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The Internet Businesses Communications

Cox Communications and "Congestion Management" 282

Posted by timothy
from the why-isn't-everything-unlimited-and-free? dept.
imamac writes "It appears Cox Communications is the next in line for throttling internet traffic. But it's not throttling of course; Cox's euphemism is 'congestion management.' From Cox's explanation: 'In February, Cox will begin testing a new method of managing traffic on our high-speed Internet network in our Kansas and Arkansas markets. During the occasional times the network is congested, this new technology automatically ensures that all time-sensitive Internet traffic — such as web pages, voice calls, streaming videos and gaming — moves without delay. Less time-sensitive traffic, such as file uploads, peer-to-peer and Usenet newsgroups, may be delayed momentarily...' Sounds like throttling to me."
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Cox Communications and "Congestion Management"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:22PM (#26645741)

    ...sucks Cox!

  • by Darundal (891860) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:22PM (#26645743) Journal
    ...describes the executives at the company.
  • QOS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raju1kabir (251972) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:23PM (#26645765) Homepage

    Sounds like throttling to me.

    Sounds like QOS to me.

    • Re:QOS (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:36PM (#26645941) Homepage

      Yeah, prioritizing some traffic isn't, in theory, the same thing as throttling other traffic. To me, "throttling" suggests that they're saying "traffic using protocol X cannot use more than Y kbps," whereas "prioritizing" would be ensuring that, "whenever we have to choose between delaying protocol X or protocol Y, we always delay protocol X."

      Now there are still potential issues with implementation, which protocols you chose to prioritize, and outright abuse for other purposes (such as promoting your own services or degrading competing services). However, in abstract, I don't think it's an absolutely awful idea.

      • The problem is they back into it and still end up with throttling.

        1) We will allow full speed downloading except with a speed dependent service needs a little QOS luvin.

        2) We fail to upgrade our system as the speed dependent services become more and more common (you tube for example, online games with more and more features as another example, voip and then voip + video messaging, and so on)

        3) Now we are giving QOS luvin to 70% of our traffic and restricting your evil downloading (which was originally 99% o

    • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:40PM (#26645993) Homepage Journal

      If they don't want egg on their faces, they better do this right.

      They better be completely transparent about what does and does not get priority.

      They better be completely transparent about any "special rules" like "no more than 128kb/sec will get preferential treatment" - that's more than enough for 2 simultaneous 2-way audio channels.

      They better be completely transparent if they make "additional priority traffic" a premium-charge option.

      They better use common sense when determining what is and is not "priority." "If it looks like real-time, treat it like real-time unless the customer is above his real-time quota, then use more discerning measures" is a good rule of thumb. Another good rule of thumb is "only throttle as much as necessary, no more" so that bits fly without delay during times of no congestion.

      They better listen to their customers and be willing to admit if they make a mistake.

      If they fail do do all of these, they will get some major backlash.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by weiserfireman (917228)
      Yep. QOS isn't the same thing as throttling. Giving priority to high-priority traffic is a basic network management function in a world of streaming video and VOIP
  • "time sensitive"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mariner28 (814350) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:24PM (#26645773)
    Are they purposely referring to priority traffic as "time sensitive" as opposed to "delay sensitive" just to make the average joe think this is better? Don't get me wrong - as a network design engineer I'm all for prioritizing latency sensitive traffic like VoIP or streaming video. Just don't treat Cox's VoIP any better than Skype's or Vonages... This whole Net Neutrality thing is a bummer. I like the idea of democratizing traffic - but only of the same type. No way in hell should FTP or BitTorrent have the same priority as VoIP.
    • by internerdj (1319281) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:29PM (#26645855)
      Except for when I don't use VoIP but half my neighbors do, and I get less connection than my neighbors for the same price just because the company doesn't have the infrastracture to handle what they sold me.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        OK, so you would be happy paying the same price for a 128 Kbps connection or something? Then everyone could use their fully bandwidth all the time (and never any more than that).

