Comcast Questioned Over VOIP Net Management

Comcast Questioned Over VOIP Net Management

Comcast, Comcast, Comcast. You can't seem to satisfy the FCC, no matter what you do. While Comcast has just switched to a new protocol-agnostic network management scheme, the FCC has some new questions for the company: namely, why its new policy affects the VOIP services of other companies, but not Comcast's own Digital Voice service.

Last year FCC objected to Comcast's prior network management policy, which punished specific protocols (such as BitTorrent). Their new policy de-prioritizes a user's connection if a CMTS port is congested and the user has been ID'ed as the primary reason.

However, while that's all well and good, it seems that the cable ISP is playing favorites when it comes to VOIP applications and how its new policy affects them. In a letter (.PDF) sent to Comcast last weekend, the FCC said, with regard to a consumer experiencing throttling:
If such a consumer then places a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) call along a route experiencing actual congestion, Comcast states that consumer may find that his "VoIP call sounds choppy (makes sense)." Critically, the Appendix draws no distinction between Comcast's VolP offering and those offered by its competitors.

Comcast's website, however, suggests that such a distinction does in fact exist. The website claims that "Comcast Digital Voice is a separate facilities-based IP phone service that is not affected by this [new network management] technique." (whoops)

We request that Comcast explain why it omitted from its filings with the Commission the distinct effects that Comcast's new network management technique has on Comcast's VoIP offering versus those of its competitors. We also ask that you provide a detailed justification for Comcast's disparate treatment of its own VoIP service as compared to that offered by other VoIP providers on its network. In particular, please explain how Comcast Digital Voice is "facilities-based," how Comcast Digital Voice uses Comcast's broadband facilities, and, in particular, whether (and if so, how) Comcast Digital Voice affects network congestion in a different manner than other VoIP services.
Well, yeah, it all makes sense. Or rather, the FCC's questions make sense; the Comcast claims that its own VOIP offering is not affected do not, unless there's some nepotism there.

Ahem, network neutrality anyone?

Also, Comcast appears to have stuck its foot in its mouth by stating that its VOIP service is a "separate facilities-based" telephone service that is distinct from its broadband service. This would make the VOIP service a telecommunications service, and as the FCC says:
Given that Comcast apparently is maintaining that its VoIP service is a "separate facilities-based" telephone service that is distinct from its broadband service and differs from the service offered by "VoIP providers that rely on delivering calls over the public Internet," Frequently Asked Questions, it would appear that Comcast's VoIP service is a telecommunications service subject to regulation under Title II ofthe Communications Act of 1934, as amended. We thus request that Comcast explain any reason the Commission should not treat Comcast's VoIP offering as a telecommunications service under Title II - a service subject, among other things, to the same intercarrier compensation obligations applicable to other facilities-based telecommunications carriers.
In other words, if you're going to make these claims as a way of explaining why your VOIP service isn't affected by your throttling, you're going to have to pay us those fees telecommunications carriers are supposed to.

Meanwhile, we received an email from the Free Press. Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, issued the following statement:
"This letter is a positive sign that the FCC's Comcast decision was not a one-and-done action on Net Neutrality. We are pleased that the commission is conducting an ongoing investigation into network management practices that might impact users' access to the online content and services of their choice. An open Internet cannot tolerate arbitrary interference from Internet service providers. Congress and the FCC must close any legal loopholes that permit anti-competitive behavior to thrive. As the agency transitions into the new administration, this letter demonstrates that vigilance for consumer protection will not be put on hold."
It will be interesting to see how Obama's new FCC head, Julius Genachowski, an admitted proponent of network neutrality handles things as he transitions into office.
0
+ -

Is there any testing at all that shows there really is distinct behavior differences between Comcasts VoIP and others on a throttled link? Maybe the FCC's just making much ado about nothing?

Comcast may have simply said their VoIP traffic won't be affected because it uses UDP, not TCP. This would be the case for all other VoIP providers as well.

I can't read the blogspot link from work, so someone will have to correct me if it specifically states that the throttling affects both TCP and UDP.

0
+ -

3vi1:

Is there any testing at all that shows there really is distinct behavior differences between Comcasts VoIP and others on a throttled link? Maybe the FCC's just making much ado about nothing?

Comcast may have simply said their VoIP traffic won't be affected because it uses UDP, not TCP. This would be the case for all other VoIP providers as well.

I can't read the blogspot link from work, so someone will have to correct me if it specifically states that the throttling affects both TCP and UDP.

My uncle had vonage and comcast and had repeated issues. When he called comcast they told him that they don't support other VOIP services on there network and to get comcast digital voice(CDV). He did and has not had a issue since though he pays twice as much.

I'm not really sure how they worded it. They could have just been saying that they can't help him troubleshoot vontage, but everything works just fine with CDV. Since then I have been wondering if they are still in the throttling biz.

If comcast continues capping and throttling instead of investing in there network then it will be there own problem in the end.

0
+ -

Well, if your uncle's experience is not an isolated incident, then it very well could be that Comcast is identifying their own traffic via something like NBAR and allowing it through.

If so, they really should be slapped down for violating neutrality.

I wonder how hard it would be to make a plugin for one of the popular torrent programs that encapsulates the transfer payload in a packet that looks like Comcast VoIP? If they don't check the length of the packet, that could be a nice little accellerator for Comcast users. :p

0
+ -

3vi1:

Well, if your uncle's experience is not an isolated incident, then it very well could be that Comcast is identifying their own traffic via something like NBAR and allowing it through.

If so, they really should be slapped down for violating neutrality.

idk hardly a sientific study, but it makes me wonder.

0
+ -

not isolated. had horrible issues with vonage and got same response from Comcast - buy our product. so i did and poof, no problems. then bought magic jack. Problems. tested VoIP quality using myConnection PC and repeatedly got horrible jitter and packet loss. Comcast de-prioritizes VoIP outside of Comcast Digital Voice. They suck. I hope the FCC kicks their butt.

0
+ -

He welcome to HH forums. I should have figured that it wasn't. Thanks for the input. Comcast just seems to be shady to me. I used to have 16mbps service with them now I have 20mbps fropm Verizon. I never hit 20mbps, but over all its just a better service. I have less issues lower pings in games and bit torrent doesn't kill my connection.

Login or Register to Comment
Post a Comment
Username:   Password: