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Comcast Accused of Congestion By Choice

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the i'm-completely-shocked dept.

The Internet 434

An anonymous reader writes "A kind soul known as Backdoor Santa has posted graphs purportedly showing traffic through TATA, one of Comcast's transit providers. The graphs of throughput for a day and month, respectively, show that Comcast chooses to run congested links rather than buy more capacity. Keeping their links full may ensure that content providers must pay to colocate within Comcast's network. The graphs also show a traffic ratio far from 1:1, which has implications for the validity of its arguments with Level (3) last month."

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The text in a readable format (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34545432)

Ever wonder what Comcast's connections to the Internet look like? In the tradition of WikiLeaks, someone stumbled upon these graphs of their TATA links. For reference, TATA is the only other IP transit provider to Comcast after Level (3). Comcast is a customer of TATA and pays them to provide them with access to the Internet.

1 day graphs:

Image #1: http://img149.imageshack.us/img149/78/ntoday.gif [imageshack.us]
Image #1 (Alternate Site): http://www.glowfoto.com/viewimage.php?img=13-224638L&rand=6673&t=gif&m=12&y=2010&srv=img4 [glowfoto.com]

Image #2: http://img707.imageshack.us/img707/749/sqnday.gif [imageshack.us]

Image #2 (Alternate Site): http://www.glowfoto.com/static_image/13-205526L/4331/gif/12/2010/img6/glowfoto [glowfoto.com]

Notice how those graphs flat-line at the top? That's because they're completely full for most of the day. If you were a Comcast customer attempting to stream Netflix via this connection, the movie would be completely unwatchable. This is how Comcast operates: They intentionally run their IP transit links so full that Content Providers have no other choice but to pay them (Comcast) for access. If you don't pay Comcast, your bits wont make it to their destination. Though they wont openly say that to anyone, the content providers who attempt to push bits towards their customers know it. Comcast customers however have no idea that they're being held hostage in order to extort money from content.

Another thing to notice is the ratio of inbound versus outbound. Since Comcast is primarily a broadband access network provider, they're going to have millions of eyeballs (users) downloading content. Comcast claims that a good network maintains a 1:1 with them, but that's simply not possible unless you had Comcast and another broadband access network talking to each other. In the attached graphs you can see the ratio is more along the lines of 5:1, which Comcast was complaining about with Level (3). The reality is that the ratio argument is bogus. Broadband access networks are naturally pull-heavy and it's being used as an excuse to call foul of Level (3) and other content heavy networks. But this shoulnd't surprise anyone, the ratio argument has been used for over a decade by many of the large telephone companies as an excuse to deny peering requests. Guess where most of Comcasts senior network executive people came from? Sprint and AT&T. Welcome to the new monopoly of the 21st century.

If you think the above graph is just a bad day or maybe a one off? Let us look at a 30 day graph...

Image #3: http://img823.imageshack.us/img823/8917/ntomonth.gif [imageshack.us]
Image #3 (Alternate Site): http://www.glowfoto.com/static_image/13-205958L/4767/gif/12/2010/img6/glowfoto [glowfoto.com]

Comcast needs to be truthful with its customers, regulators and the public in general. The Level (3) incident only highlights the fact that Comcast is pinching content and backbone providers to force them to pay for uncongested access to Comcast customers. Otherwise, there's no way to send traffic to Comcast customers via the other paths on the Internet without hitting congested links.

Remember that this is not TATA's fault, Comcast is a CUSTOMER of TATA. TATA cannot force Comcast to upgrade its links, Comcast elects to simply not purchase enough capacity and lets them run full. When Comcast demanded that Level (3) pay them, the only choice Level (3) had was to give in or have its traffic (such as Netflix) routed via the congested TATA links. If Level (3) didn't agree to pay, that means Netflix and large portions of the Internet to browse would be simply unusable for the majority of the day for Comcast subscribers.

Love,

Backdoor Santa
                   

Re:The text in a goatsable format (-1)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545458)

Great post, AC.
You however omitted the graph [goatse.fr] that most excellently summarizes this entry, here it is for your readers.

Universal Health, I mean, Internet Care? (-1, Troll)

bagboy (630125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545730)

So - Internet access is Universal Healthcare now? Comcast is a business designed to make profit yes? Best way to make profit in the internet business is to maximize your resources. A 100 percent full pipe is an efficient use of their resource. Geeze, slashdot is so full of whiners and babies it sickens me. Nothing prevents you from shelling out the dough to buy a dedicated 1:1 ratio pipe from a Tier 1 or 2 provider. Oh, wait, it costs to much? Then stop your bellyachin'

Re:Universal Health, I mean, Internet Care? (2)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545832)

I agree. Monopolies have rights too...

Wait, what?
Some people have no choice but Comcast, however others have competition, allowing change to other providers.
Just because you live in the city, doesnt mean everyone does. (General statement, not directed soley at you. But it could be).

Re:Universal Health, I mean, Internet Care? (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545964)

I would wonder however whether it is necessary for this to be a federal issue.

Re:Universal Health, I mean, Internet Care? (-1, Troll)

bagboy (630125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545966)

I disagree. Everyone has a choice in the US. It is not Comcast's fault that your (an individual's) pockets are not deep enough to build your own infrastructure. Again, they are a business - internet access is not a right. Over the last decade I've watched as the tide has swung from the "I'll work hard to get what I want in life" attitude to the "Society owes me something" attitude.

