FCC Again Wants Details From Comcast On Its Traffic-Shaping Efforts

from the fool-me-once... dept

Comcast has already been slapped down -- well, slapped on the wrist, anyway -- by the FCC for violating Commission rules with its traffic-shaping efforts, and it could be on its way for a second rebuke. The FCC has asked Comcast for some more details on its newest "congestion management" system, which throttles heavy users' speeds for periods of time. As part of the penalty for its previous infraction, Comcast had to file details of the new system with the FCC, and the commission know wants to know if Comcast treats traffic from its own VoIP system differently than traffic from competing providers' VoIP services. The company apparently advertises the fact that its VoIP service doesn't get affected by heavy network traffic and slowdowns, giving the impression that it degrades other VoIP traffic in this new system, while leaving traffic from its service alone. This will be an interesting test of the new FCC administration, to see how it handles these sorts of complaints compared to its predecessor. It could also set an important precedent, because it sounds like Comcast handles its own VoIP traffic in a way similar to other cable companies, by setting aside a portion of bandwidth that's managed separately from a subscriber's internet traffic.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    RD, Jan 20th, 2009 @ 8:23pm

    Years too late

    Uh, yeah, this has been going on at comcast for YEARS. Make no mistake, they block/degrade voip traffic of competitors and prioritize their own at everyone else's expense. A friend worked at Vonage 2 years ago and a good chunk of the calls he got were from cable customers, most of those were Comcast. MANY cable companies do this or have this problem with voip (comcast, RR, shaw, TW, Charter, Qwest...basically anything where there isnt competition), other than their own offerings of course, which usually work ok. I have voip, on a 5mb cable line (northeast area where there is a lot of competition). Guess what? Never choppy, rarely dumps a call, all features like caller ID actually work. Comcast are scumbags and deserve to get nailed for this anti-consumer behavior.

     

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  2.  
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    mr, Jan 20th, 2009 @ 8:43pm

    congestions?

    I have not been able to figure out why it is that cable companies do get away with any bandwidth throttling. the fact is, they advertise i certain speed and service and then when you try and utilize that service fully you get told no you can not do that. when cities become congested with traffic because more people have moved in the city doesn't restrict your driving amounts or distances. so why does someone who is suppose to provide a service to get you to the internet decides how much of the internet you are allowed to get at one time? because its congested? sounds like thats their problem for advertising something they can't provide and not building for the future customers.

     

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  3.  
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    AnonCow, Jan 20th, 2009 @ 10:35pm

    Unfortunately, I had to switch from Vonage to Comcast to find a reliable VoIP service. Comcast's service & feature set looks half-baked to Vonage, but I get better QoS so I'm stuck with a limited feature set, but reliable calls.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2009 @ 10:59pm

    The company apparently advertises the fact that its VoIP service doesn't get affected by heavy network traffic and slowdowns, giving the impression that it degrades other VoIP traffic in this new system, while leaving traffic from its service alone.

    clear anti-trust violation.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2009 @ 11:35pm

    Worse than traffic shaping

    Throttling traffic is bad enough. But I would like to know why Comcast is blocking all inbound traffic to my computer? Why can Comcast customers not run their own services, like a web server? That is far worse than throttling. This practice is also in violation of the FCC net neutrality policies.

    Of course Comcast is not the only rogue ISP. Cox, Verizon etc. are no better.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 5:27am

    For those that have no idea how ISP's work. And.., I am by far not defending Comcrap, just giving a heads up.

    An ISP will provide QoS/CoS to it's customers that have VoIP through them for free. Allowing their VoIP equipment to tag the data packets with priority, usually as IPP 5 or Expedited forwarding. Most residential accounts don't even have the option to turn on QoS/CoS on the network connection, and if it does have it, it definitely is an additional fee. So, yes, VoIP traffic will have priority over other traffic across any network with QoS. Basically, if you have Vonage, and the Vonage box tags the packets, if the ISP does NOT have QoS set up, it will not read the tags.

    About Comcast blocking inbound traffic. They probably don't block inbound traffic, but are blocking inbound ports. Just about every ISP in the country will do that to prevent unauthorized traffic. If you want to run a web server, you better be willing to get a dedicated bandwidth connection. You know, a T1 or greater. You are on a shared bandwidth connection with Comcast, meaning, yeah, they oversell the bandwidth. Because if they didn't, they would need to charge you a few thousand dollars a month for that 7mbps connection. Bandwidth is not cheap, not even for the ISP's. The equipment is not cheap either on the ISP's side. Think about the fact your $50-$200 router is nothing compared to that $million Cisco or Juniper on the other end, and if it's not a dedicated bandwidth circuit like a T1 or DS3, you have a $250K switch in between, not including any multiplexors and digital cross-connects.

