Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Efforts

from the on-the-warpath dept

Following the FCC’s decision to investigate Comcast’s traffic shaping efforts, the company has now responded in great detail to the investigation, but has done so in very questionable ways. While the company finally admits that its doing some traffic shaping (no, the minor change to its terms of service doesn’t count), it’s clearly gearing up to fight any allegation that it was wrong in its actions. As Broadband Reports notes, the company uses the word “reasonable” over 40 times. That’s no surprise, since the FCC has said that it would allow “reasonable” network practices. It also uses some questionable metaphors for its actions suggesting that forging packets (oops, sorry, “resets”) are perfectly normal activity, comparing it to a fax machine getting a busy signal. Of course, the difference there is that the fax machine at the other end is actually busy whereas in this situation Comcast gets to arbitrarily (and without any explanation or notice) tell you that the machine on the other end is busy, just because it says so. Even worse, unlike with the “busy signal” you’re not actually informed. You just notice that things don’t work.

Comcast also claims that it’s not “blocking” anything and that the situation is no different than a traffic jam for a car trying to get on a highway, where “one would not claim that the car is ‘blocked’ or ‘prevented’ from entering the freeway. Rather, it is briefly delayed, then permitted onto the freeway in its turn while all other traffic is kept moving as expeditiously as possible.” That sounds good, but again, is simply not related to reality. If you’re waiting to get on the highway, you know what the situation is. You know how far you are from the highway and you can see how much traffic there is in front of you and how fast it’s actually moving. In Comcast’s case, you’d be driving towards the highway on a perfectly open road, and then suddenly, without reason or explanation, Comcast would have your car stop moving and pretend like nothing was wrong. That’s a bit different.

Finally, there’s this beautiful section where the company claims that the FCC shouldn’t take any action because the blogs will keep it honest. Seriously. “The self-policing marketplace and blogosphere, combined with vigilant scrutiny from policymakers, provides an ample check on the reasonableness of such [network management] judgments.” Uh huh. This would be the same blogosphere that was screaming about this for months, and which Comcast has totally ignored, denying and stonewalling its way through every attempt at getting some reasonable response.

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Companies: comcast, fcc

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Comments on “Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Efforts”

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Dave B says:

Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Efforts

I think its about time for metered broadband. The “all you can eat” flat rate pricing model is showing its inherit weaknesses. We are no longer “average” page viewers. At this point, I’m sure the 80/20 rule applies here (80% of bandwidth used by 20% of users). With VOIP, torrents, video, etc the load will only increase. High quality bandwidth is no longer “too cheap to meter”

Note that I’m no “doomsdayer”…only that I recognize more efficient pricing schemes will benefit both producers and consumers of bandwidth.

I’m fully aware of your past opinion on flat rate pricing…have you given it a second thought?


ComcastSucks says:

Re: Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Efforts

The answer to the problem is not new pricing schemes and traffic shaping. The answer is more bandwidth. This problem is negated by such technologies like Fiber to the Home a al verizon FiOS…

For the record I think traffic shaping is a REALLY great thing. In its proper context, i.e. Traffic shaping belongs on the corporate network. Heck, I even do a little traffic shaping on my home network so I can keep the kids from killing the bandwidth and I can still do what I want.

But, traffic shaping has no place on the network I pay for… I pay for 8mbs bandwidth every month on time, no questions and I should be able to receive all of it, and be able to do with it as I please when I please.

SomeGuy says:

Re: Re: Re: Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Ef

“I think this is total crap, I think if you’re paying for bandwidth you should be getting it.”

Right. if they want to change the way they’re selling this stuff that’s one thing, but if I’m told 8mbs, I expect 8mbs. If you’re only going to give me 5, say so.

I sometimes feel this treads the line of false advertising.