Re:Universal Health, I mean, Internet Care? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34546140)

Except if you're paying for Service Y, Company X owes you Service Y. That you're incapable of seeing this is mind boggling.

Re:Universal Health, I mean, Internet Care? (0)

bagboy (630125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546162)

Internet access from an ISP is not a 1:1 and never (I mean never - even days of dial-up) has been. If you can't see that, well then.....

Re:Universal Health, I mean, Internet Care? (1)

ironmaiden187 (1958762) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546166)

But the way it looks is Comcast is possibly denying people access to content aka not providing the service as they have advertised unless the content provider pays them. Not sure how that amounts to universal health care or society owing me something. More of a this company does shady stuff to make even more money kinda situation....

False advertising (5, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545930)

A 100 percent full pipe is an efficient use of their resource.

It also limits the ability of Comcast's customers to use the 6 Mbps downstream burst capacity that Comcast has advertised to them. When an oversold link flat-tops, it's been over-oversold. If Comcast is not capable of bursting at 6 Mbps for the majority of the day, it shouldn't even be advertising 6 Mbps, let alone "PowerBoost".

Re:Universal Health, I mean, Internet Care? (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546012)

Actually a 100% full pipe is barely useable. You need a little slack even at the best of times - 95% full is much better, because when it goes any higher you start getting serious problems with retransmissions and burst latency from even the slightest irregularity in flow. According to these accusations, that's what Comcast wants.

One way to make profit in business is to maximise the use of your resources - but another is to deliberatly restrict supply of your product, in order to maintain a high price. You may shift less volume, but you make more per unit.

Re:Universal Health, I mean, Internet Care? (-1, Troll)

bagboy (630125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546104)

As I engineer an ISP network, I'll tell you up front that there is no such thing as 95 percent. Users ALWAYS will consume what is available. Been there, done that.

Re:The text in a readable format (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546136)

Seems to me that if this is all true, there is certainly grounds for a class action suite here. After all, with them knowingly maxing their pipes, its impossible for them to ever argue good faith efforts of any kind. Its kind of like trying to deliver water past a sieve and arguing I'm working my best to deliver water. Its just not possible.

I, for one... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545436)

Am utterly shocked that anybody could be so cruel as to suspect a poor innocent cable company of trying to protect their cash-cow video delivery business by deliberately sucking at being an ISP(harder than they do simply by nature, that is) and using their oligopolistic incumbent position to shake down nimbler and more responsive competitors.

Re:I, for one... (5, Insightful)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545856)

Look, comcast is a private company that exists to make money. Because they're a private company, the government doesn't regulate the quality of their product. This is because it's assumed that the free market will take over. The assumption is that people will switch to other providers and thus stop buying comcast service. In a market in which there's actually competition, this works quite well.

The problem is that comcast has a monopoly (or duopoly) with regard to internet service pretty much everywhere comcast offers service. Thus, there's no free market to drive prices down and quality up.

The only solution in these situations is government regulation. Either subsidize new providers, cap prices, mandate minimum quality of service, etc. Comcast argues that they don't need regulation because they're doing just fine and that they're serving the public good. These graphs show that this is clearly not the case.

Re:I, for one... (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546054)

There is another potential solution that bears experimenting with, given the dangers of regulatory capture, which makes regulated monopolies a potentially unstable position over time:

Treat last-mile connectivity as a utility-style natural monopoly(which it essentially is, economically speaking). Have the municipality build out either fiber, or tubes for running fiber, to a peering point accessible under RAND conditions. Their responsibility would be to ensure that the pipe between you and the peering point is maintained(ie. this isn't a 'gummint internet'). At this point, anybody who wished to do so could set up shop at the peering point and offer services over the pipe, whether they be straight internet access, IP TV, VOIP, whatever.

Once you get beyond the last-mile, there is a much stronger case to be made that competition is both possible and actual; but the last mile is an oligopoly at best, monopoly at worst, and(like water, power, and roads) tends toward being a natural monopoly in the economic sense...

Re:I, for one... (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546074)

Well our (read: my country's) solution was to force the companies owning the cables to split between ISP and "cable owner", and forcing the cable owner to rent out their cables and capacities to all ISPs for the same rate. Of course they tried to (and still try to) stall wherever they can, but we're getting somewhere.

How do they make money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34546084)

How do they make money? What they do, as a private company is not exist to make money, but exist to provide something to customers who have money.

Without customers, Comcast doesn't exist.

Funny how all pro-capitalists forget that.

Re:I, for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34546174)

Hey, that's just not true! I have a ton of choices for internet at my home. There's Comcast, there's Satellite, and 2 types of dial up! Who could ask for more! // Bitter because comcast just jacked up his rates.

Does it have to be a conspiracy? (0)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545454)

What makes Backdoor Santa think this is done to drive service providers to Comcast? Occam's razor has a much simpler explanation: Comcast doesn't want to spend more money upgrading their capacity.

Hell, if I was a service provider I wouldn't consider Comcast after seeing those charts, not with that bad service.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (5, Insightful)

epiphani (254981) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545624)

This is _ONE_ ten gig link. Lets assume they have another 10 gig to level3.

