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Comcast's New Throttling Plan Uses Trigger Conditions, Not Silent Blocking 698

Posted by timothy
from the sir-there's-some-whining-on-lines-1-through-57 dept.
clang_jangle writes with this excerpt from The Inquirer outlining Comcast's new traffic-throttling scheme, based on information from Comcast's latest FCC filing. "Its network throttling implements a two-tier packet queueing system at the routers, driven by two trigger conditions. Comcast's first traffic throttling trigger is tripped by using more than 70 per cent of your maximum downstream or upstream bandwidth for more than 15 minutes. Its second traffic throttling trigger is tripped when the Cable Modem Termination System you're hooked-up to – along with up to 15,000 other Comcast subscribers – gets congested, and your traffic is somehow identified as being responsible. Tripping either of Comcast's high bandwidth usage rate triggers results in throttling for at least 15 minutes, or until your average bandwidth utilisation rate drops below 50 per cent for 15 minutes."
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Comcast's New Throttling Plan Uses Trigger Conditions, Not Silent Blocking

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  • Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:40PM (#29984994) Journal

    Comcast's first traffic throttling trigger is tripped by using more than 70 per cent of your maximum downstream or upstream bandwidth for more than 15 minutes.

    Eh? In scandinavia countries new laws will state that "the speed of the line must be atleast 75% of the said one during 24 hour measurement period". And you get throttled with comcast if you're actually using more 70% of what you should have? Why do you put up with this shit?

    • Re:Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pootypeople (212497) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:41PM (#29985022)

      Because our laws are written by corporate interests, not the people.

      • Re:Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LordKazan (558383) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:44PM (#29985094) Homepage Journal

        which is the inevitable result of "private funding of campaigns"

        a more accurate term for "private funding of campaigns" is "buying votes of congresscritters".

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by cromar (1103585)
          We really need preferential voting [wikipedia.org] in our elections. Maybe then we could elect people from a party that cares about more than lining their pockets with the blood, sweat, and tears of us lowly Citizens. Both of our current parties suck, to put it lightly. Also, the name "congresscritters" is really annoying. Can't we just go back to calling them "crooks?"
          • Re:Laws (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Nadaka (224565) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:05PM (#29985538)

            I've long suggested the option to vote against a candidate instead of for one, that would be a variation on preferential voting.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Wonko the Sane (25252) *

              I've long suggested sortition as an alternative to elections.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jmorris42 (1458) *

          > a more accurate term for "private funding of campaigns" is "buying votes of congresscritters".

          The two do not actually have to be connected. All we really need is good disclosure laws.

          And then we need to forbid laundering contributions through fronts. I.e. people can give to a PAC which gives to candidates. But one incorporated entity should not be allowed to give money to another organization that contributes more than a trivial (under 10% of budget) to political activity. That would stop the Soros

      • Re:Laws (Score:4, Insightful)

        by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:57PM (#29985376) Journal

        No because our fool politicians granted Comcast a monopoly.

        That monopoly needs to be revoked so competitors like Cox, Time-Warner, AppleTV, Charter Cable, and so on can move in. When Comcast screws the customer, the customer can abandon ship to another provider..... precisely the way cellphones operate.

        • Re:Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

          by amplt1337 (707922) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:21PM (#29985864) Journal

          I think it's unlikely that a bunch of local monopolists are going to start poaching on each other's territory. What I suspect would happen, even if the official monopoly (which should never've been granted) were revoked, is that they'd be perfectly happy to continue with spheres of influence in which they can each gouge their own customer bases.

          The real issue here is that building infrastructure like this requires such a huge amount of capital that it's a natural monopoly. There's really no way for competitors to come in without a huge investment in laying their own lines that is very much at risk and only serves to lessen their own profit margins. The real government fail here isn't recognizing a monopolist (since the nature of the business is such that one is bound to emerge) -- it's not making sure to regulate that monopolist effectively.

