Words Fail the Comcast Prioritization Discussion

May 16th, 2012 by · 14 Comments

Is Comcast prioritizing its packets? Are they running over a network separate from their internet service? Are they violating the terms agreed to as part of the NBCU purchase? Lots of stuff out there right now that contradicts itself, but the underlying problem is perhaps the that the industry's vocabulary is just not up to the task.

For instance, the word 'network' can mean anything from 400 count fiber and conduit up to a couple of routers hooked up to a leased line. A 'data center' can be anything from a a regeneration hut to a huge carrier hotel campus to a single cage in a data center contained within another data center contained within...  Well you get the idea, and these aren't the only fuzzy words by a longshot.  So when we ask the question 'Is Comcast prioritizing traffic on its network?', the answer depends on whose definitions you are working with.

Comcast swears that everything they're doing complies with net neutrality, and that their packets travel over a separate network, a dedicated IP path. Engineers looking at the traffic see nothing but a QoS tag differentiating their Xfinity TV traffic from the rest. Comcast says it's not treating the traffic differently, the tags are just for bookkeeping.  But by bookkeeping they mean the very separation that allows them to claim that net neutrality does not apply, for without the QoS tags there is no separate network.

If the network and service are divisible into arbitrary virtual pieces to be regulated differently, then Comcast can surely do what it wants.  And perhaps logically there can never be net neutrality in a system where we already accept that cable tv traffic is logically but not physically separate from internet access over the same pipes.  As Asimov put it in one of his books, sometimes only zero and one make sense - existence and non-existence.  You either have a pipe or you don't.  If your pipe is 'two', then it is also simply 'many'.

Everyone's right given their own definitions. Comcast's definitions are designed to slip between the intent and the letter of the law, or regulation in this case I suppose. The other side's definitions are designed to make those rules as widely applicable as possible, to make it possible to fight whatever injustice is currently being perpetrated. Until the guys who make the rules get involved and decide what their own words mean, everyone will be talking past each other.  But given the state of our fuzzy technical vocabulary, I doubt anyone will ever fully clarify anything.

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Categories: Internet Traffic

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14 Comments So Far


  • 1337 says:

    Rob, given the amount of traffic that goes over the Comcast network, do you see Comcast acquiring another provider in the near term? Any thoughts on who? It makes sense they would be looking at some of the backbones, given their growing bandwidth demands (especially with video) and their growing SMB. Not to mention the industry is consolidating considerably.

    I’d be interested to see what others thoughts are as well.

  • Carlk says:

    Robert, your are beginning to waffle, waver and give yourself wiggle room again. You can’t talk about “Rules of Law” unless laws have teeth behind them. Ari Onassis knew this when he flipped his middle finger at the U.S. Govt. telling them, “The rules are, there are no rules,” much as Comcast is attempting to do today.

    Brian Roberts’ Family have paid a DEAR PRICE for their seats at GOVT. TABLES!

    Hiding behind words in the form of semantics or definitions reminds me of what my earliest college accounting teacher once taught. Since it was Accounting 101, it began an EYE POPPING experience for me to carry on the journey. That being, “FIGURES don’t lie, LIARS FIGURE!”

    There is an easy cross over hear to your “word” commentary as follows: “Words don’t necessarily lie, liars use words to interpret different meanings.”

    Your strength must come from your BACKBONE, Robert, not waffling and wavering! I like you when you mean what you say, and say what you mean with confidence that you are right, until someone can factually prove you wrong, and in this Comcast case, they can’t!

  • CapEx says:

    Rob,
    I think there is a reasonably simple test to resolve wheter or not Comcast’s “separate network, a dedicated IP path” assertion makes sense.
    Does Comcast’s Xfinity service contend for network resources (bandwidth) with Netflix and other Internet delivered content? Said differently, if broadband Internet traffic becomes conjested, does Comcast prioritize Xfinity traffic over that of other content providers using the same virtual connection? If Comcast has a seperate virtual private network (“VPN”), then the answer is no. This would mean that adding capacity to Internet access is a seperate and distinct action versus adding capacity to Comcast’s Xfinity VPN. This is a fairly standard analysis given that many institutions purchase VPNs and expect that there is no resource contention between their VPN and other VPNs sold by their service provider. Since my reading of the testing done to date indicates that Xfinity shares bandwidth with the other content. I think Comcast’s claim of a VPN is bogus.

  • CarlK says:

    Is your friend Asimov an engineer also? Existence or non-existence, zero or one? Is it possible that he and others like him are missing the great mystery of life as a result of not understanding Relativity or Physics minus 1 or R-1, dismissing the spiritual universe where “conscience” resides versus “non-existence” in their world?

    You are limiting yourself by starting at zero and only going forward by doing so.

    People like Comcast are playing with words in order to rob their citizens of necessary “evolution” in favor of their own “STATUS QUO,” especially revenue streams tied to content they are INTENT on FORCE FEEDING the people with!

    Historically, people have risen up against tyranny by Comcast Creatures living in the Black Lagoon who overlook and DISCOUNT citizens’ free will to choose in a spiritual sense representing R-1! Twisting words to conform to their own definition of the “letter of the law” which was agreed to earlier, as you put it, REMAINS BAD CHARACTER.

    DEATH to TITANS like COMCAST robbing and stealing the futures of our children!

