Cox Under Fire For Internet Traffic Plan


Earlier this week, the nation's third-largest cable provider said it would begin testing a new method of managing traffic in its Kansas and Arkansas markets in February. According to Cox, during congested periods the new technology automatically ensures that all time-sensitive Internet traffic moves without delay. It defines that traffic as Web pages, voice calls, streaming videos and gaming. Less-time-sensitive traffic, such as file uploads, peer-to-peer and Usenet newsgroups, may be delayed momentarily, Cox said.

Internet advocacy groups and other supporters of Net neutrality criticized Cox for its methodology.

"Cox has taken it upon itself to decide what is important for its customers. The customers should decide what is important, not Cox," said Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge. She strongly disagreed with Cox terming peer-to-peer as not time-sensitive, pointing to last week's presidential inauguration on CNN, which distributed its online broadcast using peer-to-peer protocols.

"The sketchy details of the Cox system make little sense. Usenet is a text-based service, just as is most of e-mail. There should be no distinction between them," Sohn said. "Video streaming takes up much more network capacity than peer-to-peer yet is given Cox's seal of approval."

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Cox says on its Web site FAQ about the policy that the classifications are a result of its network engineering expertise and its understanding of customers' expectations.

"Our engineers reviewed the traffic on our network, analyzed the requirements of various services and reviewed available research from third-party organizations," according to Cox, noting it also took into account customers' expectations. "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."