Bob says:

Re: Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Efforts

Comcast CAN provide unlimited traffic to ALL if its customers if it wishes to. They simply do not want to spend a few million of their billions on some additional networking architecture. There are NO weaknesses if they build it right. Metered broadband is the most asinine thing Ive heard of. If people were only going to use 1MB of data a day they would NOT be paying for a broadband internet connection. This would NOT benefit the customer as you say and would only benefit the ISP if they had any subscribers left when they started using metered usage. The problem is that Comcast is trying to sign up as many new customers they can while still using their old equipment unable to support all the users they are recruiting

Dave says:

Re: Re: Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Effort

I agree that Comcast is being deceitful using the “unlimited” language. However, I disagree with your opinion regarding metered broadband. Sending packets of data over fat pipes is not much different than delivering water, electricity or natural gas (or Amazon S3, or Picasaweb…)…all of which are metered. Metering is good because you don’t pay for what you don’t use.

Comcast’s reshaping efforts are a clear signal that they are bandwidth constrained.

RandomStranger says:

Re: Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Efforts

WTF are you crazy? How would you like to get a bill at the end of the month, that says you used xxxxxxx bandwidth, Here is your bill, $5,684. Because thats the way it is, Check AT&T burstable lines. Now Pay up or be disconected. I say this because the “metered bandwidth” business model has already been estalished by the telcoms. And they are just waiting for the day you have to pay out per kb.. Hey wait a min, you sound like a telcom.. The bottom line here is That its illegal (or should be) to mess with peoples unlimited bandwidth in the mannor that they did..

I mean think about it what if some gamer, who works for your telcom limits your bandwidth, because you and him happen to be neighbors..

Keep it moving FAST and free of obstruction.

Dave says:

Re: Re: Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Effort

No need for sour language…

I am not crazy. Why would my metered bill be over $5k? What incentive would Comcast have to charge that. That is crazy.

I have an Amazon S3 account. The pricing is as follows:

$0.15 per GB-Month of storage used

Data Transfer
$0.10 per GB – all data transfer in
$0.18 per GB – first 10 TB / month data transfer out
$0.16 per GB – next 40 TB / month data transfer out
$0.13 per GB – data transfer out / month over 50 TB

See for details

My monthly bill is around $4.00. I find this very reasonable for the amount of capacity I utilize.

If comcast charged me $0.10 for data transferred in (to my home), it’d take 500GB/month to reach $50/month

Now, I’m sure there would be an additional flat fee for the connection and speed tier, but it should not be more that an additional $10.00 per month. That takes me down to 400GB/month for $50.00

…and no, I do not work for a telco or cable co.

I’m open to discussion….but please don’t resort to name calling.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Comcast Defends Its Traffic Shaping Ef

The trouble is that the providers have a strong incentive to charge you whatever they can get; it’s called revenue. Now, perhaps your 400/GB for $50 is reasonable, though it does assume that the access fee, tier rate, taxes, and anything else the care to tack on is $10 or less. If it costs them, say, $15 a month for your traffic and they charge you $50, they make $35 off you. If they charge you $75, then they’re making $60 off you. If they can get you to pay $100 a month, then their margins look even better.

The question also becomes, what does 400GB represent? How much do you actually do online? Emails? News forums? Web comics? Video games? buying and downloading music, movies, software? How much is Windows Update or a Norton update going to cost you? How about charging you for all the adds that show up on Google or Yahoo? or the spam emails you download with all your legitimate mail?

Anonymous Coward says:

Comcast has been marketing their product as “unlimited” for so long, and now to introduce constraint, let’s face it, the product is no longer “unlimited”.

If I was a company that built cars, and advertised my car to get 55 miles per gallon, full knowing that it only got 25 miles per gallon in EPA tests, there would be several regulatory agencies that would be interested in understanding the discrepancy.

I hate to be captain obvious, but the reality is that if business can’t regulate itself, regulators can step in.

It may be a difficult concept to grasp, but I’ll try to make it as simplify it a bit more– You can’t advertise a product one way and actually deliver another.

Joe Schmoe says:

“…In Comcast’s case, you’d be driving towards the highway on a perfectly open road, and then suddenly, without reason or explanation, Comcast would have your car stop moving and pretend like nothing was wrong.”

Actually, you and your car would be returned to your driveway (since you’d probably have to re-start the file transfer…)

Exiled From The Mainstream says:

Why oh WHY...

Does Comcast keep acting like a thesaurus will get them out of trouble?

