Comcast, TWC test curbs on heavy Internet use

Time Warner Cable and Comcast are launching tests this week of new management controls for bandwidth consumption -- alternatives to the approach of throttling packets outright, though they may not prove to be any more popular.

Both major cable ISPs are limiting their tests for now to just a few places in the US. Yesterday, it was learned that TWC plans to try out a new metered billing scheme that will charge users on the basis of individual bandwidth consumption.

Beginning Thursday, TWC subscribers in Beaumont, Texas, will be given monthly "allowances" for the amount of data they upload and download. Those who exceed the limit will be required to pay $1 per gigabyte.

Although the metered approach could curb usage among some subscribers, the cable firm might also stand to gain some extra revenues among those willing to pay the price.

Elsewhere, Comcast has announced plans to test a method of controlling traffic problems that slows file transfer speeds for individual heavy users during peak times of Internet use. Comcast's tests are slated to start on Friday in Chambersbug, Pennsylvania and Warrenton, Virginia.

Meanwhile, Comcast is still officially under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission on charges that it has been blocking P2P file transfers. During FCC hearings, Comcast has denied blocking any Web site, application, or protocol.

But David L. Cohen, Comcast's executive VP, has admitted to a "limited form of network management" in which requests for BitTorrent files are "delayed" but not "blocked." BetaNews tests have confirmed the existence of those delays, quite prominently.

In mid-May, study results released by a German research group pinpointed Comcast and Cox as the leading perpetrators of BitTorrent blocking in the US.

This time, at least, Comcast's subscribers in Chambersburg and Warrenton are being forewarned.

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