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Comcast and Cox Continue to Deny Residential Customers VPN Access

Computerworld reported yesterday that Comcast and Cox deny virtual private network use to customers paying residential rates. According to the article, AT&T Broadband, AOL Time Warner, and Cablevision do not prevent residential customers from using VPNs.

We covered this issue in an article published over a year ago. At the time, we were very critical of the development, but we had also not yet become Comcast Business Communications customers at our Lawrenceville office. Read on for our views on this issue...

CTDATA's view on this issue has changed slightly since becoming Comcast Business Communications customers. For the additional money we pay for the business-class service, we expected to be on a separate backbone from the residential customers. This proved not to be the case, as business customers were just as vulnerable as consumers to the shutdown of the @Home Network, which nearly happened two or three weeks ago. Having said this, both Comcast and Cox successfully negotiated continued access to the @Home Network backbone, which was absolutely in the best interest of all of their customers.

We have seen the differences between the deployed hardware at Comcast consumer and business customer premises. There is no doubt that business customers get more robust, flexible equipment. For instance, business customers receive a router managed by Comcast, while consumers receive a cable modem which must be connected directly to a single PC.

Some business customers like us have a tendency to consider a carrier managed router on our premises to be an impediment to network flexibility, but we have learned to live with it. We also need to remember that most businesses don't want to deal with IP address assignment and other semi-technical issues; They just want their Internet access to work.

We are not certain that it's fair for Comcast and Cox to prohibit VPN use to consumers in this fashion, because it implies that VPN users are consuming a great deal more bandwidth than typical consumers. We aren't sure that's the case. Consumers who download a lot of music and video use a lot of bandwidth as well.

But, the key issues for people who are serious about using VPNs for telecommuting are uptime and support. The Quality of Service guarantees and 24-hour tech support that Comcast offers to business users are important, and worth the extra money if they live up to their end of the contract. So far, they are doing that for us, and we appreciate it.

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