Also if Comcast is trying to limit their traffic they need to improve the structure they have otherwise they’ll lose revenue. They seem to think they’re going to lose revenue if they improve the infrastructure. Probably short term thinking at its best.

Either way Comcast is going to be in a real bind if it doesn’t stop acting like the problem they made will go away anytime soon, if at all.

me says:

Re: As if the term Comcastic needed more dirt smea

not enough bandwith?

wasn’t comcast gearing up to provide 100mb connection speeds for their On Demand HD movie service, so that you can download and view HD quality movies in a matter of a few minutes. pay per view style, straight from comcast.

thought i remembered reading an article about that here.

seems weird that 1 tube is getting clogged and needs to be shaped/manipulated, while this other tube is gonna be wide open for use with content that only comcast will provide for a price.

Steve Miller says:

I want Charter to do it too

I’m glad Comcast is doing this, and I hope my ISP (Charter) eventually will do it too. I too pay for high speed access; 5MB, but I’m lucky to get 1MB because of all the buttholes around me sucking up bandwidth with their stupid games and torrents.
The people crying about this are the bandwidth piggies whose butts I’d like to stick my boot up.

SilverWolf (user link) says:

Re: I want Charter to do it too

Let me get this straight….

You are paying for a service, that service is not being delivered, and instead of blaming the provider of that service you blame other users ?

If the power goes out do you blame a random person down the street just because they also use electricity, or do you blame the power company ?

If the water stops running do you yell at the person at the McDonald’s drive through or do you call the water department ?

I could go on but you get the point, get a clue dude.

tek'a says:

Re: I want Charter to do it too

“I’m lucky to get 1MB because of all the buttholes around me sucking up bandwidth with their stupid games and torrents.”

you mean you blame all those other people, who also paid (same as you) for high speed access; 5MB? the same people who ALSO are lucky to get 1 MB because comcast over-sold their own system?

Think of a cake, a tasty internet cake. Everyone gets the share they pay for. Oops, looks like Comcast took in money for 100 pieces of cake, but only made enough to give 10 people the slices they paid for.

hmm.. Comcast can:
1)spend some of its massive profits to increase bandwidth, ie, make more cakes.

2)Randomly decide anyone who is going to eat the full slice (bandwidth) is a cake hog and take it away.

3)Pass out a fake cake to some people (heavy handed “shaping”) and make the rest of the cake last by cutting all the slices into crumbs(people getting fractions of their “up-to” amounts due to oversells).

Ideally, the answer is option 1. they make more cake, and then, golly, they can Sell even more cake! more money! And everyone has the cake they paid for!

But it seems providers would rather play around with options 2 and 3, which are marginally cheaper in the short timeline (massivly more expensive long-run, due to people giving up on cake and switching to pie) and, oops, horrible for the consumers.

Tada. tek’as “Cake” Metaphor For Internet Service Providers.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: I want Charter to do it too

Ok, you clearly have no clue how cable companies distribute cable internet. My connection is asynchronous which means my download speeds with Time Warner Cable are much higher than my upload speeds. I’m currently 30 megabit down, 5 megabit up. That’s 3 megabytes a second on download speeds, 625 kilobytes up.

Now, I have a wireless router in the house, it has wires. It’s 100megabit wired 802.11g (54megabits) wireless. There are times when the bandwidth goes down, but it’s when my Wii, laptop, wife’s laptop, the computer, the and two Roku 2 SX’s are running, my download speed on the computer go down to 800kilobytes a second. That’s just one variable.

If you have a wireless router set up, it’s likely the router or the modem causing your issue. When I upgraded my Internet speed and got a newer Gigabit wired 802.11n wireless router, I found my speeds going batshit slow. After many tests it turns out Time Warner forgot to upgrade to a new modem and the new router was not putting the throughput my old router had out properly. I switched to my old router, got a couple of months of free Internet for my troubles.

Your problem isn’t people around you using the bandwidth. It’s the simple fact you may have missed a step in configuration of your network. It could very well be Comcast being cruddy. But it’s definitely not the people around you.