  • Anon says:

    If you don’t like Comcast, buy from someone else. Simple enough. Sprint offers unlimited data – VZ doesn’t. Burger king allows one to “have it your way”, others do not. Free markets are free and sort good ideas from bad ideas. What/why does Comcast “owe” you ?

    • CapEx says:

      Why do you assume that Comcast operates in a free a free market? In my area, consumer broadband access sufficient to watch streaming video is available from at most two providers (CeturyLink and Comcast) and in some areas just Comcast. This is a duolopy, and most would agree that it falls short of a free market.

    • Anonymous says:

      Isn’t that the debate in essence? If there is competition, let them do whatever they want to do, if not, don’t start complaining when gov’t starts attempting to “balance” the playing field. Self-fulfilling prophecy it would seem…..

      • CapEx says:

        We are in agreement.
        I would note that Comcast does have a very strong motive to protect their cable TV business by disadvantaging streaming video from Netflix, Hulu etc. If you believe that Comcast does not operate in a free market, then Comcast should be prevented from doing so.

  • CarlK says:

    Regarding the reason for “removal of data caps” at Comcast today, if its “words” sound like the words of a liar, his name is Cohen.” Notwithstanding, advantage CITIZENS VERSUS Comcast!

    http://blogs.marketwatch.com/thetell/2012/05/17/comcast-says-move-to-end-data-caps-not-tied-to-netflix-complaints/

  • CarlK says:

    COST CAUSATION, who is going to determine if Comcast’s tiered rating system based upon “use patterns” in beta territories is validated for “ADDING to COSTS” as a result of factual “additional costs” for providing services, or their usual, “JUST BECAUSE we say so,” PRIVATE GOUGING of PUBLIC CITIZENS tied to a Cable Empire that was created according to the good will in the form of granting licenses, permits and financing by those same public citizens?

    The real story from COHEN was, instead of calling for caps, we’re calling for TIERS, because all of our customers who are RUBES are going to fall for it hook, line and sinker!

    We are back to SQUARE 1 with the LEVEL 3, Netflix, Comcast Dispute which the somewhat complicit FCC has continued IGNORING to date!

    http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/17/technology/comcast-broadband/index.htm?source=yahoo_quote

    Though Comcast, the country’s largest broadband provider, said it hasn’t reached a decision on how it will implement the tiers, it will be pilot-testing two possible solutions in yet-to-be-determined markets.
    The first program will set different allotments for different tiers of service, starting at 300 GB per month, and charge customers for additional blocks of usage when they go over. The example the company gave was $10 more for 50 GB of additional data.
    The second approach would give everyone 300 GB per month, and then charge for additional usage in blocks.

  • CarlK says:

    CC, can Level 3 raise Comcast’s costs for the 2004 dark fiber network sale they are leasing today according to past agreements, or is Level 3 going to start “raising” their per sub charges for Voip and other related services described as “digital voice,” as a result of their old AOL dial up services business giving connections through their managed modem FACILITIES? Those per sub prices to cable were anywhere between $5-$15 per sub per month, when VOIP was first introduced, and now that secret “cable sauce” is probably under $1.00 per sub per month!

    CC, where is Comcast going to be able to PROVE increased COSTS on fast speed connections in order to GOUGE their “VALUABLE” customers with?

    Are they SCOT-FREE from regulation, and filing for such INCREASES?

  • CarlK says:

    Americans as well as global citizens should know, that the reason the voice component of their communications experiences and bills are fast bringing their wallets to ZERO, is because of the Level 3 Network, and nothing to do with those idiots at Comcast, nor others like them!

    Moreover, the same effect will be happening to the MOBILE or CELL PHONE PARADIGM tied to their outrageous prices for delivering sub par “voice” over SPARSE COVERAGE GROUNDS!

    COST CAUSATION is necessary, so bring it on, Comcast, and stop LYING!

  • CarlK says:

    If this COMCAST COHEN CAT persists with the lies he is telling “Mr. Manipulator” as well as his owners in the public marketplace, i.e. our cap adjusting decision had nothing to do with Netflix, I would recommend WALL STREET GUT this flawed business model forthwith, in addition to their own customer base; who should flee them like the PLAGUE!

    Not paying attention to a serious contender invading your MARKETPLACE is a RECIPE for DISASTER, and he is trying to state their decision had nothing to do with NETFLIX!

    Enron, besides shorting your little company, COGENT, into their grave once and for all, I am recommending shorting COMCAST TOO!

    After all, WRONG STREET has a fiduciary responsibility to SOCIETY to SHORT old biz models no longer serving the PUBLIC’S best interests, in favor of the NEW! Right!

    If you’re lucky enough; however, maybe these FRICKEN LIARS at COMCAST will buy Cogent who has been depeered in China; the gateway to WORLD TRADE going forward!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • CarlK says:

    What is the difference between a “flawed” communications market, and a “SICK” one?

    Answer: Dave Schaeffer, and his band of selling misfits who have been described as Dead Men Walking or Zombies in the marketplace giving their store away! Silver spoon tongues are certain to TARNISH sooner rather than later.

    http://www.fiercetelecom.com/story/cogents-schaeffer-we-have-not-found-any-acquisition-opportunities-make-sens/2012-05-18

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