Network Management Update
Today, Comcast provided additional information to the FCC about how we manage congestion on our network, including detailed information about the future congestion management techniques we announced in March. More information and copies of these filings are posted here.
At the outset, it's important to underscore that Comcast manages its network to ensure that all of its customers have a great online experience. The Internet is changing all of our lives and we want our customers to enjoy all that it has to offer - from up-to-date news and information, online shopping, communications tools, movies, streaming video, music, gaming and an array of online services that help us organize our digital assets. For more than a decade, Comcast has been at the forefront of bringing the Internet into millions of people's homes and has invested in a high-capacity fiber-optic network that is fast, safe, reliable and affordable.
Like any other Internet service provider, we manage our network for many reasons including growing, upgrading and optimizing the network; removing spam, viruses and malicious content; and managing network traffic congestion when it occurs. While congestion is not the normal state of any network, when it happens, just like being stuck in a traffic jam on the highway, it can be frustrating. So, Comcast actively manages congestion to minimize the impact of temporary broadband traffic jams.
As announced in March 2008, Comcast is transitioning to a new congestion management technique by the end of the year. While our new technique doesn't share anything in common with our old one, they do share one important aspect - very few customers will ever be impacted. Our real world consumer trials have shown that on average less than 1% of our customers will experience anything different. In fact, the new technique will actually help ensure that all customers get their fair share of bandwidth.
Included on this Web page are a number of helpful links and documents that you may find of interest:
- A link to some frequently asked questions.
- A PDF document that describes this new technique in detail and was filed with the FCC on 9/19/08.
What have we been doing to prepare for this transition?
Before we describe the new technique in more detail, it's important to recap what we have been working on over the past several months. In March 2008, we announced that we would be migrating to a new network management technique for congestion before the end of the year. To get there, we also announced that we would be conducting a series of trials over the summer of different vendor equipment and techniques in Warrenton, VA, Chambersburg, PA, Colorado Springs, CO, Lake View, FL and East Orange, FL. During these trials, Comcast did not receive a single customer complaint that could be traced to this new congestion management practice, despite having publicized the trials and notifying customers involved in the trials via e-mail.
Who will be affected?
Based on consumer data collected from these trials, we found that on average less than 1% of our high-speed Internet customers are affected by this congestion management technique.
What is the purpose of this new network management technique?
Comcast's High-Speed Internet network is a shared network, which means that our customers share upstream and downstream bandwidth with their neighbors. Although the available bandwidth is substantial, so, too, is the demand. Thus, when a relatively small number of customers in a neighborhood place disproportionate demands on network bandwidth, they can heavily contribute to congestion that degrades their neighbors' Internet experience. The goal of Comcast's new congestion management practices will be to enable all users of network resources to access a fair share of that bandwidth, in the interest of ensuring a high-quality online experience for all of Comcast's broadband customers.
How will the new technique work?
The new network management practice works as follows:
If a certain area of the network nears a state of congestion, the technique will ensure that all customers have a fair share of access to the network. It will identify which customer accounts are using the greatest amounts of bandwidth and their Internet traffic will be temporarily managed until the period of congestion passes. Customers will still be able to do anything they want to online, and many activities will be unaffected, but managed customers could experience things like: longer times to download or upload files, surfing the Web may seem somewhat slower, or playing games online may seem somewhat sluggish.
The new technique does not manage congestion based on the online activities, protocols or applications a customer uses, rather it only focuses on the heaviest users in real time, so the periods of congestion could be very fleeting and sporadic.
It is important to note that the effect of this technique is temporary and it has nothing to do with aggregate monthly data usage. Rather, it is dynamic and based on prevailing network conditions as well as very recent data usage.
Will the technique target P2P or other applications, or make decisions about the content of my traffic?
No, the new technique is "protocol-agnostic," which means that the system does not manage congestion based on the applications being used by customers. It is content neutral, so it does not depend on the type of content that is generating traffic congestion. Said another way, customer traffic is congestion-managed not based on their applications, but based on current network conditions and recent bytes transferred by users.
How will we communicate this change to our customers?
We will be proactively communicating the implementation of this new technique through direct customer contacts and updated consumer disclosures.
- Our Acceptable Use Policy will be updated.
- We will post new FAQs to our customer help sections.
- We will send email notifications to our customers.
- We will periodically update this Web page with additional information.
Our congestion management approach will change over time, as we continue to study and enhance our practices and as new technologies emerge. In the meantime, we will continue to invest in our network in accordance with our normal course of business operations, which includes splitting nodes to increase capacity and rolling out DOCSIS 3.0 technology that will increase the speed and capacity of our services. At the same time, we will continue to actively participate in industry-wide technical forums such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), where congestion management and other matters are under continuous review, development, and improvement.