      • by icedivr (168266) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:43PM (#26646031)

        How many of your neighbors have to create ~96kbps VoIP stream to innundate the local uplink? It's probably not even possible. How many people using BitTorrent would it take to do the same? Not very many. If you're pulling 7Mbps from a torrent, isn't it reasonable that the ISP makes sure others still have bandwidth available to them? From their description, their prioritization is pointedly vendor-neutral, ie they aren't preferring their own video application over Hulu, or some such competitor. How is this unfair to you?

      • by thule (9041) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:49PM (#26646111) Homepage

        Even big pipes can get congested. P2P programs can generate 100's of connections for each client. For VoIP, it is just a single connection. Why have the router process 2,000 packets of P2P for one connection of VoIP? The router should make sure time sensitive things like VoIP get the priority so people that use VoIP can use it without getting crammed out by P2P traffic

        The people that browse and have Vonage expect the same level of service as someone that is running P2P 24-hours a day.

        I think the discussion of net neutrality keeps getting confused. Maybe confused on purpose. For what reason I am not sure. It seems to me that making sure that, known, time sensitive traffice *should* get priority. Isn't that what TOS bits are for in the IP stack?

        • by Hatta (162192)

          You're right, the network neutrality discussion is constantly confused. Packets have a QOS field for a reason, because some packets really are more time sensitive than others. Real network neutrality is neutral with respect to the source and destination of the packets, not their application.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dr. Spork (142693)

          I have QoS set up on my home router, and I love it. I do a lot of VoIP calling. When I do P2P, I always try to upload at least three times what I download. It feels like the moral thing to do. All this uploading used to interfere with my VoIP quality until I installed Tomato firmware on my Buffalo router and configured my QoS. Since then, I've been uploading at 80% of my bandwidth cap and VoIP sounds great.

          The point is that I upload more since I installed QoS, and it annoys me less. I honestly wouldn't mind

      • Except for when I don't use VoIP but half my neighbors do, and I get less connection than my neighbors for the same price just because the company doesn't have the infrastructure to handle what they sold me.

        Hasn't this myth been debunked a hundred times before? Namely that a single P2P user uses several magnitudes of bandwidth more than a single VoIP user.

    • by afidel (530433)
      The whole reason for doing this was that the FCC slapped them around about their last plan which was that all traffic for high bandwidth users was throttled, except COX digital cable and VoIP was excepted because they used different channels, not the bulk IP transports. This is probably the best possible solution to oversubscription without favoring COX's own offerings over 3rd party providers.
    • Re:"time sensitive"? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dunbal (464142) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:50PM (#26646113)

      No way in hell should FTP or BitTorrent have the same priority as VoIP.

            Yes because you calling your grandmother to chit chat using VoIP is far more important than me sending Magnetic Resonance Imaging files to India via FTP.

            That is exactly the kind of argument you will be dragged into the minute you choose one thing over another. You just can't make generalizations over which type of traffic is more "important".

      • by AlexCV (261412) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @06:02PM (#26646305)

        Yes because you calling your grandmother to chit chat using VoIP is far more important than me sending Magnetic Resonance Imaging files to India via FTP.

        If you need guaranteed bandwidth, you buy it. We receive hundreds of MRIs per months at work and we don't have a residential DSL. We have an optical fiber link (GigE) with an ultimate "Internet" (for what it's worth in a BGP world) link around 300mbps 95-percentile. Guess what, we get our contracted bandwidth... All the time. It's not exactly cheap though, but then we're not downloading porn torrents...

      • It's not about "importance", it's about sensitivity to latency. Interactive streams like VOIP require low latency and jitter to be usable. In exchange, they're limited to a very low bandwidth. Bulk transfers, like FTP or BitTorrent, aren't sensitive to a few tens (or hundreds) of milliseconds of jitter here and there; overall bandwidth is far more critical.

