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Cox's Congestion Management Tests


Beerman
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Cox Congestion Management

 

Congestion Management FAQs

 

Updated 1/27/2009

 

In February, Cox will begin testing a new method of managing traffic on our high-speed Internet network in our Kansas and Arkansas markets. During the occasional times the network is congested, this new technology automatically ensures that all time-sensitive Internet traffic – such as web pages, voice calls, streaming videos and gaming – moves without delay. Less time-sensitive traffic, such as file uploads, peer-to-peer and Usenet newsgroups, may be delayed momentarily – but only when the local network is congested. Our goal is to ensure that customers continue to experience the consistently fast, reliable Internet service they’ve come to expect from Cox.

 

 

 

Questions and Answers:

 

Why does Cox need to manage congestion on its network?

Congestion will occasionally occur on any network when many people are using the network at the same time, or they are engaging in activities that use a large amount of bandwidth. Cox’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.

 

Management of occasional congestion is just one aspect of intelligent network management, which allows Cox to provide customers the best possible Internet experience. We also manage our network for the safety and security of our customers, by blocking spam and helping to make our customers less susceptible to viruses and other online hazards.

 

Why is Cox trialing a new way of managing its network?

The way our customers use the Internet is always changing, so we have to continually assess the latest practices and modify the way we manage our network to provide the best service. We’ve worked with technology vendors and listened to best practices discussions in industry and public forums to develop an intelligent network solution and even better service for our customers. The technology and policies at work in this trial also factor in the guidance provided by the Federal Communications Commission.

 

How will this trial impact my Internet service with Cox?

Most likely, you won’t notice any effect at all, although we hope this trial results in an even smoother Internet experience with fewer delays. If the network becomes congested, this new technology is designed to ensure that all time-sensitive Internet traffic – such as web pages, voice calls, streaming videos and gaming – moves through without delay. Less time-sensitive traffic, such as file uploads, peer-to-peer and Usenet newsgroups, may be momentarily slowed. We expect that any delay would be very brief and likely not noticeable to customers. When the congestion is no longer present, all traffic resumes its normal flow.

 

What exactly will happen?

Initially, all the traffic on the Cox network will be divided into two categories: time-sensitive and non-time-sensitive. When the network is congested, time-sensitive traffic – applications or uses that are naturally intolerant of delay (loading web pages, instant messages, voice calls, email and gaming) -- continues as usual. During that period, less time-sensitive traffic – applications which are tolerant of some delay -- such as file uploads, peer-to-peer and Usenet newsgroups – may be momentarily slowed, but only until the local congestion clears up.

 

Below is a break-down of the time-sensitivity of the various types of traffic that travel the Cox network. Any traffic that is not specifically classified will be treated as time-sensitive.

 

Time Sensitive

 

  • Web (Web surfing, including web-based email and chat embedded in web pages)
  • VoIP (Voice over IP, telephone calls made over the Internet)
  • Email
  • IM (Instant messages, including related voice and webcam traffic)
  • Streaming (Web-based audio and video programs)
  • Games (Online interactive games)
  • Tunneling & Remote Connectivity (VPN-type services for telecommuting)
  • Other (Any service not categorized into another area)
Non-Time Sensitive

 

  • File Access (Bulk transfers of data such as FTP)
  • Network Storage (Bulk transfers of data for storage)
  • P2P (Peer to peer protocols)
  • Software Updates (Managed updates such as operating system updates)
  • Usenet (Newsgroup related)
How did Cox decide what traffic is time-sensitive and what is not?

These classifications are a result of our network engineering expertise and our customers' expectations. Our engineers reviewed the traffic on our network, analyzed the requirements of various services and reviewed available research from third-party organizations. We also took into account our customers’ expectations of how these services and applications should perform. For example, customers surfing the Internet expect that web pages should load quickly, so requests for web pages should process rapidly, and therefore fall into the time-sensitive category. However, uploading a file to an FTP site would be minimally affected by a brief delay, so that’s classified as non-time-sensitive. Our trial is based on these initial classifications, and it is possible we may modify our approach as we collect data from the trial.

 

Will this congestion management technique change over time?

It is possible. Although Cox is investing a significant amount of time and money to test this new method of congestion management, we won’t know if changes are warranted until the results of this trial are complete. We recognize that the Internet is a dynamic medium, and it is necessary that we continue to evolve our techniques and policies to ensure a fair, high-quality experience for our customers.

 

How does the new congestion management differ from Cox’s past network management practice?

Our past practices were based on traffic prioritization and protocol filtering. This new technique is based on the time-sensitive nature of the Internet traffic itself, and we believe it will lead to a smoother Internet experience with fewer delays. We will continue to share and update information about our congestion management practices as it becomes available.

 

Will Cox continue to expand its network to handle more traffic?

Yes. These congestion management techniques are not a replacement for upgrades to our network. Cox will continue to invest in our network infrastructure to ensure there’s enough capacity to handle the ever-increasing amount of Internet traffic. But even as we add more capacity on our network, simply adding capacity is not enough. That is why we practice intelligent network management.

 

Congestion can occur occasionally regardless of the maximum capacity of the network, depending on a variety of factors including individual usage or innovative new uses for the Internet. Congestion management can help optimize our customers’ experience, while we continue to expand our network to keep pace with bandwidth needs.

 

How does Cox's approach treat competing applications?

Our approach is based on the time-sensitivity of the traffic that’s using our network – it is not based on the owner or source of the traffic. For example, most Internet video competition comes in the form of downloadable and streaming video from the Internet. Our congestion management practices should actually help ensure that these and other applications run smoothly on our network.

 

When will this new method be implemented in other areas served by Cox?

At this point, we're focusing on the trial of this new method of congestion management. If the technique proves to be a successful way of managing congestion on the network for our customers in Kansas and Arkansas, we would expect to roll out the new technique to other markets later in 2009.

 

How are customers being notified of this trial?

Customers who have an email address on file with Cox will receive an email about this trial. Others will be notified via traditional mail. You might want to bookmark this Web site, as we will continue to update it regularly with the latest information regarding our congestion management techniques.

 

Is there a way for me to provide feedback on the trial?

Yes. We encourage you to send your feedback directly to <a href="mailto:coxmessage@cox.com">coxmessage@cox.com.

 

 

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I don't buy Cox's responses to the questions. Traffic shaping and bandwidth management techniques have been available for years. What appears to be lacking from Cox is adequate capacity planning coupled with contingent bandwidth services from multiple vendors (like power companies buying electricity during peak times). Internally, Cox should know better. Their traffic engineers should be give a boot.

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