        • Re:Laws (Score:4, Interesting)

          by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @06:51PM (#29987326)
          The problem is not the government granted monopoly of the physical infrastructure per se. It could be argued that this is a case of Natural Monopoly [wikipedia.org]. The problem comes from allowing the same company with the natural infrastructure monopoly to also offer service to endpoint customers over that infrastructure. The ownership of the lines and the sale of service operating on those lines should be kept separate as a legal condition of holding the government granted natural infrastructure monopoly.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jrabbit05 (943335)
            Burden of proof. These vast claims need hard data to back them up. You can't just assume they're a natural monopoly.
      • Re:Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

        by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@yahoo.STRAWcom minus berry> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @08:15PM (#29988476)

        Because our laws are written by corporate interests, not the people.

        Oh, this is bullshit. We put up with it because we're conditioned to put up with all manner of mediocrity, lies, and incompetence in this country. This is only one example of it. Our leaders are another, but WE voted for them.

        People always want to put the blame on someone other than themselves. But the people who are responsible for this kind of crap in this country are US. We are responsible because we expect it and we do nothing about it.

        If we don't want to put up with shit like this, then we should be electing people based on how they specifically say they're going to respond to these kinds of shenanigans. But we don't. Instead, we vote for people because it looks like they have a nice family in TV commercials, or because they're against teh gays, or because they claim to adhere to some poorly defined set of values (ie. "family values", "conservative principles", etc.).

        THAT IS OUR FAULT.

        When you see 6-10% of people undecided in the final days of a national election (as was the case in 2008), what does that tell you? It doesn't tell you that we have a bunch of independent thinkers, as those people and the media will claim, it tells you that we have a bunch of people in this country who aren't paying any attention at all. Not only do they not understand the candidates' stances on the issues they care about, they don't even know the broad ideologies of the parties they belong to - they can't even make an assumption based on party affiliation or label. These are the people that often decide our elections.

        And when you couple this lack of paying attention with the ridiculously low voting rates we have in this country compared with other democracies, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

    • Re:Laws (Score:4, Informative)

      by Saishuuheiki (1657565) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:42PM (#29985042)
      Here in america we prefer a system where the ISP gets a monopoly and can advertise what you could get, not what you will get ...sadly
    • What did your old laws say (or still say)?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bearflash (1671358)
      Because we've gotten so complacent we just take it? Nothing is probably going to change about this until corporations as a whole have their guts and power ripped out and customers gain some sort of leverage back from them
    • Re:Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dwlovell (815091) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:48PM (#29985186)

      Because a T1 line is expensive and guarantees service 24/7. A residential cable/dsl service is far far cheaper and is contractually not obligated to provide consistent speeds, only burst speeds that can be affected by the traffic of other users of the system.

      Consumers went from only have only T1/ISDN as a high-speed option and few could afford it, to cable/dsl that almost anyone could afford and has the performance 99% can appreciate. The 1% that expect 24/7 full throughput should understand they never bought that guarantee of service. Just because their aggregation point wasn't previously saturated and they weren't previously throttled doesn't mean that was an entitlement to that level of service forever.

      • Re:Laws (Score:4, Insightful)

        by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:55PM (#29985318)

        The 1% that expect 24/7 full throughput should understand they never bought that guarantee of service. Just because their aggregation point wasn't previously saturated and they weren't previously throttled doesn't mean that was an entitlement to that level of service forever.

        I don't expect 24/7 full throughput. How about 72% for 24/7?

          I'd figure that a "C minus" is more than reasonable on my part, but apparantly it will get me throttled.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by tsm_sf (545316)
        The 1% that expect 24/7 full throughput should understand they never bought that guarantee of service.

        And yet it is advertised thusly.

        Oh, and you're a mindless tool who'll be one of the first against the wall when the revolution comes.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        >>>A residential cable/dsl service is far far cheaper and is contractually not obligated to provide consistent speeds, only burst speeds

        This is why I only got the 750k service. I knew if I signed-up for 6,000k service I probably wouldn't get that speed most of the time, so why bother paying twice-as-much for little improvement?

        The other thing we need in this country is A La Carte, where you can pay a base fee of $5 plus $1 for every extra channel you desire. (Or if you prefer, stick with the curr

      • Re:Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LordKazan (558383) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:12PM (#29985698) Homepage Journal

        They advertise it as

        "X down/Y Up"

        not

        "X down/Y up for part of the time, X1/Y1 the rest of the time".

