updated 10:55 am EST, Wed January 28, 2009
Cox Throttling Traffic
Cable Internet provider Cox today said it would start trialing a new congestion management scheme on its network that it hopes will manage the network. The test, beginning for Arkansas and Kansas users on February 9th, will prioritize "time-sensitive" data such as games, streaming, VoIP and VPNs over less immediately critical traffic, including uploads, peer-to-peer file sharing and newsgroups. The system only kicks in when the local network is particularly congested and the more critical traffic is at risk of failing, Cox says.
The company also maintains that it won't use the traffic management as a substitute for network upgrades but does say it plans to expand the technique to other areas in 2009 if it's successful.
Cox's approach has already drawn controversy as potentially violating the FCC's statement on net neutrality, which warns that providers shouldn't discriminate against particular kinds of traffic in a bid to encourage open Internet access. The statement was used by the FCC to rule against Comcast and force it to use a platform-agnostic format. The Cox system would particularly discriminate against technologies such as BitTorrent, which relies on peer connections and has been used for official media and software distribution.
Download-based services such as iTunes are also potentially affected.
Company spokesman David Grabert says the new system is a response to the FCC but hasn't yet received commentary from the FCC itself, which is undergoing a management reshuffle as departing chariman Kevin Martin has been temporarily been replaced by Michael Copps. The expected permanent replacement, Julius Genachowski, is an avowed net neutrality advocate and is believed wiling to bolster US policy on Internet traffic.