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ISP unveils changes with its new "fair share" program

Details on the successor to Comcast’s policy of “data discrimination” have emerged, and the majority of its changes will affect the ISP’s most gratuitous users.

Rather than targeting a specific protocol like BitTorrent – a policy that riled up technologists and the FCC, despite its “surgical” precision in managing consumption – Comcast’s new form of network management will kick in when it identifies a single user “disproportionately” consuming network resources, and will move to throttle their connection for a short while.

“If in fact a person is generating enough packets that they're the ones creating that situation, we will manage that consumer for the overall good of all of our consumers,”' said Comcast senior vice president and general manager of online services Matt Bowling.

Comcast says its new “fair share” system of throttling troublesome customers has so far proven to be fairly effective, particularly when the throttling stays in effect for about 10 to 20 minutes.

Once the time limit elapses, speeds revert to normal.

It doesn’t mean a throttled internet experience will be undesirable, however, as Bowling says that users experiencing limited bandwidth will still have an experience on par with “really good” DSL service.

But if a user continues a high level of consumption, “we would have to manage them again.”

It appears that Comcast customers will still enjoy an essentially unlimited bandwidth allotment; however the company says it is mulling over the possibility of charging subscribers a higher price for heavier internet use – but, it “[hasn’t] made any decisions” yet.

Anecdotal reports from users indicate that the new throttling system is already in place in some territories – and that the old policy of “data discrimination” still appears to be in effect as well.

Comcast has made no indication of the kinds of numbers that would trigger a slowdown, nor any specifics regarding the capacity available for throttled users.

Comcast, with its 14.4 million subscribers, fell into hot water last year when internet users and an AP report discovered that the company was screwing with customers’ BitTorrent activities, by essentially cutting them off as soon as a file finished downloading – a potentially toxic condition to the health of the BitTorrent network. Accusations snowballed into an FCC investigation, with both the FCC and Comcast slinging nasty words back and forth for the better part of 2008; the exchange reached its culmination earlier this month, when FCC chairman Kevin Martin officially condemned Comcast for violating the Commissions' tenets of a fair, open internet experience.

Martin also left Comcast an ultimatum, demanding that it disclose its network management practices to the public, and submit a “compliance plan” with details on what it plans to do after it disables its BitTorrent blocking, which is set to happen sometime this year. This announcement appears to satisfy the FCC’s demands.



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We wouldn't have this problem if...
By Ctsephion on 8/21/2008 9:25:22 AM , Rating: 5
If they started to actually build a network infrastructur on par to countries, say like Japan, then the user wouldn't need to be 'managed'. If bandwidth is so precious that they need to ration it out, maybe they should spend some time doing work FOR the customer, not taking away from them.




RE: We wouldn't have this problem if...
By FITCamaro on 8/21/08, Rating: 0
RE: We wouldn't have this problem if...
By threepac3 on 8/21/2008 10:17:21 AM , Rating: 1
Your making zero scene. If the infrastructure was there the problem wouldn't exist in the first place. If Comcast can't offer the advertised speeds then why are they pretending?


By JediJeb on 8/21/2008 12:27:42 PM , Rating: 5
Exactly! If Comcast wants to sell 6Mbit service then it should be able to provide that speed to every customer that buys it at any time even if every one of them is using it at once. If they can not provide that, then the need to assess what their network can handle, divide that by the number of customers they have and then sell that as the Max.

If a water company can push 100 gallons per minute through their plant, then they could not promise 10 customers 100 gallons per minute service, they would never be able to meet their contract, now if they promised 10 customers 10 gallons per minute then they could provide it. Same should be required of the ISP's by the FCC, you can only sell what you can provide, with no small print or hidden clauses, if you can't provide it the customer gets a refund, not throttled. It truely is false advertising to promote High speeds then add the disclaimer that you will only see those high speeds when essentially you are the only one using their service, if anyone else uses it you have to split it, which is in a sense what they are saying.

I wonder if anyone has ever taken Comcast to court on false advertisement claims over the bandwith issue. If they did they would probably have to prove that the majority of their customers have been able to use the stated bandwith most of the time, or they should be facing some severe penatlies over it.


RE: We wouldn't have this problem if...
By Alexstarfire on 8/21/2008 11:39:49 AM , Rating: 2
He never said anything about faster speeds, just better infrastructure. That means more bandwidth. They decide what to do with said bandwidth.


By rudolphna on 8/21/2008 10:49:08 PM , Rating: 2
exactly. Downlaod speeds are essentially controlled by your cable modem. It receives instructions from Comcast's server (or take your pick of ISP) on how fast you are allowed to download/upload Etc. I agree, they need to upgrade the infrastructure, so they can supply EVERY customer with the advertised speed, even if they are all using it at the same time.


By Regs on 8/21/2008 10:19:20 AM , Rating: 2
Didn't we dispute the differences between Japan and USA time and again? Didn't you also notice that Japan has more stingent regulations over their networks than America?

Google "Japan ISPs to Unplug File-Sharers" and how America is trying to find a better way to manage the problem.


RE: We wouldn't have this problem if...
By myhipsi on 8/21/2008 12:45:44 PM , Rating: 3
Well, lets do a little comparison shall we.

Japan: pop. density = 339 people per sq. km.
USA: pop. density = 31 people per sq. km.

You can't compare apples to oranges.


RE: We wouldn't have this problem if...
By jimbojimbo on 8/21/08, Rating: -1
By Alexstarfire on 8/22/2008 1:01:36 PM , Rating: 2
How is that stupid? Are you saying it's going to cost the same amount of money, or less, to lay line across 2k miles of land/space than across 500 miles? If that's the case you're trying to make then you need to go back to math class.


By joex444 on 8/24/2008 8:42:13 AM , Rating: 2
people per sq km vs people per sq km. No, I think that is a fair comparison, like meters to meters.


RE: We wouldn't have this problem if...
By kmmatney on 8/21/2008 2:15:35 PM , Rating: 2
I would not be willing to pay the higher fees for all the upgrades needed to allow a few users to run at full bandwidth 24 hours a day. Neither would most people.


By Alexstarfire on 8/22/2008 1:04:41 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm, we wouldn't pay more. Well, I should say shouldn't pay more, because this should simply eat into their profits.... and not the customers pocket. Course, they are a business, so you are essentially right.


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