        Throttling is a violation of your customer agreement and false advertising.

        The "1%" (it's more than that) that expect 24/7 full throughput ARE THE CUSTOMERS WHO WANT TO USE WHAT THEY PAID FOR.

        You sir, are what is wrong with american commerce. you'll take it up the arse from the corporate overloads all day long.

        • Re:Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dwlovell (815091) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:34PM (#29986134)

          Comcast main service description if you search by your zipcode and look at the "Performance" plan:
          "Get download speeds up to 12 Mbps and uploads up to 2 Mbps with PowerBoost® for only $19.99 a month for 6 months!"

          Click to immediate link in the summary "Terms and Conditions", in the first paragraph:
          "Actual speeds vary and are not guaranteed. PowerBoost provides bursts of download and upload speeds for the first 10 MB and 5 MB of a file, respectively."

          You will find similar clauses in any service description for residential cable/dsl.

          I am all for pushing the companies to get the best service for the cheapest price, but you do that by voting with your dollar. It is not reasonable or effective to agree to a service contract, then demonize the business for living up to their end of the bargain as they said they would.

          The bottom line is you didn't pay for those speeds for any guaranteed amount of time. Techincally those speeds aren't guaranteed at all if your line quality isn't good enough to support the transmission. The only way to get guaranteed service is to pay for a dedicated line, ie: T1.

          Go look at the cost of a T1 and realize it is only 1.5 Mbps, now look at the cost of that 12 Mbps residential cable. Why do you think the T1 is so much more expensive for almost 1/10th the speed? Technology may change, bandwidth may get so cheap it doesn't matter, but right now, guaranteeing 100% throughput at residential service prices simply wont work.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bflong (107195)

            What we really need are stronger advertising laws. Force them to simplify the advertisement so they can't give you X when they say "We'll give you X*5". If they can't provide 12Mbps, then DON'T ADVERTISE IT... and putting some stupid cop out clause in small print doesn't count. The only reason they are in this spot is they were allowed to get away with boasting about these high download speeds that they couldn't actually deliver. If they had to compete with real numbers we would all be better off, even the

          • Re:Laws (Score:4, Insightful)

            by realisticradical (969181) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @06:10PM (#29986732) Homepage

            Go look at the cost of a T1 and realize it is only 1.5 Mbps, now look at the cost of that 12 Mbps residential cable. Why do you think the T1 is so much more expensive for almost 1/10th the speed? Technology may change, bandwidth may get so cheap it doesn't matter, but right now, guaranteeing 100% throughput at residential service prices simply wont work.

            I agree with you fully. But where's my in-between? Residential internet services are quickly becoming a race to the bottom scenario. Sure I could haul off and spend the multiple thousands of dollars it would cost to install a T1 line. But I don't need a T1 because if my internet goes down for an hour or so every few weeks or my IP address changes from time to time my world doesn't end. So my question is, where's my middle ground? Where's the plan for someone who wants to watch TV shows online, play some games and download big files here and there?

          • by Tony Freakin Twist (673681) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @07:08PM (#29987618)
            Comcast is a monopoly in my area (Twin Cities). How exactly do I vote with my dollar?
      • Re:Laws (Score:5, Interesting)

        by itpr15061 (844859) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @06:34PM (#29987036)

        Amen, that was a breath of fresh air in a room full of "me-me's" instinctively chanting that Comcast is eating babies and setting villages on fire, and that anyone who disagrees is a corporate apologist.

        To agree further...

        If someone actually *needs* 250GB or more of data per month, and full-pipe speeds the entire time to boot, then as you said there is a plan available for that, called commercial or business class service. There *is* a distinction, and it's funny that they don't see the irony when they say "I want what I paid for."

        I dropped my landline and cable television both, everything comes through my cable modem (and I stream Netflix heavily as well as Plex) without issue.

