Comcast outlines new broadband policy

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Comcast outlines new broadband policy

Company will use "protocol agnostic" controls to manage traffic.

US cable provider Comcast has presented its long-term solution for managing broadband traffic.

The new system is set at putting to bed a minor scandal that erupted around the company late last year when it was found that Comcast deliberately limited traffic for certain applications.

Comcast maintained that it was only trying to prevent users from occupying large chunks of bandwidth with the use of peer-to-peer services, thereby slowing traffic for all users. However, the move came under fire from privacy advocates and lead to intervention from the Federal Communications Commission.

Rather than limit traffic based on certain protocols, Comcast's new system will prioritize access based on how much bandwidth a user is occupying. The aim of the plan is to thwart the so-called "bandwidth hogs" without singling out certain applications or protocols.

The company said that under its new system, traffic will be analyzed every fifteen minutes. Users who are found to be occupying large amounts of bandwidth will be placed at a lower priority for network access behind users with less bandwidth-intensive traffic.

The intended result of the plan will be slower speeds for high-bandwidth service such as peer-to-peer applications, but improved speeds for normal internet tasks such as viewing web pages during peak usage times.

The new system will not replace or be related to the company's earlier installment of bandwidth caps, which limited a user's data intake to 250GB per month.

Comcast's new plan earned the company praise from some of its former critics. The Electronic Frontier Foundation hailed the plan as an improvement over the previous system.

"The new system appears to be a reasonable attempt at sharing limited bandwidth amongst groups of users," wrote EFF staff technologist Peter Eckersley.

"Comcast's objective here is still largely to prioritize non-P2P traffic above P2P traffic. But the criterion they use is the amount of data a cable modem sends during each 15 minute period, which is a much fairer rule than examining the traffic protocol."

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