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Comcast Accused of Congestion By Choice 434

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'm-completely-shocked dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A kind soul known as Backdoor Santa has posted graphs purportedly showing traffic through TATA, one of Comcast's transit providers. The graphs of throughput for a day and month, respectively, show that Comcast chooses to run congested links rather than buy more capacity. Keeping their links full may ensure that content providers must pay to colocate within Comcast's network. The graphs also show a traffic ratio far from 1:1, which has implications for the validity of its arguments with Level (3) last month."
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Comcast Accused of Congestion By Choice

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  • I, for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @08:58AM (#34545436) Journal
    Am utterly shocked that anybody could be so cruel as to suspect a poor innocent cable company of trying to protect their cash-cow video delivery business by deliberately sucking at being an ISP(harder than they do simply by nature, that is) and using their oligopolistic incumbent position to shake down nimbler and more responsive competitors.
  • Net neutrality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by airfoobar (1853132) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:08AM (#34545540)
    Seems like they are intentionally congesting their links to force content providers to pay them extra for prioritisation. Ground rules for net neutrality are needed.. badly.
  • by epiphani (254981) <epiphani@da[ ]et ['l.n' in gap]> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:16AM (#34545624)

    This is _ONE_ ten gig link. Lets assume they have another 10 gig to level3.

    His point is pretty clear: ten gig links are NOT THAT EXPENSIVE. We're not talking about a 100 million dollar expense here, we're talking probably an extra 200k per month per link.

    They're intentionally bandwidth starving themselves. I can't see any other explanation, and Backdoor Santa is right.

  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:17AM (#34545632)
    The Comcast argument is that they have a peering agreement with L3 (and TATA too) but that is simply not the case. Both L3 and TATA are providers for Comcast.

    TFP (The Fucking Post) points out that Comcast runs its terminations with TATA at full capacity for most of the day and concludes that they do so on purpose to force services like Netflix to co-locate with them (= $$$ for Comcast.)

    So L3 says to Netflix.. "Hey.. you dont need to be a slave to the Comcast overlord" and Comcasts reponse is to re-brand its business relationship with L3 as a "Peering Agreement."

    Many slashdotters bought this bullshit hook, line, and sinker on the last Comcast vs L3 article. They did so because they learned about peering relationships at some point in other slashdot stories and took their 1:1 free peering knowledge and incorrectly applied it to the L3 and Comcast relationship.

    L3 is Comcast's internet provider. Comcast's claim is like you claiming that you can charge your ISP because more stuff comes downstream to your LAN than goes upstream from it.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:18AM (#34545644) Journal
    While I am also (slightly) doubtful of the "drive service providers to comcast colo"(though Backdoor Santa probably knows more than I do, if he has access to these data, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt) there is one major reason to suspect Comcast of perfidity rather than merely penny-pinching:

    Comcast is a cable company. Their pre-internet business was realtime video delivery. This remains one of their more lucrative segments. As such, they have a built in conflict of interest when it comes to providing high quality internet service. They sure don't mind if you pay them to get your email really fast, or play video games with low ping, or download "linux ISOs"; but if youtube+netflix means that you cut the cord on your cable video, that is Bad News from their perspective. Thus, anything they do that would impact the reasonable performance of streaming video, online video downloads/rentals, etc. should be viewed as malice first and incompetence second.
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:21AM (#34545668)

    No, it's more like the construction company is taking forever to finish the road, and by happy chance they also operate the toll booth on the only alternate road.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:25AM (#34545700) Homepage

    Does Comcast simply not care about their customer satisfaction ratings, or are they on a quest to consciously plunge their ratings into the gutter?

    Well, in the past, lots of people have pointed out that Comcast is essentially a monopoly in places, so, it's not like they're competing with anybody.

    They simply have no incentive to spend money. They've got all of these customers now, and spending money on infrastructure isn't going to make them any more money, so why do it? Upgrading is just straight cost, and without a benefit to them, why do it?

    The very cynical answer is that until they're more or less forced to upgrade, they have no incentive to. They make money by overselling a service -- the closer to maxed out the service is, the more money they make. They don't really care about you, they care about their profits -- they're not gonna spend profits just so some people have a faster connection.

    And, they're not going to give up on the revenue of having people co-locate with them, so they're doubly uninterested in fixing their capacity issues.

    Welcome to the "free" market, it isn't really about customer choice and value -- it's abut maximizing profits and giving you the least amount of service they can get away with. This is a perfectly logical situation when you look at it from their point of view.

  • Re:Oh Comcrap! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:38AM (#34545826) Homepage

    But I also deliberately chose to go with cable internet for the first time because I wanted my own real experience to back up my suspicions instead of just angry posts by random people on forums.

    Sounds kinda like smacking yourself in the face with a frying pan to confirm it hurts. :-P

  • Re:I, for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:40AM (#34545856)
    Look, comcast is a private company that exists to make money. Because they're a private company, the government doesn't regulate the quality of their product. This is because it's assumed that the free market will take over. The assumption is that people will switch to other providers and thus stop buying comcast service. In a market in which there's actually competition, this works quite well.

    The problem is that comcast has a monopoly (or duopoly) with regard to internet service pretty much everywhere comcast offers service. Thus, there's no free market to drive prices down and quality up.

    The only solution in these situations is government regulation. Either subsidize new providers, cap prices, mandate minimum quality of service, etc. Comcast argues that they don't need regulation because they're doing just fine and that they're serving the public good. These graphs show that this is clearly not the case.
  • False advertising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <<tepples> <at> <>> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:46AM (#34545930) Homepage Journal

    A 100 percent full pipe is an efficient use of their resource.

