How TWC Could Exclude Cable TV Content From Broadband Meters

Time Warner Cable has designed a system that could encourage broadband subscribers to replace cable set-tops with streaming video devices such as Roku, the Xbox 360 or smart TVs from Samsung.

TWC’s invention, detailed in a patent published on Tuesday, wouldn’t charge subscribers on consumption-based broadband billing plans when they view IP video content that could also be accessed through traditional set-tops.

“Since the consumer could watch television using his or her set top box and a conventional television, why should the user’s be penalized by making a choice to watch that same programming or content on his or her computer (the penalty being that the content is now being received as data packets that are counted against his or her monthly data limit or bandwidth limit),” TWC states in a patent titled, “Excluding specific application traffic from customer consumption data.”

TWC is one of several cable MSOs that have used multiplatform apps such as TWC TV to reduce spending on customer premise equipment. It was also one of the first broadband providers to experiment with usage-based broadband plans.

Kelsen
Kelsen

TWC Senior Director and Chief Network Architect Michael Kelsen is named as lead inventor on the patent, which TWC filed in April 2014.

Abstract: Techniques disclosed herein include systems and methods for excluding specific application traffic from customer consumption-based data billing counts. This is useful for excluding traffic from consumption totals where the application traffic has been accounted for using other means, such as through billing as a separate or technically distinct service. In practice, a tablet computer (or other end user device) can run a video application that uses a high-speed data network via a cable modem. This video application may be included as part of a core video package associated with a distinct cable television service. The system then provides accurate consumption billing of customer traffic that is outside of any other managed services by creating separate logical data service flows at a Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) for excluding specific traffic counts.

Patent

Claims: 

1. A method comprising: establishing a content distribution service including a first data service flow and a second data service flow over a shared communication link for distribution of content to a communication device operated by a subscriber, content transmitted over the first data service flow counted toward billable content delivery in accordance with a data delivery agreement with the subscriber, content transmitted over the second data service flow excluded from the billable content delivery; utilizing the first data service flow to forward first requested content to the communication device; receiving second requested content as a stream of data packets from a second content distribution resource; redirecting the second requested content over the second data service flow, instead of transmitting over the first data service flow, to the communication device in response to detecting that an alternate version of the second requested content is available from a first content distribution resource but that the second requested content is received from the second content distribution resource; wherein detecting that the second requested content is sourced from the second content distribution resource includes: processing the stream of data packets to obtain network address information from the stream of data packets, the network address information indicating that the second content distribution resource is a respective source from which the stream of data packets is transmitted to the communication device; wherein the first data service flow and the second data service flow extend between a cable modem termination system receiving the stream of data packets and a respective cable modem disposed in a subscriber premises in which the subscriber resides, the subscriber receiving the second requested content at the communication device through the cable modem; and wherein the alternate version of the second requested content is available to the subscriber over the shared communication link from the first content distribution resource on a communication path other than through the cable modem.

2. The method as in claim 1, wherein the first content distribution resource makes the alternate version of the second requested content available to the subscriber over the shared communication link in accordance with a cable network service agreement; and wherein the second content distribution resource makes the second requested content available to the subscriber over the shared communication link in accordance with an Internet service agreement.

3. The method as in claim 2, wherein a content service provider provides, to the subscriber, a bundled package including the cable network service agreement and the Internet service agreement; and wherein the content service provider provides the version of the second requested content for distribution from the first content distribution resource and the second requested content from the second content distribution resource.

4. The method as in claim 1, wherein the second requested content and the alternate second requested content are video data respectively available from the second content distribution resource and the first content distribution resource; and wherein the second requested content includes a source identifier indicating that the second content distribution resource sourced the second requested content.

5. The method as in claim 1, wherein the second requested content is transmitted over the second data service flow instead of the first data service flow as a result of identifying that the subscriber pays for an ability to retrieve the second requested content from the first content distribution resource.

6. The method as in claim 1, wherein the first content distribution resource provides the subscriber access to the alternate version of the second requested content over the communication path in accordance with a cable network service agreement; and wherein the second content distribution resource provides the subscriber access to the second requested content in accordance with an Internet service agreement on the path other than through the cable modem.

