other comcast VOIP customers. It is not on the internet, it is only on a comcast private intranet.

Re:How much is self intereference? (2, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26591285)

From day one, comcast's VOIP has used seperate channels from their internet services.

I'm not sure that's really the issue. I'll admit a little bit of ignorance on the issue, but what would happen to your upload rates if Comcast opened those VOIP channels to normal data? Or what if they allowed VOIP to travel on those channels whether they were the VOIP provider or not?

Because I think the issue is that they're providing a limited amount of bandwidth to the home and complaining about congestion, meanwhile setting aside access for their own services. I can't blame them, since it probably makes them more money, and they're in a position to do it without worrying about competition.

Personally, I think that the companies that provide data infrastructure should be forbidden from providing services. For example, if Comcast is the company that actually strings cable to your house, then they shouldn't be allowed to provide voice, video, or data services over that line. Instead, they should be required to have a set fee that is available to any voice, video, or data provider. So Speakeasy or Earthlink or whoever could effectively lease use of the network for providing services.

I know that whole plan would probably present a number of challenges, but otherwise there's an inherent conflict of interest for any company that provides both infrastructure and services. It's in Verizon's best interest as a phone provider, for example, to hamstring independent VOIP providers if they can, and cable companies likewise have an interest in inhibiting competing video services. Even something like blocking SMTP traffic except to their own servers, which arguably is a valid security precaution, encourages people to use the ISP's email servers, making them more likely to use their ISP email address, making it harder to switch ISPs.

Cable companies and phone companies represent a duopoly, since no one else is really permitted to drop their own independent lines in most places, so you can't rely on competition (i.e. free-market forces) to sort these things out.

All this may sound to some like a bit of a conspiracy theory, but I'm not even claiming that these companies are actually abusing their positions-- or at least not yet. I'm just saying that these represent inherent conflicts of interest, ample opportunities for abuse, and a lack of a free market to allow the "invisible hand" to make things work out (if you believe in that sort of thing). So I think it's time for some improved regulation.

Sorry if this ventures off-topic, but it seemed related to the topic at hand.

Re:How much is self intereference? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26591613)

I'm not sure that's really the issue. I'll admit a little bit of ignorance on the issue, but what would happen to your upload rates if Comcast opened those VOIP channels to normal data? Or what if they allowed VOIP to travel on those channels whether they were the VOIP provider or not?

The same thing that would happen if they opened their digital televisions channels to "normal data."

Re:How much is self intereference? (1)

Mooga (789849) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589707)

My home router actually had a 10Mbps Half Duplex WAN port for some odd reason. I had to find a new router to get the full 12 down speed they promised. Oddly 10 Mbps WAN ports are still very common on home routers, even brand new ones.

Re:How much is self intereference? (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590215)

That's really really weird because the design the WRT54G used, that I'd think would be something of the model other implementations are based on, didn't even need a second ethernet adapter. In that design the WAN and LAN ports are just different VLANs on the same 10/100 switch.

I-N-V-E-S-T!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589781)

Hmmm. Based on their massive profits, I would suggest they put aside, say, 1/10th of those profits to upgrade their network. That would fix it.

I mean, I realize that would keep Comcast execs from getting the gold-plated Bentley this month, but sacrifices have to made.

Re:I-N-V-E-S-T!!!! (2, Funny)

quonsar (61695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589869)

Why do you hate America so?

Re:How much is self intereference? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590129)

If someone is doing very high traffic, enough to get into Comcast's temporary "QOS Low" category, they are probably sending and full rate. If you are sending at full rate, the typical end-host NAT and buffering alone will cause bad quality for VoIP (search for VoIP and BitTorrent for a lot of such tales). There is nothing Comcast's network management really does to affect things in this case anyway.

Ummm no. Next time, instead of making up a hypothetical situation that relieves comcast of all responsibility, try finding out the facts.

When the local loop is over 80% download or 70% upload utilization, Comcast's system drops you down to a lower priority if you're over 70% utilization (in the congested direction) for 15 minutes.

You regain your priority once you've dropped below 50% utilization for 15 minutes.

Ugh, screw Comcast (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589387)

I don't know what's going on in my area, but Comcast sucks ass out here. The connection will just flat-out drop for 10-20 seconds at a time. Really fucks you up when you're trying to play a game online. They've had techs out here a few times with no results. Thank God I just found out that Qwest has their 7Mbps DSL service out here. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that it's better than fucking Commiecast's godawful service.