        I don't think that Comcast implementing throttling is going to be like what Rome did to Carthage. The reality is that if you are downloading a massive multi-gig file it's going to take a while whether you are throttled or not. Any QoS or traffic management 101 class defines this as bulk or best effort traffic and puts it at the bottom - it's not interactive or particularly time sensitive. Why not make it livable for everyone else? And before everyone hits the reply button and complains that Comcast shouldn't have their upstream oversubscribed, please pause first to grab a clue and realize that every ISP oversubscribes. On top of that, cable plants were only really designed for one way downstream delivery of cable channels so upstream bandwidth will always be much more limited. The only way Comcast can make more upstream bandwidth available is by splitting a node, which means they are doubling their upstream bandwidth by doubling their cable plant. As you can imagine, this is very expensive and that cost ultimately gets passed along to the consumer.

        I'm sure someone in the comments has couched this as a net neutrality issue. I also don't buy that argument since it's not targeted at a specific person or application.

        So yeah, this sucks, but it was more or less inevitable.

        • Re:Laws (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AaronW (33736) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @07:23PM (#29987840) Homepage

          I totally agree. If I'm gaming and my connection slows to a crawl because my neighbor decides to bittorrent 50GB of data I would be pretty pissed. Traffic management is a must for a smooth running network. For the 5% who use 90% of the bandwidth and demand no throttling it just makes life miserable to the 95% who aren't abusing the bandwidth. If you want non-throttled bandwidth, get a business account.

          I myself have a Comcast business account and am quite pleased with it. The level of service is much better and the customer service is night and day compared to residential, but then again, I'm paying $90/month for my connection. Then again, I never really had much of a problem with my residential account for the most part, I mostly wanted a static IP and the ability to run servers.

          All ISPs oversubscribe their networks because otherwise it would cost far too much for them to be competitive. If there's congestion, which packets should be dropped? The casual user or the user running huge bittorrents? Bandwidth is a limited resource.

          The best solution would be if applications properly marked the packets as bulk, time sensitive, etc, but that isn't the case, and instead other less optimal methods must be used.

          DOCSIS 3 will hopefully help, but it will be a while before it's available everywhere.

    • Re:Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

      by castironpigeon (1056188) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:50PM (#29985226)

      Why do you put up with this shit?

      Because taking it up the ass from ISPs is more convenient than moving to another country.

    • Re:Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:55PM (#29985314) Homepage Journal

      Because we're a plutocracy masquerading as a democratic republic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcrbids (148650)

      In scandinavia countries new laws will state that "the speed of the line must be atleast 75% of the said one during 24 hour measurement period". And you get throttled with comcast if you're actually using more 70% of what you should have? Why do you put up with this shit?

      And it's one of those things that makes no sense. Not at all.

      There are two basic types of expenses: running expenses, and overhead expenses. Overhead expenses tend to be relatively fixed. EG: your mortgage payment will stay the same even if

  • Advertised Speed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:41PM (#29985008)

    How can they advertise xx mbps when you can only use said speed for 15 minutes? Shouldn't it be advertised as a burst speed with a real speed of 70% of burst speed.

    • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@@@cornell...edu> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:11PM (#29985676) Homepage

      All cable modem contracts have been written on the assumption that your bandwidth is shared between multiple users. You can burst up to the advertised rate, but you are never guaranteed to get it 100% of the time.

      As much as I hate Comcast, this is in my opinion a pretty reasonable approach. You get throttled *only* if the network is congested (compared to Sandvining which was implemented no matter what the network state) and you get throttled only down to 50% of your maximum (which is a hell of a lot better than Cablevision OptimumOffline's stealthcapping, indefinately at 10% of your initial upstream without notification once you tripped the threshold.) It's a pretty fair scheme.

      Of course the key is whether the throttling will be done in a normal traffic shaping manner, or Sandvine style with false RST injection. I am assuming false RST injection is out of the question since that got Comcast sued before.

  • so you sell me a package that advertises a maximum download speed of X, but if i use it for 15 minutes straight you will take it away for 15 minutes?

    so i have to use less than 70% of X at all times or risk having my service interrupted. hmm, that seems like it is a little one-sided.
  • How far down are they throttling? Down to 50% capacity? Or REALLY far down?