7. The method as in claim 1, wherein the first data service flow is a default service flow over which IP (Internet Protocol) data is transmitted to the subscriber.

8. The method as in claim 1 further comprising: generating first content consumption information indicating an amount of data transmitted over the first data service flow; generating second content consumption information indicating an amount of data transmitted over the second data service flow; and forwarding the first content consumption information and the second content consumption information to a billing system.

9. A method comprising: from a first content distribution resource of a content distribution service, receiving a stream of data requested by a subscriber operating a communication device; analyzing the received stream of data; and in response to detecting that the stream of data represents content that is alternatively available to the subscriber as part of a cable service agreement from a second content distribution resource, excluding the transmission of the stream of data from a data delivery consumption count associated with an Internet-based data retrieval service agreement, the data delivery consumption count representing an amount of data transmitted over a corresponding shared communication link to the communication device; wherein excluding the transmission of the stream of data from the data consumption count includes: forwarding the stream of data over a second data service flow instead of a first data service flow supporting delivery of Internet-based data, content transmitted over the first data service flow being counted toward billable content delivery in accordance with the Internet-based data retrieval service agreement, the stream of data transmitted over the second data service flow excluded from the billable content delivery; and wherein the first data service flow and the second data service flow extend between a cable modem termination system receiving the stream of data packets and a respective cable modem disposed in a subscriber premises in which the subscriber resides, the subscriber receiving the second requested content at the communication device through the cable modem; and wherein the second requested content is available to the subscriber over the shared communication link from the first content distribution resource on a communication path other than through the cable modem.

10. The method as in claim 9, wherein forwarding the stream of data includes: analyzing a source address indicating a respective source from which the stream of data is transmitted; and detecting that the source address is assigned to a server resource that transmits a version of the content available over the communication path.

11. A computer system comprising: computer processor hardware; and a storage resource coupled to the computer processor hardware, the storage resource storing instructions that, when executed by the computer processor hardware, cause the computer processor hardware to perform the operations of: establishing a content distribution service including a first data service flow and a second data service flow over a shared communication link for distribution of content to a communication device operated by a subscriber, content transmitted over the first data service flow counted toward billable content delivery in accordance with a data delivery agreement with the subscriber, content transmitted over the second data service flow excluded from the billable content delivery; utilizing the first data service flow to forward first requested content to the communication device; and receiving second requested content as a stream of data packets from a second content distribution resource; utilizing the second data service flow, instead of the first data service flow, to forward the second requested content to the communication device in response to detecting that second requested content is sourced from a second content distribution resource, the second requested content available to the subscriber also available from a first content distribution resource; wherein detecting that the second requested content is sourced from the second content distribution resource includes: processing the stream of data packets to obtain network address information from the stream of data packets, the network address information indicating that the second content distribution resource is a respective source from which the stream of data packets is transmitted to the communication device; wherein the first data service flow and the second data service flow extend between a cable modem termination system receiving the stream of data packets and a respective cable modem disposed in a subscriber premises in which the subscriber resides, the subscriber receiving the second requested content at the communication device through the cable modem; and wherein the second requested content is available to the subscriber over the shared communication link from the first content distribution resource on a communication path other than through the cable modem.

12. The computer system as in claim 11, wherein the first content distribution resource makes the second requested content available to the subscriber in accordance with a cable network service agreement; and wherein the second content distribution resource makes the second requested content available to the subscriber through the cable modem termination system and cable modem in accordance with an Internet service agreement.

13. The computer system as in claim 12, wherein a content service provider provides, to the subscriber, a bundled package including the cable network service agreement and the Internet service agreement; and wherein the content service provider provides availability of the second requested content for distribution from the first content distribution resource and the second content distribution resource.

14. The computer system as in claim 11, wherein the second requested content is transmitted over the second data service flow instead of the first data service flow as a result of the subscriber paying for an ability to receive the second requested content from the first content distribution resource.

15. The computer system as in claim 14, wherein the first content distribution resource provides the subscriber access to the second requested content to the subscriber in accordance with a cable network service agreement; and wherein the second content distribution resource provides the subscriber access to the second requested content in accordance with an Internet service agreement.