Also, you seem to forget that NBC/ Universal owns Comca$t. Get a specialist out their, explain your problem thoroughly, and be patient.

teknosapien (profile) says:

isn't this akin to censorship

would this not be akin to censorship? basically the company you purchase services from telling you how you can use it. does this mean that they will start blocking traffic from ABC or NBC video sites because they consider it to be a conflict of interest and start filtering or breaching RFC by placing a RST packet into the stream ?
we need more competition in the broadband arena. Right now I’m stuck with Comcast when Fios becomes available be sure I’ll jump ship

Chris (Jarannis) (profile) says:

Re: isn't this akin to censorship

Yeah, and it also would not be an issue with a net neutrality bill.

Comcast also has a few issues with that whole “Being a monopoly” thing.

They need to open their cable TV/cable internet network to other companies. You know, because they are the only ones allowed to use it, and often own the ONLY lines in a city (ex. Denver).

Doesn’t that make it… you know… a cable monopoly?

known coward says:

while i understand the benefits of traffic shaping

Comcast is NOT shaping traffic. True Traffic shaping would buffer the traffic and send it at a steady (albeit slower) rate than the typical burstiness of TCP traffic. Comcast is deliberately killing traffic that their customers are paying for. If they think their customers are committing fraud they should call the FBI. I think comcast customers should call their local AG’s and have comcast prosecuted for consumer fraud.

LuvULongTime says:

Traffic Shaping

How about British Telecom’s model for shaping? Tiered pricing with caps during peak hours? If you utilize N Gigs off of peak hours … it doesn’t count towards your cap.

Oh, and as to shaping, shape/slow non-interactive (P2P/ftp) during peak hours only.

Paletable in light of no instantaneous additional bandwidth from a company?

I’m not saying it’s perfect, what I’m saying is … why isn’t Comcast doing that? I know it’s hard, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. It saves Comcast transit dollars, since they only pay based on peak usage.

Yes it would require interfaces for customers to see and track their usage, but I would think that would be a good thing. Good for the knowledgeable types and good for the unknowingly compromised.

I’m crazy … I know. I’ll shut up now.

Merrill Jackson says:

Comcast and consumer fraud

I firmly believe that Comcast is guilty of massive consumer fraud. Their mumbo jumbo customer service answers and excuses do not address the fact that their are billing me for something that does not work.

In addition, here in the Nashville area, they are the only wheel in town. They are somehow in collusion with the band of crooks we have in the Tennessee State Legislature, and between the two organizations Comcast has managed to laugh at anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws.

I will gladly document my unpleasant experiences with this massive fraud and join onto any class action suit that ensues.

Merrill Jackson
Nashville, Tennessee

N. Patel says:

Comcast speeds suck donkey schlong!

I used to have patmedia b4 and I used get 1.3 megs down to 400 k down.. now since comecast has taken over.. my speed have fallen to 35k — and falling…? like wtf? I called tech support.. they see nothing as usual.. having a tech clown to see if this issue.. I’ve run speed test on the website and comes close to 10 megs down and 2.5 megs up speeds.. then I download like something from eith megaupload or starts and 800k down all the way down to 35k down.. wtf comcast.. any one can tell me what is going on?

Jason says:

Comcast seriously need some competition

My neighborhood has only comcast offerring broadband services starting at $60. Right across the street where cox and qwest competes there are plans starting at $20 for the same bandwidth comcast offers…MONOPOLY anyone?
And the traffic shaping really is truly getting ridiculous. Limiting to like 200kb on a supposebly 6mbps service is fine with me, but I’m getting ~35kb on p2p downloads! I can get a good 10kb/sec with my old dial up company!

Shawn (profile) says:

Think, educate yourself, then comment intelligently...

Why does everyone pander to emotion, and avoid reality? There are a LOT of stupid posts here! I comment on things like once a year, and I could probably write pages, but I’ll try to keep it short.

First, educate yourself on the issue and background. FOR YEARS (I’m guessing 10+), Comcast has had a TOS/AUP that didn’t specifically define “excessive,” (it does now, they have published a monthly ‘cap’) but did say that usage was subject to residential use, not running a server, and usage that impacted others on the network was subject to violation, etc.