His point is pretty clear: ten gig links are NOT THAT EXPENSIVE. We're not talking about a 100 million dollar expense here, we're talking probably an extra 200k per month per link.

They're intentionally bandwidth starving themselves. I can't see any other explanation, and Backdoor Santa is right.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (4, Informative)

epiphani (254981) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545634)

we're talking probably an extra 200k per month per link.

ps. I'm rounding _way_ up.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (2, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545850)

It's simple economics. If the cost of problems with annoyed customers remains below the cost of upgrading the system, then they won't upgrade.

Comcast makes no money on the traffic that traverses their network, and has nothing to gain by upgrading except their customers' good will. Since every third post here begins with "Comcrap" or ends with "sucks", I don't think they're too worried about their quality of service image.

Here's the deal breaker for Santa's conspiracy theory: what kind of idiot would locate their service inside this boundary, effectively guaranteeing crappy service to everyone who isn't a Comcast customer? There would have to be a compelling reason that this would improve Comcast's networking business for this theory to be true, and I see nothing compelling about this.

There's a perfectly simple explanation, backed by a mountain of evidence: Comcast is cheap.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (3, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546048)

"what kind of idiot would locate their service inside this boundary, effectively guaranteeing crappy service to everyone who isn't a Comcast customer?"

Both in and out. Large sites like netflix or youtube use a CDN - servers placed all over the world, because no one place could be optimal in providing service to all customers.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34545878)

Making up numbers is not rounding.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (3, Informative)

epiphani (254981) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545976)

They're certainly not made up numbers. That said, transit costs vary greatly by location and business negotiations. Getting a 10 gig link out of 60 Hudson when you have presence there is totally different than getting fiber run out to some middle-of-nowhere location.

I'm assuming we're talking about the opex cost of 10 gigs worth of transit from a fairly central hub. Capex to provide infrastructure to back that cost is not included. If we take the premise that Comcast's internal network isn't congested and only its transit links (which the graphs suggest is the major bottleneck), then there probably isn't significant capex cost in bringing online another link.

Of course I'm making huge assumptions. I'm on slashdot. Duh.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545714)

What if this is their lowest cost/most popular link? You know these newfangled routers these days can use more than 1 link at a time and unless they have identical start/end points they won't carry a synchronous amount of traffic. They may be falling back on another peer when this link hits 100%

Just playing devil's advocate. Anyone on comcast care to comment on if "netflix is unwatchable" from noon to midnight?

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34545888)

I can't comment about netflix since I don't use it (though that would not be on the tata link?). But, I do regularly experience massively sucky performance after 7PM; it correlates nicely with the link saturation shown on 1-day graph.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34545988)

Last time something like this happened was with Enron, and their rolling blackouts. That didn't take long to repeat history.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545644)

While I am also (slightly) doubtful of the "drive service providers to comcast colo"(though Backdoor Santa probably knows more than I do, if he has access to these data, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt) there is one major reason to suspect Comcast of perfidity rather than merely penny-pinching:

Comcast is a cable company. Their pre-internet business was realtime video delivery. This remains one of their more lucrative segments. As such, they have a built in conflict of interest when it comes to providing high quality internet service. They sure don't mind if you pay them to get your email really fast, or play video games with low ping, or download "linux ISOs"; but if youtube+netflix means that you cut the cord on your cable video, that is Bad News from their perspective. Thus, anything they do that would impact the reasonable performance of streaming video, online video downloads/rentals, etc. should be viewed as malice first and incompetence second.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (2)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545646)

What makes Backdoor Santa think this is done to drive service providers to Comcast? Occam's razor has a much simpler explanation: Comcast doesn't want to spend more money upgrading their capacity.

That makes sense.

Their users don't necessarily have it that bad anyways. So Comcasts' links are just congested -- that means their users have some packet loss. Unfortunately, those graphs don't show discard rates, so it's not really known from those graphs just how badly things are congested.

It could be a lot of customer high-speed transfers bursting to use the full link. As the link becomes more congested, transfer conditions will become slightly less conducive, and those "high speed transfers" will back off in transfer rate, as more customers get fair treatment.

The TCP protocol is designed to deal with it by backing off trasmit speeds. So everyone's download/upload speed drops; your transfers still complete, unless drop rates get too high.

Most traditional applications deal with it just fine; VoIP and streaming video do not fare so well.

And protocols with very crappy congestion management, such as BitTorrent, are capable of causing some serious problems in such scenarios, without the ISP taking additional measures.

However, I don't see there being an issue with Comcast allowing 100% of their links to be utilized when there is demand for it. And there is no immediate requirement to upgrade if any applicable SLAs are being met, and congestion is within reasonable limits based on packet drop rates and latency.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (3, Interesting)

EMN13 (11493) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546078)

AFAIK bittorrent has better-than-normal conjestion management, not "very crappy congestion management".

It uses either TCP (almost the definition of bog-standard) or uTP (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_Transport_Protocol [wikipedia.org] ); designed for the express purpose to improve upon TCP traffic management.

Perhaps the uTP devs failed; but there's no evidence for that that I can see.