    10 mbps on a 20 mbps line I can understand and live with
    100kbps on a 20 mbps line I can't
    • I just noticed something else

      Comcast has also imposed a monthly 250GB bandwidth usage cap on all of its customers, and it will, after one warning, terminate service for one year to those who exceed that cap twice within a six-month period.

      So you're effectively limited to an average throughput of 800 kbps? WTF??? On a potentially upwards of 15 mbit line? Wow...

    • by radish (98371)

      I noticed exactly this the other day when I was downloading a bunch of big ISOs from Technet. My typical d/l speed when maxed out is around 1.5mbyte/s. After the first few files it dropped right down to 200kbyte/s and stayed there until those files were done (which took quite a while!). So in my case it went from ~12mpbs to ~1.6mbps. Now I know it's policy and not just a glitch, I'll be calling FIOS in the morning.

    • by tonyreadsnews (1134939) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:12PM (#29985696)
      The linked PDF says what is required, though in reading the FCC filing, the summary is a bit incorrect.
      Basically Comcast has 2 levels in the tier (called PBE and BE)
      Everyone starts out as PBE level.
      To get moved from PBE to BE, all of the following have to occur
      - That particular network segment needs to be 'nearing congestion' defined as 70% upstream limits or 80% downstream limits for 15 minutes.
      - A particular user has to be 'significantly contributing' defined as 70% upstream or downstream limits for 15 minutes.
      Being placed in BE means that if there is congestion (meaning priorities have to be determined) any delays will affect BE traffic before PBE traffic.

      To be removed from BE status you have to drop below 50% for 15 minutes

      I think it is good that these are coming out in the open and being shared, and I think it is a step in the right direction since they state they will no longer use a protocol based management method. If there is congestion on a network, someone has to suffer, and it seems reasonable that those placing the highest load should be the ones to feel the effects first.

      I do think, however, they need to mention more explicitly that the speeds they market are theoretical maximum allotments, and to give a average attainable bandwidth if everyone in their (block, building, etc) were to maximize usage.
  • by RichardDeVries (961583) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:45PM (#29985112) Journal
    What if you throttle your own connection for 5 seconds every 14 minutes? (No, I don't agree with the policy. At all.)
    • by gclef (96311)

      I would imagine that they're doing this off a running average, so a short time below the peak won't do...you'll have to pull your sampled average below the peak.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      More likely they just check each minute to see if the total bytes for the last 15 minutes exceeded bandwidth*15*0.7.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rant64 (1148751)
      FTFA:

      Internet packets to and from a specific subscriber are assigned 'Priority Best Effort' (PBE) queueing by default, and the traffic rate is throttled by switching packets to lower priority 'Best Effort' (BE) queueing.

      So, throttling in this case simple means that your traffic is delivered after alle PBE traffic (all other customers) was dealt with in the router's queues.
      That also means that you'll hardly notice the difference when there's no congestion, but it may also cause complete packet loss at busy times.
      Something TFS fails to note is this, at the bottom of TFA:

      Comcast has also imposed a monthly 250GB bandwidth usage cap on all of its customers, and it will, after one warning, terminate service for one year to those who exceed that cap twice within a six-month period.

  • So Comcast is ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:47PM (#29985156)

    Falsely advertising. Isn't that what this really comes down to? It seems like Comcast is allowed to do what they want with the service they provide. But they need to advertise it correctly.

    Not sure about the monopoly bits though.

  • I hope I will still be able to watch youtube and Netflix streaming. I only have the 768 kbit/s service, so streaming video really does use more than 70% of my bandwidth. Waiting another few minutes for an ISO to download is one thing, but losing streaming video would really stink.
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:49PM (#29985196)

    So you've hit the 250GB cap, but you aren't a pirate. You pay for everything you consume - including bandwidth. Your only crime is that you went to another company for video service. You like your Apple TV and the iTunes store, or you like using a slingbox, or you like movies on demand from your Roku, or your DirecTV receiver.

    All of these technologies may cause you to run over your cap, and they all have one thing in common - they directly compete with Comcast's video services.

    Now Comcast appears to be using their broadband monopoly, in the form of transfer caps, to discourage the use of competing services.

