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Cable Technology Feature Article

January 28, 2009

Cox To Try New Traffic Shaping Scheme

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Cox (News - Alert) Communications, the third-largest U.S. cable company, is instituting traffic shaping policies starting February 9, 2009 in its Kansas and Arkansas markets. Under the new policy, Cox will give momentary priority to Internet traffic it judges to be time-sensitive, such as Web pages, streaming video and online games, at times when congestion is high.
Less time-sensitive traffic, such as file uploads, peer-to-peer and Usenet news groups, may be delayed momentarily, but only when the local network is congested, Cox says.
Cox expects to apply the new technology to all of its consumer Internet subscribers later this year if it proves successful in Kansas and Arkansas.
The company’s congestion management plan is designed to ensure that if congestion reaches a certain level, action is taken so that customers continue to have a good experience, and is viewed as a simple matter of intelligent network management. Cox also takes such measures as blocking spam and helping to make our customers less susceptible to viruses and other online hazards as part of those policies.
Of course, some will view the move as an inappropriate interference with customer rights to access lawful content.
Still, Cox expects any congestion-related delays would be very brief and most likely not even noticeable to customers. When the congestion conditions end, Cox would not apply the congestion management techniques.
Initially, all the traffic on the Cox network will be divided into two categories: time-sensitive and non-time-sensitive. Cox says it plans to classify VoIP, e-mail, Web surfing, instant messaging, streaming audio and video, games, virtual private networks or any other service not specifically mentioned as "non-time sensitive" as time sensitive.
Non-time-sensitive traffic includes file transfers such as FTP, network storage bulk transfers, peer to peer traffic, software updates and Usenet access.
Cox says it is possible the techniques could change over time as demand changes. Cox in the past has used other schemes, but the new program is based on the time-sensitive nature of the Internet traffic itself, not specific protocols, as such, to avoid classification methods that target specific protocols such as P2P.
The company emphasizes that its approaches are based strictly on the time-sensitivity of the traffic that is using the network, not the owner or source of the traffic.
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Michelle Robart is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Michelle's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Michelle Robart