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (2)

groslyunderpaid (950152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546086)

Comcast doesn't give SLA's, even on business class. There SLA is "We're awesome, we'll keep everything running, trust us. And if it goes down, we'll get it back up soon. We promise"

Re:Does it have to be a conspiracy? (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545742)

Because, Duh, conspiracy's are fun. People like hearing conspiracies. Conspiracies are news. Knowing it's all conspiracy makes you the smart one when all others are blind.

Conversely, boring old facts such as companies don't like spending money, if they can avoid it, are dull and nothing we didn't already know. News that some companies also are a bit rubbish is not news. No-one wants to read that.

Unless, of course, that's what they want you to think...

Oh Comcrap! (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545464)

The more I know about Comcrap, the less I understand.

Is their company run by an evil troll who punishes all those who implement innovation and progress?

I have never, EVER heard anything good about Comcrap.
I would submit to a full-time McDonald's wifi connection before I would subscribe to Comcrap.

Re:Oh Comcrap! (4, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545506)

Is their company run by an evil troll who punishes all those who implement innovation and progress?

Yes, and MBA's don't appreciate being called names.

Re:Oh Comcrap! (3, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545738)

From what I've heard about their infrastructure staff at a few conferences, they seem somewhat competent as they've been into IPv6 and DNSSEC from an early stage (doesn't always mean anything though). It is 10Gbits which is impressive, but I can't believe thats their only link out. They have tens of millions using their internet service right? How can it only be 10Gbits?

For the record, I am a comcast customer now (for only 2 months now) and I do agree it sucks balls compared to the fiber to the house I had before. But I also deliberately chose to go with cable internet for the first time because I wanted my own real experience to back up my suspicions instead of just angry posts by random people on forums.

Re:Oh Comcrap! (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545826)

But I also deliberately chose to go with cable internet for the first time because I wanted my own real experience to back up my suspicions instead of just angry posts by random people on forums.

Sounds kinda like smacking yourself in the face with a frying pan to confirm it hurts. :-P

Re:Oh Comcrap! (3, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546056)

Not really. I used to work for an ISP for 7 years that dealt in both DSL and Cable (don't ask how). I know the technologies behind DSL and Cable modems and know that the design of DSL usually wins out in situations where lots of people are online in the same area. Most people don't understand this and only pay attention to the marketing and data rates. For many years I had either direct ethernet, high speed wireless link,DSL and fiber to the home. So I wanted to try cable out to see how it was because all the marketing and clueless people making claims can really confuse the issue. I'm just familiarizing myself with my industry so that I have first hand experience when I give others advice. There is nothing wrong or sadomasochistic about that.

Re:Oh Comcrap! (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546180)

There is nothing wrong or sadomasochistic about that.

Indeed, no, based on your supporting reasons I won't disagree with you.

I'm just not sure I'd subject myself to worse internet service than I already had to gain some better empirical knowledge.

I applaud you for doing it though.

Cheers

Re:Oh Comcrap! (1)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546052)

From my experience of living in 2 different areas of the country, Comcast is second only to fiber in speed. Now, of course my sample size is small, but when I read about the horrors of other cables cos or DSL I'm happy to have Comcast. I think it just shows how crappy the other broadband companies are.

Comcast needs to be stoped befor NBC goes cable on (2)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545482)

Comcast needs to be stopped before NBC goes cable only and maybe even comcast only in area with more then one cable system.

I don't want to lose CSN CHICAGO on Dish / Directv / WOW cable / RCN cable and ATT uverse

Re:Comcast needs to be stoped befor NBC goes cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34545680)

Two countries, separated by a common language...

Stop The Cap (4, Interesting)

bengoerz (581218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545492)

Anyone who is offended at the behavior of these ISPs could join http://www.stopthecap.com/ [stopthecap.com] It may be futile, but at least it's better than whining.

Re:Stop The Cap (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545944)

If it is futile, how is it better than whining?

Re:Stop The Cap (1)

bengoerz (581218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546046)

StopTheCap.com MAY be futile. But it also may be productive.

Whining - absent all else - is always futile.

Re:Stop The Cap (2)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546176)

Makes it quieter for the rest of us.

Current Comcast customer... (3, Interesting)

gtvr (1702650) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545500)

Comcast is horrible, and this is just one more piece of the pie. For example, last time we had a service call, there were multiple automated calls, as well as the tech, calling to ask if we still had the problem & wanted a tech to come out. YES. Call center people that aren't empowered to make you satisfied - for example, for a service outage they can't give you a credit, just put in a request to another department. Poor escalation procedures. And so on.

Please someone tell me that Verizon is better, because I really want to switch to FIOS when it's available.

Re:Current Comcast customer... (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545558)

The speed and quality of my connection is excellent. Can't say much for the customer service though. Have fun waiting on hold for hours.

Re:Current Comcast customer... (4, Informative)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545564)

Verizon is much better. I am very happy with my 35/35 mbit symmetric fiber connection. Almost no outages at all. Way less than comcrap which used to drop out on a weekly basis for me. If you don't live in a state/city with FIOS, move.

Re:Current Comcast customer... (2)

JackOfAllGeeks (1034454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545638)

I've had very few problems with my Verizon access -- it's possible that their Customer Service is as bad or worse than Comcast, but I've never needed to use them.

it won't be (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545828)

fios is not expanding into any new areas for the forseeable future.

