Technology

Comcast Provides FCC with Network-Management Info

Cable operator details past network-management techniques, progress in adopting new ones, how it will inform subscribers of what it was doing. 9/20/2008 04:12:00 AM Eastern

Comcast weighed in Friday night with the information the Federal Communications Commission required after the commission ruled that the company violated the FCC's Internet open-access guidelines.

The information consisted of detailing its past network-management techniques, describing its progress in adopting new ones and outlining how it would inform subscribers of what it was doing.

Comcast took the FCC’s decision to court but said it would comply with the information request.

Comcast told the FCC Friday that the peer-to-peer traffic its network-management technique targeted, and that the FCC found violated its guidelines, often made up one-half to as much as two-thirds of all its upstream traffic -- uploads rather than downloads. Comcast also said that in 80% of the cases, the delay in that traffic caused by Comcast's reset packet-management technique was only one minute, and 90% of the most heavily-used P2P protocols were unaffected.

But the bottom line, Comcast added, was that it was on track to end that technique by the end of this year, as previously announced.

Comcast told the FCC the goal of its new management technique was to give all users their "fair share" of bandwidth while being protocol-agnostic, which means that it will not target the protocols that place a "disproportionate burden on network resources," but instead whatever protocol is using the most bandwidth at times of network congestion. The FCC gave some wiggle room to the company, saying in its order that Comcast might not have finalized its plans by the time the report was due, but Comcast said it would not need any extra time.

Comcast described that new technique as follows:

· 1. Software installed in the Comcast network continuously examines aggregate traffic-usage data for individual segments of Comcast’s HSI [high-speed Internet] network. If overall upstream or downstream usage on a particular segment of Comcast’s HSI network reaches a predetermined level, the software moves on to step two.

· 2. At step two, the software examines bandwidth usage data for subscribers in the affected network segment to determine which subscribers are using a disproportionate share of the bandwidth. If the software determines that a particular subscriber or subscribers have been the source of high volumes of network traffic during a recent period of minutes, traffic originating from that subscriber or those subscribers temporarily will be assigned a lower-priority status.

· 3. During the time 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.

· 4. The subscriber’s traffic returns to normal-priority status once his or her bandwidth usage drops below a set threshold over a particular time interval.

Comcast also said it would take let its customers know online and in an e-mail about the changes in network-management techniques, including the fact that Comcast may lower the priority of traffic for users who are the "top contributors" to congestion.

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