Re:Ugh, screw Comcast (2, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589735)

Sometimes you have to keep on complaining. I had a similar problem that wasn't solved until they finally sent out a team of real technicians with a spectrum analyser. Even then, it took them several visits to locate the faulty equipment that was generating interference on the local cable distribution system.

Re:Ugh, screw Comcast (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590345)

I could do that. Or I could save a few bucks and try Qwest DSL. I'll take the one that doesn't require endless complaints and hope for the best.

To pipe or not to pipe. (3, Interesting)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589395)

Why do ISPs insist on being more than just a pipe? It's so dumb no one wants them to be anything else. Do they just not feel useful when they are a pipe?

Re:To pipe or not to pipe. (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589509)

Why do ISPs insist on being more than just a pipe? It's so dumb no one wants them to be anything else. Do they just not feel useful when they are a pipe?

Because there isn't a lot of profit growth in being "just a pipe", and like all businesses, they would like to make more money.

Re:To pipe or not to pipe. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589619)

Because there isn't a lot of profit growth in being "just a pipe", and like all businesses, they would like to make more money.

Do you think it would help if we let them be tubes?

Just askin'

Re:To pipe or not to pipe. (5, Funny)

Kugrian (886993) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589937)

That's just great. ColdWetDog (752185) replying to Frosty Piss (770223). Mod me offtopic, but at least smile as you do it.

Re:To pipe or not to pipe. (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589725)

Maybe there isn't a lot of growth, but people will always need a pipe.

Re:To pipe or not to pipe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589763)

Pipe down, all of you.

Re:To pipe or not to pipe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589929)

Maybe there isn't a lot of growth, but people will always need a pipe.

Yeah, I got your pipe, dude.

Get down on your knees and open wide, my pipe has a delivery.

Re:To pipe or not to pipe. (4, Insightful)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589785)

Sadly with regards to Comcast, it's because they don't consider themselves primarily an ISP.

It's not that they are an ISP and they want to be something else. It's that they are "SOMETHING ELSE" and DOCSIS came around and they looked and said "Hey. While we're at it we could charge folk a few extra bucks a month and give them Internet too." So it's very easy to understand how they wish to ensure you use THEM for your VoIP and video-on-demand needs.

Seriously. Call their help line. Listen to their canned message while you're on hold. Does it say anything remotely close to "we want to be your ISP"? Nope. It says something like "we're happy to be your ENTERTAINMENT company".

Nothing really surprises me anymore about their horribly pathetic reliability once you realize their idea of what they are.

Because then their service would be a commodity (4, Insightful)

Geof (153857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590095)

Bandwidth is a commodity. As such is interchangeable: the provider of a commodity is in competition with everyone else providing the same commodity. They have to differentiate themselves based on price, which they can only do by cutting costs and increasing efficiency. Though market competition is in our best interests as consumers, it isn't in theirs. The last thing a company wants is for market competition to work efficiently to drive down their margins. That's why they will do everything they can to avoid selling a commodity: product differentiation, branding, and so on - strategies that effectively create mini monopolies (you don't buy an MP3 player, you buy an iPod; you don't buy shoes, you buy Nike).

That's the main reason. Another, which applies especially to monopolies (hello telecoms!), is price discrimination. A company would like to charge each customer as much as that customer can afford to pay, but they don't want to lose business with a price that's too high. By developing different classes of service they can coax more money from those able to pay more. The classic example is first-class seating on flights. How much a customer is able to pay may also depend on how much the service is worth to them. It may not cost the telecom company any more to provide bandwidth for, say, VoIP users than for WoW players, but VoIP customers may be able to pay more because it saves them money elsewhere.

It is the role of good market regulation to ensure competition works effectively to drive prices down towards costs. That is broadly good for consumers and for the economy as a whole. Companies - especially incumbent companies - should be expected to do everything in their power to fight to break the market. And they do.

911 (4, Funny)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589397)

If you have VOIP, don't set your kitchen on fire during high congestion periods. Please people, a little take a little personal responsibility.

Absolutely Awful (-1, Offtopic)

n6kuy (172098) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589419)

...Alliteration.

I don't know (4, Insightful)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589499)

Why don't they just UPGRADE THE PIPES.
My god every other first world country has huge bandwidth where these types of things aren't even a consideration. Yet comcast just whines because you can't run everything and be fair on tiny pipes.

the truth from someone in the know. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589599)

because they want to milk the current technology and still profit from it as long as they can. I know I work with these guys. No need for FTTH until there's competition.

