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December 10, 2009, 12:57 am
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Comcast Aims to Help Bandwidth Hogs Impose Self Control - PC World
Tim Greene, Network World
Dec 2, 2009 6:44 am
Comcast is trialing a service that tips off heavy users when they are
about to run afoul of the company's acceptable use policy and thereby
run the risk of having their bandwidth pinched during periods when the
network gets congested.
Called Comcast Usage Meter, the Web-based service keeps track of the
total traffic between a customer's cable modems and the cable modem
termination systems that act as gateways into Comcast's network. The
trial started Tuesday in Portland, Ore.Customers are allowed up to
250GB of traffic per month and after that they are considered in
violation of the company's acceptable use policy. That means the
company may then, as a network management measure, throttle back the
traffic of those customers during actual congestion, resulting in
longer file-transfer times, slower Web surfing and sluggish gaming.
The service allows customers to see how close they are to their limit
so they can avoid high-traffic activities and be exempted from such
throttling. The readings are within three hours of real-time, and are
plus or minus 1% accurate, according to NetForecast, a testing firm
asked to evaluate the meter.
The service is aimed at the 1% of customers who violated the usage
policy that was set up about two years ago.
Comcast has fallen under Federal Communications Commission scrutiny
because its network management policies discriminated against certain
types of traffic, notably non-Comcast VoIP and peer-to-peer traffic.
Targeting specific protocols violates the FCC's open Internet
principles. These principles are currently under review with an eye
toward formalizing them into FCC regulations under the banner of
While its policies don't include throttling specific protocols, they
do point out specific activities that "may cause excessive data
consumption". These include file transfers, peer-to-peer traffic and
newsgroups. "You must also ensure that your use of the Service does
not restrict, inhibit, interfere with, or degrade any other person's
use of the Service, nor represent (as determined by Comcast in its
sole discretion) an overly large burden on the network," the policy
says. "In addition, you must ensure that your use of the Service does
not limit or interfere with Comcast's ability to deliver and monitor
the Service or any part of its network."
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