        All that it means to give VOIP higher priority is that when there are both VOIP and FTP/BitTorrent packets in the transmit queue, the VOIP packets should

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yes because you calling your grandmother to chit chat using VoIP is far more important than me sending Magnetic Resonance Imaging files to India via FTP.

        Sure is. In fact, you are stating as much by choosing to use residential cable service to do it. If it's that important, pay for a guarantee.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      why not? Somebody FTPing something is just as important to that customer as the VoIP data is the the customer using VoIP.

  • First Post! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:24PM (#26645779)

    Unless they've decide to throttle /. traffic too

  • by Tancred (3904) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:24PM (#26645785)

    The same technology may give them the capability to do all sorts of mischief, but I don't see a problem with prioritization based on application. If they prioritize their own VoIP but somehow keep dropping or delaying Vonage packets, that's a problem. That's just an example, of course.

    • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:34PM (#26645919) Journal

      That's the problem. As soon as they start "managing congestion" with anything other than the bandwidth they sold us, it becomes an issue. When my Vonage VoIP packets are getting delayed, is it because of Cox or because of greedy bandwidth hogging porn downloaders and music file sharers? I'll wager that Cox says it's not because of them. There is no way to view why or when they "manage congestion" so users will never know, and the product and service sold to them is incapable of being verified as fit for purpose.

      Something tells me that this is not right, and should be taken to court. I just can't figure out on my own how to win.

      • by thule (9041) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @06:13PM (#26646453) Homepage

        Yes, the technology could be the same, but let's keep the issues separate. After reading about this stuff for a while now it hit me that there is confusion. I am starting to wonder if the confusion is on purpose.

        One issue is over subscription. Unless a company is large enough to have lots and lots of peer connections, your ISP is probably over subscribes their upstream connections. This is fine, because on average traffic goes in bursts. The problem is that everything starts to break down once you have a small pool of people running P2P 24/7. These people are just as greedy as the ISP's they complain about. They want a huge "dedicated" pipe, but have others subsidize it. I have no issue with someone like Cox de-prioritizing their traffic so that the people that just want their Vonage to work don't get squashed out. This is a temporary solution because the ISP will eventually have to up their pipe speed.

        The other issue is granting certain companies privileges on a network and penalizing other companies they don't like (e.g. penalize Vonage and prioritize a VoIP partner). This should be illegal. This is a clear case of violation of neutrality. At the same time, the company should be able to directly peer with a company (say a VoIP provider) without violating the law. This may seem unfair, but peering has been a perfectly valid way of reducing traffic on a transit connection.

        The last issue is traffic caps. I don't think there should be a law against it as long as the company is upfront about it. Putting caps on traffic allows ISP's to maximize their over subscription and cater to people that want low cost Internet service. We *want* people to afford Internet services. The market chooses. If you are a big user of P2P, then you will have to go with another ISP that does not have caps. You may have to pay more for this privilege... sorry, but that is how things go. The market must have a way to manage scarcity of resources. If you want more of a resource, you will have to pay for it even it if looks the same (e.g. 5mbit from Cox versus 5mbit from FiOS).

        Don't confuse QoS with net neutrality. As long as the QoS is applied equally, then it should be perfectly fine.

        • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @06:40PM (#26646849) Journal

          The end game on that is a lose-lose proposition. When dial-up was still popular this over-subscribed broadband plan was workable. The traffic generated by file sharing, email, web browsing etc. could be handled in this manner. The trouble is that ISPs did not update or upgrade the 'tubes' to handle the traffic that they themselves intended on selling to users. All this crap about bundled services (triple-play and Quadruple-play) for the last 5 years is about ISP's selling you streaming content and high-bandwidth content. To claim that they need to 'manage congestion' while trying to sell data content is absolute BS. What they want is carte blanche to tell you what data you are allowed to send and receive. period. no arguing.