They'll just let the FTTH come in and then merge with that company or acquire them outright.

the typical slogan of "they bought us" comes into play here. As cable becomes telco that's just what happens. Only you have to wait until the market forces make that happen. Here in NY Verizon basically takes about 10 thousand households away from time warner every month. Merger aquisitions! It's on the shopping list, as Larry Ellison likes to say :)

Re:I don't know (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589767)

My god every other first world country has huge bandwidth where these types of things aren't even a consideration.

Every other first world country has immensely higher population density. Canada's population is overwhelmingly located in certain centers and the remote population of Canada has just as much trouble as the remote population of the USA.

This does not adequately explain why we don't have higher speed in the areas of extremely high population density, of course.

We can solve these problems by forming community ISPs to wirelessly handle the last mile solution, which works in most places. Using solar-powered (or hell, wind-powered, it's very easy) mesh networks would work practically everywhere. IMO we would ideally replace the internet entirely with an alt-power mesh network. You can cross hills by putting a wind generator on top, running PoE as far as possible and putting PoE APs at each end of the wire. Wind generators can be made entirely out of junkyard parts (as can a welder to build it with, if you are crafty. a plastic fuel tank, some jumper cables, some scavenged wire and you've got a welder. The wind generator itself is made out of body metal, a steering knuckle, a wheel, an alternator. Easier to make with an oil drum instead of the body metal, though.

The problem here is one of "meh". We have great ideas but never seem to execute. I put myself in this category.

Re:I don't know (1)

certain death (947081) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590191)

Since when is Canada a first world country, EH? I guess if they based such things on beer quality and skiing they would be.

You should know... (5, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590319)

Every other first world country has immensely higher population density.

Wrong, unless you're saying that Finland, Sweden, and Norway are not in the first world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_density [wikipedia.org]

I live in Finland which has about 5 million persons at a population density of 15.6 per sq.km, while the US has about 300 million at 31 per sq.km, or double Finland's population density. Actually, about half of Finland's population is near the south coast (especially around Helsinki and Turku), while I'm in a rural area 300km north of Helsinki, so our regional population density is a bit lower. The largest town within 200km has about 80,000 people.

I have fiber to the house with 100/10 service available. The service is eur55 per month, including IP TV. If it's possible in the countryside in Finland, then it should be possible in most of US, where local populations and population densities are higher.

In fact, there are substantial areas of the U.S. with quite high population densities and local populations greater than all of Finland. Example: New Jersey, with 8 million persons at 438 per sq.km, and many millions more in adjacent areas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_jersey [wikipedia.org]

Your argument based on population density is a load of bollocks. You're just screwed by your ISPs.

Re:I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26590759)

The United States' population is overwhelmingly located in certain centers as well; BosWash has about 18% of the US population, packed quite densely, yet our bandwidth blows nearly as hard as anywhere else in this country.

Re:I don't know (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590863)

Yeah right. Funny, up here they give us exactly the opposite reason when telling us why our cell service costs so much.

Canada's population density is around 3 people / km^2. US population density is around 30 people / km^2. Canada's urban population, as a percentage, is about 80%. The US? About 81%. (http://hdrstats.undp.org/indicators/41.html)

So proportionally, Canada has about the same number of people living in cities but a LOT more space between those cities. Also, the people who do live in the country, on average, live WAY out in the country compared to those in the US.

Comcast users think they've got it bad? (3, Informative)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589545)

The ISP supplying my workplace regularly blocks HTTP for up to hours at a time. Nothing else, just outgoing(!) port 80. First connections get dropped silently, then after a while it moves on to forged TCP reset packets when trying to connect to anything. Which is pretty worrying because they're the only ISP available here.

Re:Comcast users think they've got it bad? (1)

techprophet (1281752) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589791)

Ouch... does that include requesting stuff from, say, /.? or is it just sending stuff from web servers? It seems like it would be both, because a GET request uses 80...that would suck.

do they block ssh? (0, Redundant)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590015)

Plan A:

Set up your home router to allow incoming SSH and set up your home computer to allow SSH tunneling. Then use an SSH client on your machine to route everything through your home computer.

Problem solved.

Well, until your employer catches on, in which case I hope your resume is up to date.

Plan B:

Be pro-active and find a new employer.

Re:do they block ssh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26590297)

Did you not read his post? It said the ISP supplying his workplace did it not the workplace itself.p
AC because of mod points

Re:Comcast users think they've got it bad? (1)

GoRK (10018) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590097)

Actually it sounds like they have a transparent web proxy that is malfunctioning. You can probably request that your traffic not be sent through the proxy.