    If this isn't the very definition of an abusive monopoly, I don't know what is.

    -ted

    • Actually, its not... (Score:3, Informative)

      by nweaver (113078)

      Lets do a little math. Good video over the net is 2 Mbps for Netflix. At that rate, this is ~9 hours of video a DAY before you get to the 250 GB cap. Do you watch 9 hours of video a DAY over netflix's service?

      Time/Warner's previous attempts to do a 50 GB cap? Thats anticompetitive.

      But comcast's is sooo high that you basically have to be a massive Warez trader or doing something very stupid (offsite backup better handled by Sneakernet) to get to.

      • by Itninja (937614) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:12PM (#29985692) Homepage

        Good video over the net is 2 Mbps for Netflix

        Where in the world did you get that info? And define 'good'. Like VHS quality? Or YoTube video quality? Also, some of use (like those with large families) can easily go through double-digit hours of Netflix streaming daily (especially in the Winter when going outside is not really an option). It's not the 1960's anymore....whole families don't gather to all watch the same show at the same time.

      • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:22PM (#29985876)

        Lets do a little math. Good video over the net is 2 Mbps for Netflix. At that rate, this is ~9 hours of video a DAY before you get to the 250 GB cap. Do you watch 9 hours of video a DAY over netflix's service?

        Your "math" is full of unwarranted assumptions. Chief amongst them the mother's-basement-dwelling single nerd's view-point. Lets try this with a family of 4 using Hulu/Netflix/iTunes/what-not combo to watch TV, movies, sports, buy music, get Anime etc. That's slightly over 2 hours a day per person. Not so "unreasonable" anymore, is it now? And 2 hours a day for kids/teenagers is somewhat a conservative estimation (and am I not master of understatement or what?).

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:54PM (#29986458)

        Good video over the net is 2 Mbps for Netflix.

        MAYBE that's true for netflix. It isn't true for other services.

        I'm looking at season 1 of "Parks and Recreation" from Itunes at 720p.
        The bitrate of these episodes is roughly 4.5Mbps and it is just at the bare minimum of what I consider acceptable. They are going to need to more than double that for good quality 1080p, say at least 13Mbps for broadcast-quality (not blu-ray) 1080p. For example, NBC's nationwide 1080i backhaul is 15Mbps h264 and they are the lowest bitrate of all the major networks, ABC is roughly 35Mbps h264 for their 720p backhaul.

        So, 13Mbps for decent 1080p material - that works out to:
        ~4.0GB at good 1080p
        ~1.5GB at itunes quality 720p
        for typical 42 minute show with no commercials.

        That puts comcast's cap at about 2 hours a day for good 1080p or 5.5 hours at itunes quality.
        For an entire family, with no commercials.

        The average television is on for more than 8 hours a day [usatoday.com] in the US.

        That puts comcast's 250GB cap at about half of the necessary level for itunes quality television, and a quarter for good quality 1080p. For the AVERAGE family. It doesn't account for the bell-curve at all. The cap needs to be more like 2TB to cover the average household video consumption out to the 1st standard deviation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by smellsofbikes (890263)
        Well, given that the average American household watches 8 hours 18 minutes of television a day [latimes.com], all you'd have to do is consider the proportion of the people who use Netflix/Hulu as their television. Just under half of them will be hitting that 250GB cap.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rayeth (1335201)
      Comcast is not a monopoly. They are pretty close, and they certainly operate like one in certain local areas, but on the whole there is competition nationwide. So trying to prosecute under monopoly statues is impossible.
  • So if I'm watching video or using VoIP for more than 15 minutes I'll get put in the lower priority queue? And I'll lose frames or drop calls?

    Oh wait, Comcast wants to sell me cable TV and VoIP that doesn't get messed up after 15 minutes, but asks a large fee for it? I think I see what's going on here.

  • by Wesley Felter (138342) <wesley@felter.org> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:50PM (#29985224) Homepage

    This article is from January. Maybe it got throttled somewhere.