“Unlimited” was ALWAYS in the context of unlimited ACCESS, NOT USAGE. NEVER once did any cable network that I know of (Comcast, MediaOne, RoadRunner, @Home, AT&T Broadband, Time Warner, etc) say you can ‘do whatever you want with your connection.’ Access being in the context of marketing in regards to dial-up comparisons… ie, you don’t have “hours” to usage, you have “unlimited” access to connectivity – obviously with some restrictions such as maintenance and outages, you don’t have a specific SLA – this is residential service. And speeds have always been “UP TO”… shit so is Verizon and ALL residential products that I’m aware. Unless you have a SLA, and a dedicated circuit, you’re not getting a guarantee or CIR. Again, UP TO… has ALWAYS been used.

For those that say I pay for 8Mbps and I should get it 24/7, you are stupid! You pay for UP TO 8Mbps, and I very much agree that you should get those speeds at most times, on average, and for all REASONABLE use. BUT if you chose to transfer 8Mbps 24/7, with a residential service, at some point I totally support your ISP stepping in. If you’re connecting to a source that can support it, and you NEVER get near your cap speed, that IS something to at least investigate and complain about. I have Comcast DOCSIS3.0 service at 50/10 and get my FULL 50d and 10u – almost 24 hours of the day. Sometimes I do slow to 40/8 or so. Sometimes while I get 10Mbps to one site max, I can still get 35+Mbps to others.

Anyway, to get back on point… if you want GUARANTEED or DEDICATED bandwidth… pay for it. It’s NOT residential service or cable modem, or even FiOS, buy yourself a circuit and you’ll most likely be billed at 95 percentile billing. Then you can use as much as you want, you have the right.

In Comcast’s case, from what I’ve read, it’s not even an 80/20 rule.. it’s more like 5% OR LESS of the top users use MORE than 90% of the bandwidth.

Bandwidth is NOT FREE or unlimited. It COSTS money. It can COST a lot of money, and for those transferring 100’s of G or more a month, you’re costing more than they get from you…. and the cost is direct and indirect. Indirectly, they are forced to upgrade infrastructure to support – which is a huge cost.

FIOS this FIOS that… it’s a broken business model, and it’s SO LIMITED in availability. Those that do have access to it, yeah – it’s a GREAT competitor to cable, but DSL really doesn’t compare to Comcast. FIOS may even be better than Comcast data/cable modem, but again – look at the availability. And the long-term business model. FIOS is not sustainable, you’ll see long-term. It’s not an apples to apples comparison right now. Wait until FIOS can serve at LEAST 66% or 2/3rds of the market share that cable has, then on scale you can start to compare better.

Comcast has an IP network unlike any other in scale. One of the LARGEST in the WORLD! Look at AS 7922 and see it’s role in the Internet. Doing some research, you can see OC768 (40G) paths of 280G (7x40G)!!! 10G appears to be their LOWEST bandwidth circuit in any data path!!! Understand their business model for a second, and you’ll learn that their ‘converged network’ carries traditional residential service, along with advanced commercial solutions. You’ll see the common network is not the bottleneck, as much as your last mile and cable modem… and it’s not just a matter of more “cake” or anything… it’s a HUGE expense to get that last mile bandwidth. If you want DEDICATED, you can get it too! Comcast is offering metro-Ethernet and other dedicated services…. they do cost a lot more, they cost what any commercial solution does.

SHOP around… WHO can offer you UP to 8Mbps, or more, for $50 or less a month!?? It’s limited. DSL is very limited in such, FIOS can blow the speeds, but is so limited in it’s availability, so cable is really the only current company able to offer this to the general public – to TENS of MILLIONS of households!

NO company CAN offer UNLIMITED bandwidth to all of it’s customers. Well, okay – at a certain CIR, yes. So, if EVERYONE wanted unlimited bandwidth usage, you’d probably get 500kbps max rate.

To you BOB… explain how you ‘build it right’? What do you charge customers? What is the max burst rate?