Re:Comcast users think they've got it bad? (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590755)

I think the tech guys have had a few phone calls with them already about it. They keep pretending there's no problem on their end, which is bullshit because things like HTTPS work fine.

I had bad DSL signal problems with my home line about a year ago, and it took literally months of phone calls before they sent someone out to verify that there was nothing wrong with my stuff. Funnily enough, the problem stopped the following week...

Not a "Catch-22" (5, Insightful)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589603)

"Catch-22" implies a no-win situation. Comcast (and the other ISPs) have done this to themselves. They advertise unlimited Internet access (or make it seem like they're offering unlimited access) and then get upset when someone tries to use it.

The ISPs should start advertising their download speed, upload speed, and bandwidth caps openly. Offer additional speed and bandwidth for a reasonable price. And if your infrastructure is such that sometimes you'll need to throttle someone, make it clear upfront how and when such throttling will happen.

Right now, on Comcast's sale page, they only list the download speed of their connections. I couldn't find their upload speeds or the bandwidth caps (which I know to be 250GB). As far as I know, Comcast customers have no way to check to see if their being throttled or if they're near the bandwidth cap.

It's really no surprise then that customers are upset.

Re:Not a "Catch-22" (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589833)

+1 on this, it pisses me off when they (I've got the cells cos in mind) advertise unlimited plans and then, in the contract, they have fair-use TOS bs about how much of your "unlimited" bandwidth you can use.
Just market what you are actually selling.

Re:Not a "Catch-22" (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590393)

"Catch-22" implies a no-win situation. Comcast (and the other ISPs) have done this to themselves. They advertise unlimited Internet access (or make it seem like they're offering unlimited access) and then get upset when someone tries to use it.

It says unlimited here.. So don't think its a 'seems like'.... Its fraud.

Re:Not a "Catch-22" (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590909)

Ah, you're forgetting something.

When a company is faced with a choice between doing (a) and getting screwed, doing (b) and getting screwed or (c) not lying, it really is a catch-22. You see, if they do (c) then their customers realize that they're the ones who've been getting screwed the whole time.

Re:Not a "Catch-22" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26591197)

I agree with you, and on top of that they should add a way to monitor your bandwidth usage. (Never used comcast, so I don't know if this is already in place, or not)

When I was living in MA, I had to get satellite internet for a 'broadband' connection (Ridiculous pings, and plans capped out at 1.5Mbps/786Kbs). But they did at least make it very clear, in a fair use policy, what each plan had allotted for a rolling 30-day bandwidth usage. They were pathetically low, but atleast they gave me a bar graph in which I could monitor my usage, and plan when I could do larger downloads. Additionally, they (clearly stated they would) drop connection speeds to 128Kbs for the remainder of the time you were over your usage limit.

I wasn't fond of the limits they set, but A) it was the only thing available, and B)They gave me the numbers, and tools I needed to abide by their policies, as well as clearly stated repercussions for failure to comply with them. I found it to be at least fair.

Not agnostic (5, Insightful)

Ghworg (177484) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589615)

If they are treating their own VOIP differently than other traffic then it isn't "protocol agnostic" at all.

Re:Not agnostic (1)

techprophet (1281752) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589811)

Someone mod this guy up!

@Ghworg:
Ask Comcast to define 'protocol agnostic' and I'm sure they'll say something like this:

Equally affecting each protocol except our own.

They learned from Bill Clinton...

Re:Not agnostic (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589987)

Not that I would like to defend Comcast, but I do believe that most Cable phone service goes "out of band" and not over the internet. it uses a different frequency or channel on the cable than the internet connection. Kinda like DSL doesn't mean your phone is suddenly VOIP.

Re:Not agnostic (2, Interesting)

Trekologer (86619) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590035)

But Comcast does not. Comcast Digital Voice rides the same channel as cable modem. The only real difference between CDV and another VoIP product (ie Vonage, etc) is that the ATA is built into the cable modem.

Actually, it might be. (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590043)

If their VoIP isn't going over the public Internet, then it's really just telephone service that happens to use TCP/IP. That's very different from voice over Internet.

Voice- or video- over a private network is legally more akin to running a telephone company, and COMCAST may find themselves regulated as one.