    It also limits the ability of Comcast's customers to use the 6 Mbps downstream burst capacity that Comcast has advertised to them. When an oversold link flat-tops, it's been over-oversold. If Comcast is not capable of bursting at 6 Mbps for the majority of the day, it shouldn't even be advertising 6 Mbps, let alone "PowerBoost".

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:50AM (#34546012)
    Actually a 100% full pipe is barely useable. You need a little slack even at the best of times - 95% full is much better, because when it goes any higher you start getting serious problems with retransmissions and burst latency from even the slightest irregularity in flow. According to these accusations, that's what Comcast wants.

    One way to make profit in business is to maximise the use of your resources - but another is to deliberatly restrict supply of your product, in order to maintain a high price. You may shift less volume, but you make more per unit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:00AM (#34546140)
    Except if you're paying for Service Y, Company X owes you Service Y. That you're incapable of seeing this is mind boggling.
  • by bagboy (630125) < minus physicist> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:07AM (#34546220)
    Let's put this to rest. You are a taxpayer in a state/city where there are 4 lanes of road going in and out of the heart of your city. During rush hour, congestion hits and it's go, stop, go stop. You and all the other citizens who pay taxes in the city/state complain that something must be done. 5 years later there are 6 lanes of traffic. Rush hour is still go, stop, go stop. See where I'm going here? This is a cyclical problem that has no solution.
  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:11AM (#34546266)

    Comcast is a business designed to make profit yes?

    I see this argument way too much. It's very true, but it's entirely irrelevant. We don't CARE if they want to make profit. It's no excuse. It's like saying that it's run by a sociopath sadist that just wants to hurt you, so it's perfectly fine when he breaks your kneecaps. And that simile isn't that far off, "making profit" is at the expense of the customer.

    What I care about is getting the damn thing I paid for.
    And the false advertising, that bugs me too.

  • by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:13AM (#34546282)
    Users ALWAYS will consume what is available

    I guess that explains the low points in the graph....
  • by morgauxo (974071) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:27AM (#34546456)
    No, you pay for a high speed connection to the INTERnet and they are providing a high speed connection to their own INTRAnet with a congested gateway to the internet. Then they make money on both ends by charging content providers to get onto the intranet providing their customers with the connection they already paid for in the first place. They get away with it because the consumers are ignorant, the politicians are crooked. The end result is the consumer will be charged more plus the carrier gets greater control of what is on their networks. This decreases competition further eroding what the consumer gets in the end. Eventually maybe it won't even be possible to discuss and make others aware of what is going on. How long until Slashdot for example is inaccessible through Comcast?
  • Re:Net neutrality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:30AM (#34546500) Journal

    Should Comcast be persecuted because there is a holiday rush on internet video?

    Yes. ISPs should be prepared for peak usage.

  • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:45AM (#34546674) Homepage Journal

    The free market retort doesn't work because cable companies have a government-granted monopoly on that technology. Even if someone wanted to, in most areas, they can't legally start a competing cable service, it has to use a different technology, so you're not going to have real like-for-like competition, you're not going to have DSL-for-DSL or cable vs. cable competition in the same area in most places. Fiber is faster, but you're also starting out the gate with a much more expensive system to lay.

  • by clone52431 (1805862) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:49AM (#34546730)

    First of all, the low points in the graph prove that users don’t “always” consume all of what is available. They only do when the demand is actually that high (wow, what a revelation).

    Go look at that graph again (here it is []) and instead of the flatline, imagine that curve extrapolated up to where it ought to be. Where does it peak, somewhere around 200%? So you could actually double that network’s capacity and still be thinking “oh my god they’re just using it all up!” No, that’s just the normal demand... triple the network’s capacity, and you’d likely find that you have excess capacity at all times.

    So no, the users don’t just “ALWAYS consume what is available”. They consume all of what is available when what’s available is less than the normal demand ought to be.

    You’re just stuck in the position of being so ridiculously over-sold that the demand is 2x what you can supply. And you really only have yourselves to blame for that.

  • by Ichijo (607641) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:53AM (#34546774) Homepage Journal

    As I engineer an ISP network, I'll tell you up front that there is no such thing as 95 percent. Users ALWAYS will consume what is available.

    That only happens when peak hour pricing is below the market clearing rate. With congestion pricing, the pipe will always be 95% full. If it's more than 95% full, the price is too low. If it's less than 95% full, the price is too high, or there's more capacity available than is needed.

  • by brainboyz (114458) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:53AM (#34546784) Homepage

    Problem is the road is bumper-to-bumper for 18+ hours a day. Congestion is expected at rush hour, but if the road can't handle normal loads it's not performing to need and needs upgrading.

  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @11:13AM (#34547050)

    I actually found Comcasts extensive Q&A's on this subject very informative - and its surprising how much you sound like a Level 3 shill...

    Translation: Comcast says that they are a saint and you believe them.

  • by s73v3r (963317) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .r3v37s.> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @02:07PM (#34550076)

    Everyone has a choice in the US.

    Only if you're going to include alternatives that actually aren't alternatives, or aren't even in the same class of product as broadband, like dialup and satellite.

    Over the last decade I've watched as the tide has swung from the "I'll work hard to get what I want in life" attitude to the "Society owes me something" attitude.

    Apart from being a very shitty strawman that equates to "Get off my lawn" or "Back in my day...", you forget to mention that business attitudes have also swung from the "Let's produce a good product and compete on the means of that product and our customer service" to "Fuck the customer, we need more money" attitude.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.