Comcast Details Net Management Moves
Comcast filed the documents after the FCC published an order on Sept. 20 that calls on the operator to stop throttling peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic and halt its "discriminatory network management practices." The FCC gave Comcast 30 days to disclose its current practices, provide a compliance plan on how it will stop those practices by the end of the year, and give greater detail about the network management system that will replace the one that's in place now. (See FCC Puts Comcast on the Clock .)
Comcast is asking the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to reverse the order, but, nonetheless, has agreed to comply with the FCC's request for information. (See Comcast Strikes Back .)
In addition to a previously announced commitment to transition its entire broadband network to a "protocol agnostic" network management system by the end of the year, Comcast also outlined several other "benchmarks" it expects to meet before then.
Among them, the MSO said it will have completed the installation of PacketCable Multimedia (PCMM) and Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR) servers by Oct. 15. By then, it will have also have begun to install "Congestion Management Fairshare" servers from Sandvine Inc. . (See Sandvine Unveils FairShare and Comcast Deploys Sandvine.) [Ed note: More details about these network elements follow further down.]
By Nov. 15, Comcast will have begun commercial "cutovers" to the new system on a market-by-market basis. Once the network-side gear is in place, Comcast will then install software updates on customer cable modems in those given areas and disable the company's current congestion management system.
Comcast said it will send emails to customers at least two weeks before the new system is commercially deployed in a given market. Comcast did not say where the cutovers will occur first, but the MSO is already conducting technical trials of the new system in Chambersburg, Pa.; Warrenton, Va.; Lake City and East Orange, Fla.; and Colorado Springs, Colo. (See Comcast Ready to Test New Traffic Cop.)
Comcast indicated it expects to report to the FCC by Jan. 5, 2009, that it has discontinued its "protocol-specific" congestion management practices across the board in favor of the new platform.
The new system
In a separate filing, Comcast detailed the "protocol agnostic" system that's set to replace the existing one, which singles out how some upstream P2P traffic is managed and delayed. (See Comcast Defends P2P Management .) And it sounds pretty much like the MSO has previously described it -- that some customers could be slowed down temporarily if they are gobbling up an exorbitant amount of capacity, regardless of what type of application they may be using. (See Comcast CTO: Manage People, Not Protocols.)
In the first step, new network software will continuously monitor aggregate traffic usage data for individual segments on the MSO's high-speed Internet network. If overall upstream or downstream usage on a particular segment breaches a predetermined level, the software then determines which customers are using a "disproportionate share of the bandwidth." If the software further discovers that certain subscribers are the source of high volumes of network traffic during a given "period of minutes," traffic for those customers "temporarily will be assigned a lower priority status."
Comcast had earlier confirmed that customers who are subject to this policy could experience slower speeds in the range of 10 to 20 minutes, or until the state of congestion clears up. But that's just a rough guide. (See Sandvine: We're Fine .) However, traffic won't be delayed at all if the system ultimately determines that the particular network segment is not experiencing congestion.
Next Page: Piecing it together