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Cox Tests Internet Restrictions in Arkansas and Kansas

28 Jan, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

Cox Communications Internet subscribers may want to keep a close eye on news out of Arkansas and Kansas in February: The third-largest cable operator in America will be testing a new Internet traffic management system in those two states, to deal with congestion.

“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,” the company said on its Web site. “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.”

The announcement could set up another Internet service provider battle with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which ruled last summer that Comcast could not selectively interfere with customers’ Web connections. Comcast was blocking some peer-to-peer traffic to ease congestion, singling out users based on bandwidth usage.

Ben Scott, policy director of media reform group Free Press, said his group was “skeptical of any practice that comes between users and the Internet.”

“The information provided by Cox gives little indication about how its new practices will impact Internet users, or if they comply with the FCC's Internet Policy Statement,” he said in a statement. “Cox customers will certainly want to know more about how the company is interfering with their Internet traffic and what criteria it uses to discriminate.

"As a general rule, we’re concerned about any cable or phone company picking winners and losers online. These kinds of practices cut against the fundamental neutrality of the open Internet."

Fred von Lohmann with the Electronic Frontier Foundation said Cox’s “lack of transparency” was a problem.

“It’s fair to say that Cox is certainly treading on thin ice,” he said. “Cox really needs to let folks know what they’re up to … if it doesn’t work, do people in these markets where they are testing have a choice [in Internet service]?”

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