Cox, the third largest ISP in the U.S, is none too fond of BitTorrent users. Previously we reported that they disconnect alleged copyright infringers without warning. Today, Cox announced a new ‘network management’ trial where P2P, Usenet and FTP users will be slowed down when the network is congested.
Cox is known to manage its network by slowing down BitTorrent users, or by making it impossible for them to share files with others.
Comcast was slapped by the FCC last year for a similarly unfair treatment of BitTorrent users, but Cox managed to get away relatively unscathed, even though it was using the same TCP RST packet forging techniques. Cox has no intention of stopping the traffic slowdowns in 2009, it will just use different methods.
In February, Cox will trial a brand new throttling scheme that aims to slow down so-called “non-time sensitive” traffic when the network is congested. This includes all P2P, FTP and Usenet traffic. Although Cox announced the trials – which will start in Kansas and Arkansas – on its website, details are scarce.
For one, Cox does not explain what the definition of a congested network is, how often its users can expect to be throttled and more specifically, at what times of the day this is likely to happen. Secondly, it is currently unknown what measures Cox will actually take, and what applications will be used to slow down its customers.
Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, is also concerned with Cox’s new plans. He said in a response to the news, “The lesson we learned from the Comcast case is that we must be skeptical of any practice that comes between users and the Internet.” Indeed, network neutrality is at stake – again.
“The information provided by Cox gives little indication about how its new practices will impact Internet users, or if they comply with the FCC’s Internet Policy Statement. Cox customers will certainly want to know more about how the company is interfering with their Internet traffic and what criteria it uses to discriminate,” Scott added.
It is really disappointing to see (some) ISPs using “network congestion” as an excuse to slow down users of P2P applications using expensive traffic shaping devices, particularly as this “congestion” doesn’t seem to deter them from taking on more and more customers.
Instead, they should invest in their network infrastructure. Five years from now the demand on the network’s resources might be a ten fold increase from today’s levels. They can close their eyes and wish, but that wont make BitTorrent and other high bandwidth applications go away.