So yeah, sending a RST packet on your behalf was not the best plan from a PR perspective for sure. But technically, putting aside the emotional factors of it all, it wasn’t the woest technical idea ever. It was a mistake in my eyes, a bad practice. But networks DO need administration and there NEED to be methods to better ensure some traffic is policied. There should be better transparency in such.

BANDSWIDTH is a FINITE resources, as are CPU cycles, fiber, power and space, etc.

Simply, I’m on the boat of metered usage. Pay for what you use… it’s already the telecom model, Comcast has always paid for it’s bandwidth usage – generally 95% billing. Think cell phones in many ways. Cell phones have the same issues w/ large bandwidth usage too, calling minutes are becoming less of a factor – but the same concept, it’s a resource. Maybe you get a huge allotment of MB’s, and then start paying… whatever, but once you start paying, you’ll reconsider just sharing your connection (eg P2P) with the world, etc.

It’s simple, well – fairly complex actually, business. If anyone understands that, and can do better– start your own company, beat Comcast and put an end to their business model. The thing is, Comcast runs a business pretty darn well! Sure, you can’t please everyone, and there are unhappy customers… but the funny thing is, I’ve been in the ISP business for 12+ years… people complain all they want, but when you shop around – cable very regularly is the BEST option on the market. IF you have FIOS, you’re lucky and it’s right there, if not better from a data perspective. But it’s also a business model that isn’t scaling, and is failing in most regards. Just ask Verizon and look at their books… why have they slowed and almost stopped new growth and installation? Well, because it costs $1500 per HOME passed, if not more – that’s passed, not subscribed. And that’s just the plant build, not even the net operations costs, customer support costs, etc, etc.

In a perfect world, we’d have free and unlimited Internet. Free and unlimited healthcare. But nothing is really free, someone pays for it. I like the idea of I pay for what I get/use, rather than into a pool and everyone takes what they think is fair to them.

Tom says:

They absolutely do shape traffic

Comcast absolutely positively WILL (and still) kick you off the internet for “too much” uploading. What’s too much? Actually, in my experience, full bore 500kb/s 15MB+ file. I have large photographs that I’m trying to upload to a printer and I can’t. Nothing illegal. Perfectly fine. I have tested this time after time. It is 100% proven. It doesn’t matter where you’re uploading to. What protocol/port or what domain. It doesn’t matter time of day. It doesn’t matter from which computer or operating system (I have multiple). It doesn’t matter if I’m going through a router or plugged directly into the modem. Without a sliver of a doubt, they WILL kick you off and tech support WILL blame your hardware. It’s typically a temporary ban and you can expect to have internet connectivity back within 15 minutes or so and don’t forget to reset your Comcast modem as well.

Lucy says:

I refuse to even so much as live in a place where Comcast is the only broadband.

My husband and I won’t use DSL because the speeds are entirely too slow. We started in Texas and moved to Virginia. Now he wants to move back to Texas, but a different town than we were in originally. The new town he wants to move to has Comcast as its only viable alternative to DSL.

We both work online as video game developers, using the internet to telecommute. I told him about all the crap Comcast pulls and asked him “do you really want to deal with the crap they’ll put us through and cause us to potentially lose our jobs?” He agreed whole heartedly.

So there you have it. We’re probably not the only ones refusing to move somewhere because Comcast is the broadband provider in that area. So Comcast is inadvertently causing businesses in the locality of its service area to lose money.

Shawn (profile) says:

RE: I refuse to even so much as live in a place where Comcast is the only broadband

I respect your choice… but it seems a little extreme to me also. Maintaining the option of having choices is great, redundancy or otherwise. Competition is good too.

What you describe – you could get their business service and be good… no caps on that, etc.

I totally agree – DSL is too slow.
I am similar — I am a Network Engineer and telecommute… I have Comcast business cable modem (/30 static IP) w/ no caps and Clear 4G service…. yes, Comcast is a large Clear investor. I am not aware of any other viable options for me. I am shopping around for a dedicated circuit – a metro E type solution. If you have high bandwitdh needs, SLA, and it’s critical to your business, such an option may be something to consider … getting a SLA and all.

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