          We tend to forget that they have this plan to sell you streaming data that has to fit in the same damned pipes as the data you are using now, that they claim are not big enough to handle some file sharing. I call bullshit. The ISPs cannot force the Internet to be how it used to be. Rich Internet content, web 2.0, streaming content... all of this is ruining their original over-subscription network configuration plan. Now, the very same ISPs that are complaining about congestion are fully into planning and implementation of bandwidth intensive services they want to sell you. What they want is for you to only use bandwidth on data services that you have purchased from them. They are double dipping on this, and there is no other way to see it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by thule (9041)

            The end game on that is a lose-lose proposition. When dial-up was still popular this over-subscribed broadband plan was workable.

            It still is workable.

            The traffic generated by file sharing, email, web browsing etc. could be handled in this manner. The trouble is that ISPs did not update or upgrade the 'tubes' to handle the traffic that they themselves intended on selling to users.

            They have, maybe not as big an upgrade as you want, but they have had to compete with other ISP's offering 6Mbit, etc.

            All this crap about bundled services (triple-play and Quadruple-play) for the last 5 years is about ISP's selling you streaming content and high-bandwidth content. To claim that they need to 'manage congestion' while trying to sell data content is absolute BS.

            No it isn't. An ISP's VoIP and video is most likely going to stay inside their network where they can control the QoS and never touch their transit links where they cannot control the overall QoS. As long as the QoS is applied evenly, no problem. Don't confuse the issue!

            P2P can also degrade cable networks where a neighborhood is contending for a small uplink speed.

            What they want is carte blanche to tell you what data you are allowed to send and receive. period. no arguing.

            Thi

            • by Braino420 (896819) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @07:53PM (#26647721)

              If you don't like it, go to another ISP have has bigger transit connections.

              You keep saying this. Why do you assume that most people even have the option to switch and even switch to an ISP with "bigger transit connections"? I live north of Atlanta, GA and I have two options: Bellsouth DSL and Comcast cable. The highest plan I can get with DSL is 1.5Mbps, Cable 12Mbps. Oh ya, I can also choose to get a phoneline with Bellsouth and pay some third party for DSL over Bellsouth's lines (none of the 3rd parties will do naked/dry DSL). Guess which one I go with.

              Not only this, but you somehow expect other companies to decide to lay down some expensive fiber of their own to compete with these ISPs, when the current ISPs had taxpayer money to help them. This is why we, the people, should be able to have a say in this or the invisible hand of the market is gonna bitch slap us all. The ISPs need to upgrade their stuff, with the money that we are all giving them, and stop wasting money on finding out solutions on throttling people. It's possible, other countries have 100Mbps+ connections for their citizens.

              • by thule (9041)

                You can get a T1 anywhere. You can have transit on the T1 from anyone you choose. Yes, it's expensive, but you do have that choice.

                Keep a look out for 2Base-TL or "metro Ethernet over copper." The footprint is small right now, but it allows for reliable highspeed Internet anywhere DSL is offered. Unlike DSL, it is business class and is unlikely to have filtering or caps.

    • by Ichijo (607641)
      Why prioritize at all? Give everyone using the pipe at a given moment an equal portion of the available bandwidth and let each customer do their own traffic shaping.
  • by linuxbert (78156) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:28PM (#26645845) Homepage Journal

    Umm.. thats not throttling, it applying QOS (Quality of service) Throttling would slow your traffic all the time, where as this applies prioritization to data that needs it. Packets have a qos field that says the priority they should be given..

    Im glad there is a telco that will respect QOS - I've wasted a week with a voip problem, only to learn that the telco was shaping traffic and discarding everything above 3mb without paying attention to QOS Flags.. Allstream charges more for this!

    • by Chirs (87576)

      The problem with QOS flags is that the end-user can set them. There's nothing preventing me from marking every single packet I send as high-priority.

      Ideally, if the network is congested than each user should be throttled, but low-priority packets should be throttled first.