Re:Current Comcast customer... (2)

varmittang (849469) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545916)

I hate Comcast. When I was in NJ that I switched to DirecTV and added Verizon DSL (slower) to do a dual connection from my house in case Comcast went out (only $19, can't beat that for a second connection). When I moved to Maryland I had to go back to Comcast for everything until Verizon FiOS became available in October. So far no service calls have been needed for my FiOS compared to Comcast which had its issues down here too.

As for Verizon FiOS welcoming, it was a little over the top to the point of annoying. We got about 4 or 5 calls to confirm the installation and another bunch to confirm that it was installed and that we were happy. So many calls that during the first week I was guaranteed to have at least one message from Verizon thanking us for signing up and to call if there were any issues.

I'm much happier with Verizon FiOS than I was with Comcast.

Lowest customer satisfaction rankings (1)

magsol (1406749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545502)

Does Comcast simply not care about their customer satisfaction ratings, or are they on a quest to consciously plunge their ratings into the gutter? I ask semi-seriously because the latter strategy has merit: they can effectively do whatever they want without fear of too much consequence. After all, if they still have customers after kicking them around like this with the crap they've been pulling, they can probably continue to treat their customers like dirt and get away with it.

Re:Lowest customer satisfaction rankings (4, Interesting)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545648)

Arguably, no, they don't care.

Most monopolies don't. Even in areas where they have to compete against DSL, there's only a small segment of the population that can purchase service that rivals theirs in terms of advertised speed / service. And even then ... who are they competing against? Well ... the phone company, which has a stellar reputation when it comes to customer service ...

Re:Lowest customer satisfaction rankings (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545744)

We don't have to care. We're the phone company.

XOXOXO Ma Bell

Re:Lowest customer satisfaction rankings (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545700)

Does Comcast simply not care about their customer satisfaction ratings, or are they on a quest to consciously plunge their ratings into the gutter?

Well, in the past, lots of people have pointed out that Comcast is essentially a monopoly in places, so, it's not like they're competing with anybody.

They simply have no incentive to spend money. They've got all of these customers now, and spending money on infrastructure isn't going to make them any more money, so why do it? Upgrading is just straight cost, and without a benefit to them, why do it?

The very cynical answer is that until they're more or less forced to upgrade, they have no incentive to. They make money by overselling a service -- the closer to maxed out the service is, the more money they make. They don't really care about you, they care about their profits -- they're not gonna spend profits just so some people have a faster connection.

And, they're not going to give up on the revenue of having people co-locate with them, so they're doubly uninterested in fixing their capacity issues.

Welcome to the "free" market, it isn't really about customer choice and value -- it's abut maximizing profits and giving you the least amount of service they can get away with. This is a perfectly logical situation when you look at it from their point of view.

Re:Lowest customer satisfaction rankings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34545748)

I'm quite satisfied with Comcast. My neighbor has it and leaves their wifi open. The price/performance ratio is infinite xD

Re:Lowest customer satisfaction rankings (1)

Ornlu (1706502) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545750)

Yes, they simply don't care. In most of their markets, they are the only serious provider. For example, here in Houston, you can get DSL (from about 6 different companies) or you can get cable (only Comcast provides cable). Thats like 6 million people in this market alone!. What does customer satisfaction have to do with anything if the customers can't leave you (w/o going from 80mbit to 4mbit)?

Personally, I opted for the 4mbit DSL over having to put up with Comcast's shit. I was first getting my connection set up after moving to Houston, I wanted Comcast, so I called their customer service number. That was the day that the FCC censured Comcast for the whole throttling incident. The CS rep was like "We have never filtered anyone's traffic." I couldn't resist reading her some of the juicier bits of the FCC's statements. She was still like "We have never filtered anyone's traffic".

Net neutrality (5, Insightful)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545540)

Seems like they are intentionally congesting their links to force content providers to pay them extra for prioritisation. Ground rules for net neutrality are needed.. badly.

Re:Net neutrality (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545792)

If you could prove somehow that they are causing the congestion and it's not the customers, THEN you are totally on to something. But look at the graph, it didn't spend much time at 100% before the Thanksgiving (US) holiday. At that point, a lot of people (mostly college students) just got a whole lot more bored with their lives and are no doubt watching youtube/netflix/hulu at a greatly increased rate.

Should Comcast be persecuted because there is a holiday rush on internet video? Probably not. Come on, there are better things to be stringing them up over. These graphs basically prove what everyone already knew, and what every other provider is probably going through at the moment.

Re:Net neutrality (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545804)

Be careful of the spin machine.

It might be argued that net neutrality principles should not and can not compel an ISP to buy bigger pipes. If their "limitation" is uniform and across the board, then they are being network neutral. So, if ALL incoming traffic is similarly impeded (which would seem to be the case) then there is no case to claim network neutrality being compromised here.

And this isn't about forcing content providers to pay for prioritization either. It is about Comcast offering to host the content providers within their network for a price.

From Comcast's point of view, they have a choice of (a) upgrade their pipe on their dollar or (b) get paid to host the content providers servers within their network. The choice is a no-brainer. Making money over spending money makes the choice obvious and clear.

Now, if it can be shown that Comcast downgraded their service through TATA, then the claim related to network neutrality begins to have a little more merit. But simply choosing not to spend more money is not enough grounds to make such a claim.

