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Cox Shuts Down Net Congestion Tests

Cox Communications Inc. has shut down a trial of a new Internet traffic system it was testing in its Kansas and Arkansas systems, a decision that comes a week before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gets ready to ramp up a proceeding that could produce a new set of rules around so-called network neutrality.

Cox launched the trials in February, testing out a system developed internally that puts traffic into "time-sensitive" (e.g., Web pages, voice calls, streaming video), and "non-time-sensitive" (e.g., file uploads, peer-to-peer, and Usenet) buckets. As designed, the congestion management system temporarily delays upstream, non-time-sensitive traffic whenever network congestion is detected. Cox, which limited the test to residential high-speed Internet subs, insisted that any delays were on the order of seconds or subseconds -- not enough for customers to really notice. (See Cox: Packet Delays Won't Hurt and Cox to Test New Bandwidth Cop .)

Cox disclosed its decision to turn off the trial today on a Web page dedicated to the congestion management pilots. A company spokesman confirmed that Cox has no plans at this time to conduct any further trials of the system or to deploy it.

He said Cox is still gathering and analyzing data from the trial, and has no specific results to share on the system's effectiveness yet, other than to note that the tests did reveal some behavioral trends.

However, the MSO intends to disclose much more detail when it comments on the FCC's upcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) that aims to codify policies that would prevent service providers from blocking or degrading content and apps beyond the use of network management techniques that are deemed "reasonable." The Commission is expected to get that off the ground Thursday, Oct. 22, with an open comment period to follow. (See FCC's Net Neutrality Plan Faces New Attack, FCC Chairman Pushes for Net Neutrality Rules , and FCC Puts Net Neutrality on Agenda.)

Cox has not revealed what its comments to the FCC will entail, but it's possible that it could present an argument showing why the Internet congestion management approach it tested in Kansas and Arkansas should be considered reasonable.

However, Cox may also have some other ideas in mind. On its posting today, the company notes that it "will continue to explore ways to manage occasional congestion on the network," and will reveal those plans on the Congestion Management FAQ page before moving ahead with any further market trials.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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