      • Really, the ISP needs to give a maximum budget for the fraction of your connection bandwidth you can set as high-priority (probably in practice this would be the contention ratio you have paid for); if you go consistently above that, the ISP should downgrade the excess to best-effort.
      • by Jayfar (630313)

        "The problem with QOS flags is that the end-user can set them. There's nothing preventing me from marking every single packet I send as high-priority."

        Not a problem at all. Routers generally can be configured to pass Class of Service bits as received or rewrite them appropriately to fit one of the ISP's standard QoS profiles.

    • by zarthrag (650912)
      Actually, I have Cox (...and Cox internet...snicker) - granted I don't use the cheap plan, I can really say that I have no issues with them at all. They're awesome about download policies ("Do whatever, just don't get caught uploading.") yetthey have plans that are decent for uploading. I'm running a torrent-based media center setup, gaming on the 360 and God-knows what else, with nary a complaint about the bandwidth I'm using. According to my router (DDWRT), I've moved upwards of 150GB/month at times. N
  • It sounds like they are throttling but have simply change the term for it and the stated reason for doing it. Kind of like when you invade a country to protect your own from weapons of mass destruction that you "know"" exist, and none are found so you say you went in to liberate the country's people from an evil dictator. I know that is not a fair comparison, but that's where they learned it from: if someone objects to what you are doing or why, change your reasoning or supposed goals until they shut up.
  • How is this bad? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jonwil (467024) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:43PM (#26646027)

    As long as the P2P apps and file transfers can run at full speed when nothing time sensitive is using the network, this is the RIGHT way to do things.

    • by cunamara (937584)

      As long as the P2P apps and file transfers can run at full speed when nothing time sensitive is using the network, this is the RIGHT way to do things.

      But it won't. Look at what's being throttled: decentralized services that are not controlled by a content provider. The point is not Web congestion, data flow, etc. The point is to centralize access to data by disadvantaging decentralized services, so that it's easier to wring more profit from the Internet. This is about nothing more than separating users from their money.

  • Fine with me * (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chrysrobyn (106763) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:47PM (#26646089)

    As long as they're using QOS techniques instead of throttling parts of the network that are not under duress, it's fine with me. As long as they're not prioritizing one party's packets over another's of the same protocol (Vonage vs Cox's self-branded VOIP) it's fine with me.

    It seems foolish to expect a consumer ISP to provide 100% of the advertised bandwidth 100% of the time. If you need it, there's a certain expectation that you can get a professional line with some established guarantees there. It's widely known that the bandwidth is oversold, and while it's their responsibility to work out some of the congestion, it's not their responsibility to provide bandwidth for 100% of their customers to be uploading at 100% of their available bandwidth.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EGenius007 (1125395)
      It seems foolish to expect a major airline to seat passengers 100% on their scheduled flight 100% of the time. If you need it, there's a certain expectation that you can get a first class ticket with some established guarantees there.

      As the airline industry is one of the most recognizable services that is also oversold, imagine if the above statement were true. Can you imagine how you would feel if you & your spouse/significant other were in a snowy airport waiting for the flight that was taking you
  • by SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:50PM (#26646119)
    Both IPv4 and IPv6 headers have fields for the priority of the associated data...
  • by mnslinky (1105103) * on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @05:50PM (#26646121) Homepage

    NOT ALL TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT IS BAD YOU FUCKTARDS!

    Why is it that every form of bandwidth throttling is seen as evil? There are some good, legitimate, reasons for managing traffic flow across a network. While most of the pukes on Slashdot may be hugely inconvenienced by having their latest pirated copy of software X, or DVD rip of 'I love it in the ass' over BitTorrent slowed down, there are people who are trying to use the same pipes for more normal activity. Who cares if it takes an extra five or ten minutes to download that file. I'm much more annoyed when a VoIP call, or streaming video gets choppy.

    Whether you mod me -1 Troll or -1 Flamebait or not, you know you agree with me, at least in part.

