Cox, the latest US provider to throttle traffic
Now while Cox Communications is a long way away in the US, it is worth watching out to see what is happening in other countries. Over on The Register they have the details on some investigation Robb Topolski has carried out that adds Cox to the list of providers throttling peer to peer traffic.
The statement from Cox will have a very distinctive ring to it for UK broadband users:
"To ensure the best possible online experience for our customers, Cox actively manages network traffic through a variety of methods including traffic prioritization and protocol filtering. Cox does not prohibit the use of file-sharing services for uploads or downloads, or discriminate against any specific services in any way. To help our customers make the most out of their Internet experience, we take proactive measures to ensure that bandwidth intensive applications do not negatively impact their service."Statement from Cox Communications
While Sandvine hardware was identified as the hardware carrying out the traffic management with Comcast, as yet it has not been verified if this is the case with Cox, but apparently there is a 90% certainty the same hardware is used.
The Sandvine PTS 14000 hardware was actually selected by Carphone Warehouse and announced in August 2007. Sandvine stated at the time in the press release:
"Sandvine's intelligent broadband management solutions enable broadband providers to derive additional value from their existing network infrastructure with bandwidth savings, as well as ensure high-quality service delivery that increases subscriber satisfaction ... Sandvine is pleased to assist Carphone Warehouse Networks with immediate network improvements and plan for ongoing network growth."Tom Donnelly (Executive Vice President), Sandvine
The platform deployed will handle up to 10Gbps of traffic and with Carphone Warehouse having some 2.4 million customers, we hope that multiple blocks of 10Gbps will be used. If a single 10Gbps platform is used, this gives a budget of around 4Kbps (Kilo bits per second) for each user. Precisely what Carphone Warehouse are using the platform to do is unclear and we do not know whether anything similar to Comcast is happening.
The average end-user generally sees traffic management as a bad tool, mainly because it appears to happen clandestinely and very little information is ever available to help people judge whether there is a network issue or that, because it is peak time, some applications will run slower or even grind to a halt in some cases. Where traffic management really only means adding a few minutes to a one hour download, most will not complain, but if a one hour download becomes an eight hour one people will get frustrated.
Traffic management seems to be here to stay, and it is what allows providers to advertise products with unlimited downloads at a price that makes it look better than other providers with 25 or 40GB usage allowances. Whether that is right or not, depends on your viewpoint and brings us back around to the 'what is unlimited' debate.