(On the other hand, if ISPs became a regulated utility, then we wouldn't have this problem at all.)

Re:Net neutrality (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545874)

Seems like they are intentionally congesting their links to force content providers to pay them extra for prioritisation. Ground rules for net neutrality are needed.. badly.

How will net neutrality force Comcast to buy more bandwidth and uncongest their links?

This strikes me as the type of problem meant for States' Attorney Generals and not Net Neutrality.

Re:Net neutrality (3, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545970)

How will net neutrality force Comcast to buy more bandwidth and uncongest their links?

In theory, by disallowing them to charge content-providers extra to deliver the content in a timely manner, and forcing them to address the root problem of simply not having enough capacity compared to what they sell.

This strikes me as the type of problem meant for States' Attorney Generals and not Net Neutrality.

This will never happen in America ... once they make the argument that spending their profits to improve service without getting any more money is tantamount to communism, then they'll continue with the way things are now.

From their perspective, if they actually had to have the service they advertise, they'd be losing money. This is a shell game that relies on overselling what you have (by several times) in order to make as much money as possible. End-user satisfaction would just eat into profits -- never mind the fact that they basically have a monopoly paid for by the tax payers in terms of right of way and the ability to lay cables that only they can use.

1:x ratio because of plan design? (1)

Brit_in_the_USA (936704) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545570)

The article indicates a 1:5 upload:download ratio. Would this be because most plans have e.g. 1mbit up : 10mbit down throttling (or similar) ?

I find it interesting that they could increase their upload speeds with minimal performance hit, or would that take away their argument against level 3?

Re:1:x ratio because of plan design? (1)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546116)

I think the 1:5 ration is more because of their customer base. Cable Internet is mostly a technology for private homes. Some businesses use them for Internet access as well, but I doubt they deliver a lot of content to the public over Comcast's network. After having seen the Rube Goldbergian solution my local cable company calls a business class solution, I can't see how any business could deliver content to the public using it.

I'm not really well versed with the intricacies of DOCSIS, but when I asked my local cable Internet provider, they could not provide anything faster than 2.0 MB. They said it was due to limitations in DOCSIS. Any faster upload speed would require them to upgrade their cable network, or else I could have had them run fiber out to my location. That was absurdly expensive. They quoted me 17.5 k about 4 years ago, just to install the fiber. I should hope prices went down, but it's hard to say with these yahoos.

A provider that uses close to 100% of capacity!!! (0)

kenh (9056) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545580)

Seriously, this is like arguing that a road construction company doesn't have EXTRA/SPARE asphalt spreaders...

If an ISP is expected to have, say, 20% extra capacity, that ISP is wasting money on unneeded capacity, impacting their bottom-line.

I suspect this leaked doCument came from someone in that wants to sell Comcast more capacity...

Re:A provider that uses close to 100% of capacity! (5, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545668)

No, it's more like the construction company is taking forever to finish the road, and by happy chance they also operate the toll booth on the only alternate road.

Re:A provider that uses close to 100% of capacity! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34545884)

Actually, if one factors in previous /. posts about Comcast, a more appropriate example is more like a private toll road company getting right of way for an eight lane expressway. Instead, they build a two lane, then whine to Congress that they are being abused since their road has cars on it 24/7, and instead of widening the road, they start charging people money per minute they are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the road, doubling tolls, and demanding that shops located off the highway pay money, or else the exit to those places would be closed.

Re:A provider that uses close to 100% of capacity! (1)

KillaGouge (973562) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545838)

I would agree, but if adding another link only gives them 5% unused, and they can deliver the speeds they advertise, wouldn't the cost be worth it to stop all the outcry?

Re:A provider that uses close to 100% of capacity! (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545858)

...this is like arguing that a road construction company doesn't have EXTRA/SPARE asphalt spreaders...

The road construction employees are demanding bribes from motorists to allow them access to finished lanes which were already paid for by taxes on the motorists. Those unwilling to pay the bribe are routed to lanes still under construction that are populated by workers who do nothing but hold flags and scratch their butts. In other words, Comcast is full of useless butt scratchers who are trying to scam you.

Re:A provider that uses close to 100% of capacity! (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545898)

Unlike a spare part you don't pay for extra capacity. Transit billing is generally 95th percentile you throw out the top 5% of samples and bill on the remaining peek. From a design standpoint if you had two links you would not want to see either running over 50% from a billing standpoint you pay about the same for two links 50% used as you do one link at 100% so there is little reason to max out links unless there is a failure and it's picking up the slack.

Re:A provider that uses close to 100% of capacity! (1)

kiwix (1810960) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546102)

Most ISP sell you a broadband connection and punish you if you use it to the full capacity. But somehow they should be allowed to use the full capacity of their connection to the outside world, and therefore offer a crappy service?

Comcast has been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34545594)

When I lived in the Washington DC metro area it was common to see 10% - 15% packet loss at the comcast border/peering routers during peak usage hours (7pm - 10pm). It was pretty much useless for gaming or anything else remotely interactive. Calling to complain was an exercise in futility as you couldn't actually talk to anyone who remotely understood what you were talking about (and power-cycling my cable modem really wasn't going to solve the problem).