  • ... or if you do and have a 10-minute power blip, expect to get throttled. Well, assuming Comcast's equipment actually stays up during the power blip. I've seen it go both ways depending on exactly where and how the power drop hits.

  • That is the answer. You're only getting what you really payed for. FUCK the DMCA.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:53PM (#29985272) Journal
    If they are going to "throttle" my service, it seems only fair for me to "throttle" my payments.

    "Oh, you've been billing 100% of the advertised rate for the last 4 months? I'm going to have to cut you down to 50% until your annual average is under 75%..."
  • >>>when the Cable Modem Termination System you're hooked-up to - along with up to 15,000 other Comcast subscribers - gets congested, and your traffic is somehow identified as being responsible.
    >>>

    What if it's prime-time and all 15000 people decided to watch Heroes at the same time. Why should I be targeted just because I decided to watch both Heroes and CSI on two separate windows? This is a case of everybody being at fault, not just one person.

  • As worded we see "by using more than 70 per cent of your maximum downstream or upstream bandwidth for more than 15 minutes"
    Which would imply that a few seconds gap of less than 70% traffic every 15 minutes would allow you to go at 100% for the rest of the time.

    I bet it is actually done as "using more than 70 percent bandwidth averaged over 15 minutes". In which case 12 minutes of 100% followed by 3 minutes of silence is 12/15 -> 80% usage.

    And also they don't mean a short burst that uses 100% of the load

  • lag (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaveGod (703167) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:56PM (#29985356)

    Its second traffic throttling trigger is tripped when the Cable Modem Termination System you're hooked-up to – along with up to 15,000 other Comcast subscribers – gets congested, and your traffic is somehow identified as being responsible.

    This I don't like, but I understand. If this happens often Comcast should be upping capacity, but as a short-term solution the principle seems reasonable and fair (putting aside the filtering looking a bit extreme).

    Comcast's first traffic throttling trigger is tripped by using more than 70 per cent of your maximum downstream or upstream bandwidth for more than 15 minutes

    This however appears to be a solution without requiring there to be a problem. Being penalised regardless of whether there is congestion or not, simply for utilising three-quarters of what you paid for. The description in TFA does seem to imply that if there is no congestion the actual bandwidth won't change too much, but I guess it would significantly impact gaming lag (particularly if you're hosting).

  • I live in the SF Bay area, which is mostly Comcast country, but I'm really lucky to be in a city that has municipal cable. I have 12 mpbs down with no throttling. If there's a transfer cap, I've never run up against it.

    I suspect what's going on with Comcast is their subscribers and bandwidth use are growing faster than they can (or at least want to) add capacity, so they're solving the problem with throttling. As a network engineer in a previous career life, I have a certain amount of sympathy for them in t

  • Summary Backwards (Score:5, Informative)

    by HoboCop (987492) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:58PM (#29985380)

    I read the FCC paper.. the summary is full of errors. The individual user does not get throttled until the entire CTMS port is in a congested state (that's 80% downstream, 70% upstream). And 'throttled' is a loose term.. if the bandwidth is available you get it. You are throttled if there are lower volume users on the shared pipe, and even then they just get a higher priority. Depending on how bad the congestion is, you might not even notice this.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @04:59PM (#29985400) Homepage

    Comcast rolled this out nearly a year ago.

    And its not throttling, its a fairness mechanism: It means that light users won't get outcompeted by heavy users, but heavy users shouldn't get starved out unless things are really REALLY bad.

  • If you've got a big download going, you're screwed until it's done. It'd be faster to break the files up into chunks and really dance around the timing.

    That's crap.

  • by sunking2 (521698) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:02PM (#29985450)
    This part is rather important, yet amazingly was left out of the summary.

    During the time that a subscriber's traffic is assigned the lower priority status, such traffic will not be delayed so long as the network segment is not actually congested. If, however, the network segment becomes congested, such traffic could be delayed.

    So what they are really doing is lowering your priority. If there is no real congestion then you notice no difference. If things get saturated then your packets are delayed before other peoples.

