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Comcast Will Slow Heavy Web Users' Traffic for Up to 20 Minutes
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2008 13:20:43 -0400

What does Comcast consider heavy .. anything that competes with their video services or telephone services?? djf

Comcast Will Slow Heavy Web Users' Traffic for Up to 20 Minutes

By Todd Shields

Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Comcast Corp. plans to slow Internet service for heavy users for as long as 20 minutes after regulators ordered the company to devise a new method for managing its Web traffic.

Traffic from targeted customers will be delayed for 10 minutes to 20 minutes regardless of program type, allowing service to other users to keep flowing, Mitch Bowling, Comcast's senior vice president and general manager of online services, said in an interview yesterday. The slowdowns will occur when Comcast's network becomes congested, he said.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Aug. 1 found Comcast had improperly blocked peer-to-peer programs such as BitTorrent that are used to share videos and other files. In an order posted on its Web site today, the FCC gave the Philadelphia-based company 30 days to provide details of its ``unreasonable network management practices'' and show how they would be changed by year-end.

The commission acted ``to protect consumers' access to the Internet,'' FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in an Aug. 1 interview.

The new system will move away from a focus on applications, Bowling said. Comcast will determine ``in nearly real time'' whether congestion is caused by a heavy user, he said.

``If in fact a person is generating enough packets that they're the ones creating that situation, we will manage that consumer for the overall good of all of our consumers,'' Bowling said.

Comcast, the biggest U.S. cable company, fell 29 cents to $21.20 at 12:52 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares had gained 18 percent this year before today.

Managing Traffic

Comcast reported 14.4 million Internet users at the end of the second quarter.

The company has made the decision to use the new system and will fine- tune it further prior to introduction, Bowling said. The company can effectively alleviate congestion if the slowing lasts for ``roughly between, probably, 10 and 20 minutes,'' Bowling said. The user's Internet speed would then return to normal.

``If they continue that, we would have to manage them again,'' Bowling said.

A user being impeded would have Internet speeds equivalent to ``a really good DSL experience,'' Bowling said. DSL, or digital subscriber line, is an Internet service offered by telephone companies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3 () bloomberg net

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