    • Look, I will spend as much as it takes for me to get the broadband I want.

      Problem is Cox is the only game in town, and if they start messing with me, I am hosed.
      There is no place else to turn, other then move to a new city!

  • For that imminent future of everybody doing hi-def downloads...
  • by John Sokol (109591) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @06:25PM (#26646629) Homepage Journal

    I tried to submit this here, but it's still pending after a week.

    Cox has an auto blocking mechanism for P2P.

    http://videotechnology.blogspot.com/2009/01/cox-blocked.html [blogspot.com]

    • I have lived in Santa Barbara for the last 6 years and have Cox and my P2P works just fine, I have never had such a problem. Then again, I would never download "Hotel For Dogs".

    • by Holi (250190)

      I call crap. I have recieved one of those and all that bs about the file calling back and reporting you is total crap. What happened is that persons ip got noticed because they violated the copyrights owners rights. Cox was then issued a DMCA request against that user. Cox was following the law and not doing anything creepy or wrong. That is why your submission will never get posted.

      It tells you in the notice why your DNS was rerouted and what you have to do to restore it.

      Don't blame Cox for the users actio

  • I know it is not popular to post positives about an ISP, but...

    As far as ISP's go, I must say that Cox is generally very "good". They don't use PPPOE, they don't redirect DNS, they don't lock the MAC address of your equipment to their modem, they don't require MS-Windows "stuff" to set up your account, they have not dropped/outsourced services like Email, they don't block "non-server" ports, they have not dropped USENET, they don't penalize non-Cox VOIP and such, and they have a very fast and robust setup.

    • by rob1980 (941751)
      I've heard some pretty bad things about their service in Las Vegas, while the 10 or so years I've been on their service in Omaha has been pretty decent.
  • I have Cox in Nebraska, and I have noticed P2P speeds steadily dropping the past few months. Cox does offer and promote their SpeedBoost service, which I have noticed when using direct downloads they give you a priority boost in bandwidth if it is available. I've noticed myself pulling speeds that are actually higher than my limit.

    So they may not be throttling everything, merely what they perceive as illegal downloading via P2P traffic. Unfortunately for me, I often download Linux DVDs via P2P.

  • "Sounds like throttling to me."

    Not to me. What are the options for when a network is full? Randomly drop traffic to get it to fit? That will make anyone with sensitive material grumpy. The other option is to select something to drop based on intelligent factors. Now, if you knew that 10% of your packets had to be dropped, would you prefer that your FTP gets dropped, gets retransmitted, and you get the whole thing, but with a little delay, or would you like your voice call to be uninteliigible? I'd r
  • by Holi (250190)

    Granted I did not read the article but from the blurb it sounds more like QoS than true throttling.

  • Its not necessarily throttling but prioritizing data. Some of it is simply time sensitive, I work on SATCOM and a 2-3 second delay can really put a hamper on the ability to communicate. VOIP traffic is relatively small bandwidth, in reality so is web browsing. On top of that web browsing is (theoretically) click, read, click read so there's going to be even less of a demand from such users. Done correctly they could keep P2P traffic and large FTP transfers at nearly the same rate. Ping times don't complete
  • ...web pages, voice calls, streaming videos and gaming â" moves without delay. Less time-sensitive traffic, such as file uploads, peer-to-peer and Usenet newsgroups, may be delayed momentarily...' Sounds like throttling to me."

    Sounds more like prioritization to me. This can effect latency and jitter more than effective bandwidth. Of course latency can effect practical bandwidth of shorter TCP segments, and of course in the end, they will drop traffic. But thats not what they are talking about in the de

  • Less time-sensitive traffic, such as file uploads

    Ummm, when I'm pushing a properties file to production because part of the system is misbehaving, it's a helluva lot more important than stalling the video of Ninja Cat. OK - admittedly - even when I work from home I'm remoted in and pushing that file from the secure network over a leased line - but you get the idea, right?

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