    Bandwidth is not cheap. Any large company like Google, Ebay, Itunes, Amazon, they are paying multi-millions of dollars a month for their bandwidth from the Tier1 backbone providers. And the Tier1 backbone providers are not making a big profit either, due to the constant expansion and upgrading of equipment.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 5:27am

    Re:

    Oh yeah, Comcast is NOT a Tier1 backbone provider

     

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  8.  
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    Michael B, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 6:10am

    Re:

    Thanks for the intelligent, detailed explanation of some of the more technical aspects of "VoIP Traffic Shaping". I had Comcast for internet and cable TV, and had them for years. When I called to ask for a better price, they replied "Well, we can give you a great deal if you subscribe to our Digital Voice service, too". When I asked about what happens during heavy network congestion periods and if a person exceeds their cap of 250GB of traffic a month, I was told that their VoIP service is "different" in that it doesn't run on the "public network". I was also told that Comcast's VoIP service doesn't count against the cap and, if the internet service is terminated due to you exceeding the cap, you don't lose your phone service. Sure sounds to me like they're giving preferential treatment to their own service and that companies like Vonage, Packet8, Lingo, etc., get "downgraded" and become totally useless if Comcast decides to drop a person's internet connection, forcing them to lose things like 911 access.

     

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  9.  
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    Michael B, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 6:11am

    Re: Re:

    No... only companies like Level3 and Cogent provide those services.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 7:47am

    Re: Re:

    No, the sales people are lying to you. There is NO way Comcast could keep your VoIP phones turned on if they shut off your internet for any reason. Why, because VoIP is data packets. Comcast may be able to redirect your http traffic, but not shut it off, if they want to keep VoIP going still. Also, it DOES and WILL go towards your 250GB limit. I highly doubt that Comcast filters out VoIP data from all other data in the flow. That would take a lot of CPU utilization on their equipment to calculate out the bandwidth utilization for certain packets compared to other packets. It wouldn't be cost effective for the company. And I'll guarantee you that Comcast is not going to do something like that, when it decreases their profits.

    Think of VoIP as the exact same technology as Teamspeak or Ventrillo, but adding another layer where it can connect to a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) switching system on the other end, to connect to POTS phones, instead of VoIP phones.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Comcast blocking inbound traffic.

    Comcast is not only blocking all (!) Internet traffic originating from third parties (us) to Comcast customers, they even state in their terms that they prohibit any such services on the Comcast customers' computers. And that is in violation of explicit FCC net neutrality policies. This matter has nothing to do with ports, bandwidth or costs. This is all about an attempt to convert the Internet into a Comcast monopoly, à la AOL. Comcast does NOT allow their customers to run their own web server (or e-mail etc.). Instead Comcast is selling that as extra service, called "webspace". "Webspace" is a resource that only exists because ISPs are blocking an infinite resource, namely our own web servers.

    The Comcast terms:
    Prohibited uses include, but are not limited to, using the Service,
    Customer Equipment, or the Comcast Equipment to:
    run programs, equipment, or servers from the Premises that provide
    network content or any other services to anyone outside of your
    Premises LAN (Local Area Network), also commonly referred to as public
    services or servers. Examples of prohibited services and servers
    include, but are not limited to, e-mail, Web hosting, file sharing, and
    proxy services and servers;

     

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  12.  
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    Tired of complaints, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 5:19pm

    Re: Comcast blocking inbound traffic.

    Everyone is so against Comcast. Maybe like others have said before me, their voice service works differently than other VOIPs. Comcast voice is designed in the comcast network, those 3rd party ones are not. Those 3rd parties that offer VOIP travel as just data through comcast, whereas comcast's voice travels as voice data. If some of you would stop and read rather than just seeing red every time you see the name Comcast then you would understand.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 5:54pm

    Re: Comcast blocking inbound traffic.

    No, that does not explain why Comcast is causing trouble for third party VoIP solutions. It does not explain why Comcast advertises and sells a certain bandwidth, and then throttles the network traffic. And it really does not explain why Comcast is prohibiting customers from running servers.