Re:Not agnostic (1)

Sjobeck (518934) | more than 5 years ago | (#26591651)

EXACTLY. We understand that their VoIP traffic does not need to traverse the Internet but only the last mile, since once it hits the data center, it goes across the network switch to their voice switch, and quality is ensured. If the VoIP traffic is destined for broadvoice, teliax, junction networks, nufone, vitelity, f2 inc, stephouse, then that traffic must jump off their data network & traverse the Internet, and this is where things go bad for everyone. However, to treat voice traffic the exact same as say FTP traffic is just silly. This to me is Comcast's marketing department saying" we dont like our clients, do not use us, go away" and to that I say: message received loud & clear.

Simple answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589639)

Comcast has no interest in providing oppertunity for competing with themselves either in media delivery or for phone service.
The same goes for the telephone company, whom really has no incentive to provide you an internet connection
that would let you drop your telephone line for voip. This is the real problem with our internet infrastructure, the technology
and products are out there to give everyone a superfast connection, but why would the telephone company or the cable company do this,
they would be competing against themselves. It is a real shame that countries like Sweden, Japan and South Korea have faster internet options
available to them at cheap prices.

comcast blows my ass.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589665)

...and i hope their board of directors catches on fire.

The problem is not the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589845)

Actually, I don't really care whether they provide traffic priorization for VoIP and video, on a non-protocol-agnostic basis, as long as it is provider-agnostic.

Of course, should they do this, some clever monkeys will tunnel their bittorrents over VoIP just so their abusive software gets the best treatments. Much like overzealous block-everything-but-port-80 practice has led to everyone and his dog using port 80 regardless of content. I'm with Briscoe that we need to redefine "fairness", but I get the feeling the comcast NOC people aren't really up to the tast. Any wandering scientists about to lend a hand?

Test suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589863)

For the few of us who have access to multiple Internet connections for whatever (legit) reason, why not try your VOIP call on both, and see if the choppiness goes away on the 2nd one?

DOCSIS? (2, Informative)

Mathiasdm (803983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589945)

Comcast is a cable company, right? So isn't this just because their VoIP can be put in a separate Docsis channel (and prioritised accordingly), while 'regular' VoIP is sent as normal data?

Not an easy issue (or set of issues) (2, Interesting)

N7DR (536428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590079)

I don't want to spend an hour writing a treatise on this, but I do think I need to make a few things clear.

Several issues are convolved here, and the "right" answer to each individual issue is not obvious (at least not once one factors in political and business viewpoints), so the convolution is essentially a mess. Like the original poster of the story, I have to assume that the FCC decided intentionally to delve into the mess. Anyway, here are the real issues:

1. There is (as far as I know) no new technology here. The PacketCable specs, which define how cable operators (most of them, anyway) implement VoIP were released in 1999. Comcast (like other US cable operators) has been deploying this technology since about 2002. As far as I know, the only part of the spec that Comcast don't really implement is the security portion. In any case, the specs are public and have been so for nearly a decade.

2. There is a fundamental technical difference between over-the-top VoIP (i.e., service provided by a third party such as Vonage) and telephony provided by the cable company.

3. The cable company can differentiate between its VoIP (or any other service needing preferential Quality of Service (QoS)) and ordinary so-called "best-effort" traffic, which is what is used to carry everything else, including over-the-top VoIP.

4. The reason for this is that it is the only entity that has access to the Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS), which controls the microsecond-by-microsecond details of traffic flow over the plant between a customer and the cable operator's facilities.

5. It is reasonable (from the cable operator's point of view) that since it owns the CMTS (and CMTSes are not cheap either to acquire or to manage), it's not voluntarily going to let some other company control any part of its operation (especially since if that gets screwed up, the customer experience is impacted).

6. Looked at from the point of view of guarantees applied to services, this looks like a violation of net neutrality, since over-the-top operators have to fight for bandwidth against things like P2P and web browsing, while the cable operator's phone calls don't have to do so (they have QoS guarantees).

7. But there is no law against violating new neutrality (as far as I know, in the US anyway). IANAL.

8. One can also argue that although it *looks* like a violation of net neutrality, it is in fact not such a violation, since from the viewpoint of what is happening inside DOCSIS (the protocols used to manage bandwidth on the plant between the residence and the cable company), over-the-top VoIP looks completely different from the cable company's offering. From that technical viewpoint, they can be considered two different services, and hence it would (presumably) be fine even under net neutrality principles to treat them differently.

