Comcast Promises: No “Fast Lanes” on the Internet

Comcast Today: But some traffic has been getting through a little faster.

One concern about the Internet’s future is that the big companies which control the pipes might use their power to let some content get through to its audience faster than other content. (Or, conversely, some content slower than other content.) Maybe it’s because the giant company doesn’t like the content. Or the customer. Or maybe it just wants to make more money and thus charge a higher toll to content providers that want to use the fast lane.

Comcast promises it plans not to be part of any such future. And those promises may determine how far the company gets in its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable.

Reuters reports

Comcast Corp and AT&T Inc have no plans to create Internet “fast lanes” that may hurt consumers’ freedom to roam the Web, the leading U.S. broadband providers told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman in recent letters.

Senator Patrick Leahy last week wrote to top Internet service providers (ISPs), urging them to pledge that they would not enter any so-called paid prioritization deals, in which content companies would pay ISPs to ensure smooth and fast delivery of their traffic.

“We have repeatedly made clear – both to our customers and more generally to the public – ‘Comcast doesn’t prioritize Internet traffic or have paid fast lanes, and we have no plans to do so,'” Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen told Leahy in a letter dated Oct. 24 and viewed by Reuters late on Wednesday.

Maybe, but Consumerist is skeptical about the reality on the ground:

Various enormous corporations have this year been at each other’s throats over how well or how poorly internet traffic travels through their systems. A new report indicates that some of the mud-slinging this year is true: interconnection, or peering, between ISPs is why end-users are getting terrible internet traffic. But, they say, it’s business, and not technology, that’s making your Netflix buffer.

M-Lab used New York City as one of their case studies. They found that in 2013, internet traffic delivered to Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast via Cogent took a dramatic hit before rebounding equally dramatically roughly 10 months later.

Although they are once again careful not to assign blame, M-Lab points out that the data “strongly suggests that the issues seen are not isolated to the consumer-facing, edge networks of impacted Access ISPs, but rather relate to the interconnections traversed between Cogent and the three impacted Access ISPs – Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon.”

All of this is kind of tough to put into plain English, but the bottom line is: Comcast and other major Internet providers have agreed to treat all the content the same, essentially. In practice, though, it appears that some content has been sped up or slowed down … by Comcast and other major Internet providers.

Backchannel offers the clearest explanation:

What started out as suspicion is now fully documented, in a study that has just been released by a nonprofit research consortium called M-Lab. M-Lab’s data suggests the logical conclusion that Verizon and Comcast, as well as Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and AT&T, are intentionally squeezing data coming from some incoming networks — in particular, networks associated with Netflix, which competes with these companies in video entertainment. Customers of these eyeball networks are getting degraded service that cannot be explained by anything other than business decisions. And these eyeball networks are acting with an apparent disregard for users not affiliated with Netflix, affecting all kinds of traffic and all kinds of users. By tacitly allowing network traffic jams — affecting only the highways of fiber that Netflix was using to send its bits — everyone else using those routes was getting stuck.

None of this is exactly a surprise, right?

Other Comcastic headlines:

Comcast Teams Up With UPS Stores: Looking to give its customer service a boost, Comcast has struck up a deal with the UPS Store that lets customers return equipment such as set-tops and cable modems to Comcast for free from more than 4,400 UPS Store locations.   Comcast said customers can drop off their equipment “as-is,” noting that agreement, which aims to ease the process, covers processing, packaging and shipping. Customers who use the option will receive a confirmation or receipt and tracking information from UPS. Comcast customers can also to return equipment to  more than 500 Xfinity Stores. (Multichannel News)

3 Things Comcast May Not Want You to Know: Comcast has managed to grow its pay TV revenue despite a falling customer base by wringing more money out of each customer. The company lost 81,000 video customers in the third quarter, but revenue for that segment increased by $52 million. This follows industry trends as tracked by the FCC’s annual survey of cable rates, which shows that for at least the past two decades, the average monthly cable bill has risen roughly $2 to $3 per year. The average household now pays about $64.41 per month for cable, nearly triple what they paid in 1995, when the FCC began keeping track. (Motley Fool)

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