Traffic Shaping By Any Other Name is Still…Traffic Shaping

Cox Communications has announced that they are going to test a traffic shaping, er, Internet Congestion Reduction Tool, in Kansas and Arkansas over the next few months, with hopes of deploying their traffic shaping, er, Internet Congestion Reduction Tool to all users by the end of the year.

It was discovered that Cox was using the same type of traffic shaping technology as Comcast, who is currently under FCC rulings to cease any and all traffic shaping. Cox must have been paying attention, because they reduced their use of traffic shaping starting in August 2008 and completely discontinued it in January 2009. They have replaced it with their new tools, which are supposed to “give priority to Internet traffic it judges to be time-sensitive, like Web pages, streaming video and online games.” In addition, the software restricts the delivery of file downloads and software updates if the network is congested.

The whole traffic shaping thing notwithstanding, why are we seeing this lame issue still being touted by the cable companies? Delivery of bandwidth is supposedly what they are all about. There should be no “congestion” if they have been upgrading infrastructure with their profits the way they are supposed to. Demand for bandwidth is not going to decrease, but only increase, and the way these ISP’s are dragging their feet about upgrading their infrastructures just boggles my mind.

But back to traffic shaping. Cox is not explaining how they will be determining “priority” over “non-priority” network traffic. What may be a critical download to one person (an emergency software update, for instance, or download of virus updates, or downloading files you are torrenting to yourself from another location) may not be critical to Cox. And what Cox thinks is high-priority (like games) may not really be all that critical to the user (this Mom is already throttling game-playing on the home network for various reasons).

I don’t need anyone telling me what’s important, and what isn’t. Just open up the pipe and let me have my stuff. It’s what I’m paying you for, after all. You should take some of that money I keep throwing at you and improve your infrastructure to meet the demand, instead of spending money trying to figure out how to throttle my bandwidth. The demands aren’t going away. Time to accept that and figure out how you can fix it. Trying to cut it off isn’t the answer.