Those are the basic ideas (although of course I've just summarized; it would take a lot more space to really describe all the details). But the basic point here is that there are lots of issues and viewpoints, some business-related, some political, and some technical. And much though one might like to demonize one party or the other, in this particular case the issues don't really seem to lend themselves to such a simple analysis.

Disclaimer: this was a quickly-written post of my initial impressions given the rather sparse (and not unambiguous) information available.

VOIP!=Internet (5, Informative)

not_anne (203907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590125)

"Comcast Digital Voice uses Internet Protocol and not the Internet. Comcast Digital
Voice calls travel on our private, managed network -- not over the public Internet. That makes
it superior to other 'Best Effort' services delivering phone traffic over the public Internet."

Source (emphasis mine): http://www.comcast.com/MediaLibrary/1/1/About/PressRoom/Documents/ProductsAndServices/digital_voice.pdf [comcast.com]

..../k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26590181)

Comcast's digital voice service uses a different frequency on the broadband line, so it doesn't actually use bandwidth, and will work even if your internet connection is down.

Comcast's own Digital Voice is unaffected (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590379)

Well of course.

If they offer a netflix alternative expect that to be a better performer due to shaping as well.

Most people will just think the alternatives suck and choose comcast's service instead, never the wiser.

Simple way to increase bandwidth dramatically (1)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590471)

Like nearly all cable systems, they still carry analog channels. Even if you have digital cable, channels 2 to about 60 are always analog. Thus, people with simple analog televisions can plug them into their cable and watch basic cable without a box.

If they axed the analog channels and went with 100% digital that would free up about 300 mhz of bandwidth. That's enough bandwidth to add another 2000 megabits of capacity per subnode, which is a real lot. It would almost double their bandwidth in some cases.

The only downside: Everyone with a basic analog cable subscription would need a converter box.

Better congestion control (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590597)

We're still not doing congestion control very well. DOCSIS 3.0 [cablemodem.com] , the new cable modem/hub standard, has many congestion management features, but they're a collection of features, not an integrated strategy.

Realistically, there are two QoS options a congestion strategy for general IP-based networks can deliver:

  • Low latency, low bandwidth. This is what you want for VoIP and for the low-latency channel of games. For this to work, the network has to enforce the "low bandwidth" requirement by limiting the number of packets in flight. "Fair queueing" can do that on the network side. If you only have one packet in flight (i.e. you wait until each packet is delivered before sending the next one), you shouldn't see any packet loss. If you send more than that, you lose packets. TCP already plays well with fair queueing. UDP-based VoIP protocols that don't do adaptive congestion control need to be fixed.
  • High latency, high bandwidth For everything else.

There are fancier reservation schemes, where you can reserve bandwidth, but they only work when all the players in the path cooperate, which tends not to happen. But there's no reason not to get the simple mechanisms above right.

It's not their problem (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590789)

Really. I mean that.

Most VOIP uses UDP, which, *by specification* does not guarantee delivery timeliness, order, or that the packets will even arrive at their destination. It's strictly a fire and forget protocol, and this should have been understood from the outset. While I understand the advantages it brings on well-managed networks, and the value it has for those who can tolerate dropped speech and calls, it should not be thought of telephony, as it is nowhere near as reliable as conventional POTS networks.

Even for VOIP designs which use TCP, or other delivery assurance mechanisms, IP itself does not guarantee a maximum latency. While the network provider may be able to manage latency, and even guarantee it for a given segment of network, there is currently no way to guarantee a maximum latency when travelling outside the provider's network. Furthermore, even if there existed a protocol mechanism which provided definitive latency management, the fact remains that most ISPs do not make latency, or even *bandwidth* guarantees. Building a realtime voice application on such an infrastructure remains risky, at best.

The common customer, who grew up with phone lines, does not understand how IP networks work, nor why a common internet connection is not going to provide them with a 100% reliable connection. Instead, they're going to expect the network to fully support realtime voice, because, "I've got up to 6 Mbs, and this VOIP phone only requires 128kbs connection..."

I don't mean to rip on VOIP, but the technology was designed for networks which can, and do, guarantee max latency and min bandwidth. This excludes the majority of residential broadband and DSL customers. Yet the VOIP companies conveniently forget this in their advertisements. It really isn't the ISP's problem, because they are delivering the service advertised.

Treat ALL VOIP the same comcast! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26590853)

If comcast treats Vonage like their VOIP then you're vonage calls will never work... i think vonage needs to go across the internet.

I believe Comcast VOIP sends it's voice as marked packets that get diverted to some kind of soft-switch...

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