    But, to be fair, here is the relevant section of COX' terms:
    Acceptable Use Policy
    Section 6
    Servers. You may not operate, or allow others to operate, servers of any type or any other device, equipment, and/or software providing server-like functionality in connection with the Service, unless expressly authorized by Cox.

    "Acceptable Use Policy?" No, that is not acceptable, not by the standards set by the FCC.

    Do you work for Comcast? That would explain your frustration.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 8:00pm

    Re:

    Thanks for the technical nonsense.

     

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  15.  
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    chris (profile), Jan 22nd, 2009 @ 6:58am

    They probably don't block inbound traffic, but are blocking inbound ports. Just about every ISP in the country will do that to prevent unauthorized traffic. If you want to run a web server, you better be willing to get a dedicated bandwidth connection. You know, a T1 or greater.

    that's why god invented non standard ports. no ISP blocks connections to arbitrary high numbered ports, otherwise most networked applications (IM, games, you name it) stop working.

    it's stupid to prevent home servers since most home web servers are homework projects anyway and never generate the kind of traffic that would justify a T1.

    every person i know that runs a server out of their house is doing so as a proof of concept, either to learn a new operating system or programming language, or to become familiar with an application before deploying it for real on some sort of hosting.

    the truth is, the uplink on any residential connection is too slow to make the web server usable for more than a few concurrent connections, i.e. not useful for much more than testing or having fun with a few friends. that's hardly enough users to make any money on a service. even if your intent was to profit, a T1 is still a bad investment. it would be more profitable to go with shared web hosting or a leased virtual machine.

    so, the myth of running a commercial service on a residential connection is false, not because ISP's are so great at stopping unauthorized servers, but because it's just not profitable.

    if you want to run a server (web, email, or otherwise) from your house, just run it on a non-standard port. there are tons of services that can help you make the change in ports transparent for free or for a very low price (no-ip.com, namecheap.com, dyndns.com, etc.)

    it's totally possible to run a server on your residential connection against the wishes of your ISP and in spite of their best efforts to thwart you. it's really not possible to make money doing so since uplink speed is an issue on any residential service.

     

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  16.  
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    Terry, Jan 22nd, 2009 @ 9:46am

    Truth in advertising and lack of competion is the real problem

    I can't see any reason why an ISP should not be allowed to throttle, traffic shape, and otherwise manage their network. What annoys me is "up to" advertising, lack of candor telling their customers and prospective customers what they're doing and lack of broadband competition.

    If you could choose between several providers, you could give your business to those whose service and policies you like.

     

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  17.  
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    annoyed, Feb 7th, 2009 @ 8:36am

    blocking inbound ports for admin purposes

    ...Just recently I have not been able to access the modem (comcast provided DMC firewall) remotely. I been on the phone for hours to try and resolve this. Technician can browse to the box but I can't...

    Are they really blocking ALL inbound traffic? It might be justified for people runing full web services but for people trying to admin their netwok....

    Have they made this change recently because it was working a few months ago?????

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    ?, Mar 8th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    HATE YOU COMCAST

    Comcast seriously needs to go away. I cant believe they get away with the shit they do. Wish i could switch to FIOS

     

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  19.  
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    jason, May 17th, 2009 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re: Comcast blocking inbound traffic.

    your a moron. Go back to school. Comcast's phone traffic is exactly the same as any other voip until it hits the local server then it's transmitted through the regular phone lines and switches. The reason Comcast's voip actually works is because it's on an entirely separate signal within the cable line and does not actually run through the internet. This is why comcast's voip service works fine and regular voip has issues due to there traffic shaping.

     

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  20.  
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    David, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:07pm

    port forwarding

    They are probably not blocking. It is more likely that your router is not set up to forward requests to the correct port. If using IIS set the port to 8080 and then port forward http on your router to the same. Just a thought. Hope it helps.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Me, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 1:12pm

    Comcast crap

    Oh yeah, their traffic shaping is real. Was on the phone with Customer Service for over an hour just to find out that even though I am having major traffic shaping issues, there is nothing they can do without sending out a tech that will say that there is no problem, and then charge me for a service call. Funny though, if I have an upload going that is running at 150 kbps, every 15 min to 1/3 hour, my connection "automatically" resets itself. Supposed to get 2mbps up, but I guess Comcast can call uploading files to an online storage site "network congestion". They are a bunch of f**king scumbags. Also have problems with my VOIP phone because of their practices, they say, "Well, if you pay twice as much for Comcast VOIP with 1/3 of the features, that won't happen again. May as well get DSL, the speed is better than Comcast.

     

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