Content providers must pay (1)

Demablogia (1149365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545600)

I don't understand this sentence : "Keeping their links full may ensure that content providers must pay to colocate within Comcast's network" I don't know how Comcast's service works

Re:Content providers must pay (3, Informative)

JackOfAllGeeks (1034454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545682)

There are two ways to get content to Comcast subscribers -- peer with them directly, or send your traffic through some other network that's connected to them. The graphs in the article show the "other network" links, and show that they're almost always running at capacity. if a link is running full, you can't get your bits through and that means packet loss. Peering directly to Comcast gets you uncongested links, which means you won't be dropping packets and your services will run as-intended, but it also means paying Comcast for the priviledge.

Re:Content providers must pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34545868)

and in a free market place, this would be fine. the crappy performance would result in people choosing other alternatives for internet service. BUT, in areas where comcast holds a monopoly position on high speed internet access, things get a bit squirly.

Re:Content providers must pay (3, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545734)

I don't understand this sentence : "Keeping their links full may ensure that content providers must pay to colocate within Comcast's network" I don't know how Comcast's service works

They're double dipping -- they charge you to deliver the bandwidth to you, and they charge the content providers to co-lo with them so that their users have a faster service experience.

So, the gouge you for shoddy service, and they gouge the content providers extortion-style so their content arrives in a timely manner.

Re:Content providers must pay (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545780)

They deliberately use inadequate links to the outside world so you (e.g. netflix or any other service that requires substantial sustained bandwidth) have to pay them to put your servers inside their network so your customers can get adequate service.

Or they can refuse to allow you to place your servers in their network and cut you out of the market in their areas, which in netflix's case, they also compete in with their own video-on-demand service.

Re:Content providers must pay (1)

KillaGouge (973562) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545846)

I understand this to mean that if the content providers don't want to deal with the congestion coming into and going out of the Comcast network, they need to be inside the network.

MRTG, seriously? (1)

bbasgen (165297) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545604)

Interesting data, but I almost find more interesting the use of MRTG to show it. :) Perhaps we can infer from this that whoever grabbed this traffic wasn't using Comcast network tools, and instead used their own tools for a simple and easy setup? Hmm. :)

Re:MRTG, seriously? (2)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545920)

MRTG is good enough for carrier-class deployment, and has been since 1993 or so. I relied on it to keep track of various metrics for our ISP business back then, everything from link utilization to Usenet volume to disk free space to modem utilization. (Side note, that #3 modem that had WAY more connection attempts than all the rest? That's a defective mode, boss, let's move the blade to the end of the pool until we get a replacement, ok? Just a thought...)

But damn, our first T-1 never looked like that. I would have been into the second T-1 in a day.

As a general note, if you're seeing 80% utilization on a regular basis for an Ethernet link, you're seeing true packet loss beyond what anyone should have to suffer. If comcast wants to argue this, show us your other links, and then call the gang at TATA and have them DO SOMETHING :) Riiiight.

Just a quick look at TATA, and they seem to be a services provider, not an in-the-business ISP or peering provider. Comcast chose them for cost. But I'm also thinking that TATA can't be Comcast's primary provider. We might be seeing some bad design here, and a change to some hop costs or metrics could improve this a lot. But I haven't seen their other charts, which would settle this.

100% utilization between mid-night and 7am? (1)

Brit_in_the_USA (936704) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545618)

Is this unattended (torrent) activity? I find it hard to believe that it is active web surfing / video streaming for the majority, unless daytime usage is extremely low and what we are seeing is that the network is completely overwhelmed with modest/typical use by 2nd/3rd shift shift workers.

Re:100% utilization between mid-night and 7am? (4, Informative)

LilBlackKittie (179799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545672)

Multi-national providers are likely to be running their graphs in UTC - reading the graph that way makes a lot more sense.

Monthly graph (1)

POTSandPANS (781918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545630)

Did anybody notice that the two graphs are taken from different interfaces? Also, it looks like the traffic only recently got that high. Either way, It seems irresponsible to let the traffic get that high without upgrading.

Re:Monthly graph (1)

LilBlackKittie (179799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545718)

I'd be amazed if Comcast had only one 10Gbit/sec transit interface to one of their two upstreams: it's likely they take several at multiple different TATA POPs.

Re:Monthly graph (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545830)

    Yup, I noticed that too.

    Looking at the graphs, it shows failure to do good capacity planning. But, it's pretty clear that we aren't looking at the big picture. We're provided a few graphs, where there should be others to show the whole story. I seriously doubt that Comcast aggregates all of their connectivity out to one pipe, from all the cities that they service.

    We had a graph that looked very similar to that one once. I had GigE circuits in several cities with Level3. They simply ran out of capacity in one city, so we had to move our traffic over to other cities until they were able to upgrade for us. We always used the 80% rule for our bandwidth. Don't plan to exceed 80% on any circuit or even any server. When we had our problem, we were only at about 60% of that line, but since we had room in other cities, we were able to drop the effected city down to about 10% until the problem was resolved. I was shown Level3's graph of that cities circuits, and it looked just about the same as the Comcast graph. It took a few months for them to bring more capacity in, and then everyone was happy.