  • Sounds reasonable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ceswiedler (165311) * <chris@swiedler.org> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:03PM (#29985474)

    It sounds reasonable to me. If it doesn't, you may need to accept the fact that you're not at all guaranteed that you can get your full 6Mb download bandwidth 24/7. If you thought you did, sorry; you misunderstood, possibly because of shady (but probably not illegal) advertising, in which case I don't blame you for being angry. But a reliably 6Mb connection is vastly more expensive than the $50/month you're paying, so your anger is akin to being disappointed that the 120 MPH car you bought isn't guaranteed to make your 10 mile commute in 5 minutes during rush hour.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by astar (203020)

      I live in a rural area serviced by a telephone coop. I am about 1.8 miles from the phone company. I have fiber to the house. My download is 20mps, my upload is 5mps. Last I checked my download was actually 23 mps. So what do I pay? $80/month. This does not seem to me to vastly more expensive than $50/month. If I have an issue, in my experience, they come out the same day, even Sunday. I guess they put their first fiber in 20 years ago, to a neighboring telco. 18 years ago they started conduiting t

  • by dragonsomnolent (978815) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:04PM (#29985522) Homepage
    The 250GB cap mentioned in the article does not affect business customers (I called to confirm it). I know I have a contract for 3 years (they were the only ones who could deliver service in my area), and was so floored by the assertion that all customers would be subject to bandwidth caps, I called about it. The rep informed me that there is no bandwidth cap for business customers, although if you do use a lot of bandwidth, they will let you know about it (I have no idea what limit would trigger that event or anything, but then again, neither did the rep I spoke with).
  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:06PM (#29985546)

    If Comcast can afford NBC, they can afford the bandwidth being used by its subscribers. This is just a way to increase profits at the cost of service.

    Any broadband provider that fails to understand that bandwidth usage ALWAYS increases... might as well start selling tomatoes.

  • Just to be clear... (Score:5, Informative)

    by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @05:06PM (#29985552)
    From the actual PDF:
    • ... create two Quality of Service ("QoS") levels for Internet traffic going to and from the cable modem: (1) "Priority Best-Effort" traffic ("PBE"); and (2) "Best-Effort" traffic ("BE").
    • During the time that a subscriber's traffic is assigned the lower priority status, such traffic will not be delayed so long as the network segment is not actually congested. If, however, the network segment becomes congested, such traffic could be delayed.
    • Given our experience so far, we have determined that a starting point for the upstream Port Utilization Threshold should be 70 percent and the downstream Port Utilization Threshold should be 80 percent. (The term "port" as used here generally contemplates single channels on a CMTS, but these statements will apply to virtual channels, also known as "bonded groups," in a DOCSIS 3.0 environment.) -- (Basically, a "port" is the neighborhood connection.)
    • (Given the above) When a subscriber uses an average of 70 percent or more of his or her (individually) provisioned upstream or downstream bandwidth over a particular 15-minute period, that user will be in an Extended High Consumption State.

    Simply put, there are four steps to determining whether the traffic associated with a particular cable modem is designated as PBE or BE:

    1. Determine if the CMTS port is in a Near Congestion State.
    2. If yes, determine whether any users are in an Extended High Consumption State.
    3. If yes, change those users' traffic to BE from PBE. If the answer at either step one or step two is no, no action is taken.
    4. If a user's traffic has been designated BE, check user consumption at next interval. If user consumption has declined below predetermined threshold, reassign the user's traffic as PBE. If not, recheck at next interval
  • by neurocutie (677249) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @07:24PM (#29987858)

    mmm so what's this mean about VOIP? and phone service that Comcast might sell you vs Vonage or MagicJack?

    so the kids view tons of videos, etc and all of a sudden you can't make usage phone calls? and will Comcast-supplied VOIP phone service work but Vonage or MJ fail?

  • by quag7 (462196) <deepspace@dataswamp.net> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @08:02PM (#29988320) Homepage

    You know who else used a similar throttling scheme?

    Nazi Germany.

  • by mweather (1089505) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @08:21PM (#29988544)
    I'm looking for software that can trottle bandwidth based on time. Say 100% for 15 minutes, then 49% for 15 minutes then back to 100%. Or am I going to have to write a 5 line perl script to circumvent this?

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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