Re:Monthly graph (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545880)

do you know how long it takes to upgrade something like this? it costs tens of thousands of $$$ just to buy the hardware which must be approved by management only after evidence is collected that it's needed. then you have to add the new hardware to maintenance contracts. and provisioning new circuits takes months of waiting while it's installed and tested. and then you have to schedule maintenance to add it to your network, routing tables, etc. it's not like buying a new home wifi router or asking mommy to upgrade to the Turbo service

Nobody has a peering agreement with Comcast (5, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545632)

The Comcast argument is that they have a peering agreement with L3 (and TATA too) but that is simply not the case. Both L3 and TATA are providers for Comcast.

TFP (The Fucking Post) points out that Comcast runs its terminations with TATA at full capacity for most of the day and concludes that they do so on purpose to force services like Netflix to co-locate with them (= $$$ for Comcast.)

So L3 says to Netflix.. "Hey.. you dont need to be a slave to the Comcast overlord" and Comcasts reponse is to re-brand its business relationship with L3 as a "Peering Agreement."

Many slashdotters bought this bullshit hook, line, and sinker on the last Comcast vs L3 article. They did so because they learned about peering relationships at some point in other slashdot stories and took their 1:1 free peering knowledge and incorrectly applied it to the L3 and Comcast relationship.

L3 is Comcast's internet provider. Comcast's claim is like you claiming that you can charge your ISP because more stuff comes downstream to your LAN than goes upstream from it.

Can't This Backfire? (4, Interesting)

JackOfAllGeeks (1034454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545724)

Can't this backfire on Comcast? I mean, if a Comcast customer tried watching Netflix and they can't get a good connection because of congested links, the user isn't going to think "Netflix is crappy" they're going to complain aboyt how they've got such a crap connection through Comcast.

That's only meaningful if there are alternatives/competition in the area, and there might be an argument that Comcast wants to push it's own video streaming service (which wouldn't crap out).

Re:Can't This Backfire? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545922)

I though Netflix buffered, metered the download rate, then determined when to start playback. Ok, so you're having to wait a few minutes to start the movie to ensure no interruption of playback. It's not a big deal unless you're watching real-time live streaming video (as events occur).

Re:Can't This Backfire? (3, Interesting)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545984)

You would think so, but the average user does not think that. The average user thinks "My YouTube videos of cats stream just fine, but Netflix does not. It must be Netflix's fault."

Re:Can't This Backfire? (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545998)

Can't this backfire on Comcast? I mean, if a Comcast customer tried watching Netflix and they can't get a good connection because of congested links, the user isn't going to think "Netflix is crappy" they're going to complain aboyt how they've got such a crap connection through Comcast.

And the very next thing the customer thinks after that is "Hmm, I can't get DSL or fios out here, I guess I don't really have any choice but to live with it."

Re:Can't This Backfire? (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546016)

the user isn't going to think "Netflix is crappy"

care back that up?

I can understand if the User was using netflix and it was working fine then due to congestion it started to lag and skip they might blame Comcast..

but at the same time a user who has never seen it work correctly doesn't know who to blame for the problem and is more likely to just top using it.

but if they stop using it they will still want their content - the next best service that "doesn't lag out" is video on demand..

the average joe doesn't know anything about how an ISP works or over sells bandwidth.. but they can see very clearly that netfilx skips and lags and video on demand doesn't.. let me use the one that works.. and ignoring the fact that their service provider is intentional skewing things in their favor

as far as i'm concerned this is anti competitive and using their monopoly on the connection to sell other services and should be dragged into court under antitrust laws.

Re:Can't This Backfire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34546144)

Nope, It can't backfire on Comcast. What are your alternatives? I for one can ONLY get comcast to my apartment. But according to comcast, my apartment is illegal, so I actually can't get comcast services. They actually did me a favor and now I don't miss cable tv, and I'll never buy comcast again. Especially never again with all this BS they're spewing all over the place. I hope they burn in hell, and their merger doesn't get approved.

Re:Can't This Backfire? (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546192)

ClearWire WiMax service is $50 a month for unlimited 4G internet. 3G is 5GB max per month. that's your competition

Cuntcast is lying as usual. (0)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34545758)

Why am I not surprised?

Glad I don't have Comcast (1)

Halifax Samuels (1124719) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546066)

Now, I'm not exactly glad I have the ISP that I do, but anything seems better than Comcast after everything I've heard about and from them over the years.

I won't do business with Charter because I don't like how they've done business in the past. I can't get a wireless provider because I live in a small dead spot. I'm stuck with AT&T DSL and I get terrible speeds because of a similar dead spot.

I live, it seems, in the middle of a circle. This circle is made up entirely of residential homes and apparently companies either don't want to, or are being denied the opportunity to install a cell tower, phone switch, or anything of the sort closer to my home.

Basically, this all means that the only ISP that can possibly get me decent speeds is a company I won't do business with on principle. I'm sure if it came down to it and Comcast was the only provider I had available to me I'd seriously consider satellite.

An article from Voxel on the probelm (1)

r4tf1nk (88905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546112)

They're a customer of Level 3 & this guy gives his analysis of the issue (found in followups to the NANOG posting)

http://www.voxel.net/blog/2010/12/peering-disputes-comcast-level-3-and-you

It's simple (1)

u-235-sentinel (594077) | more than 3 years ago | (#34546172)

Concast really doesn't care.

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