GCI’s Network Management Guide for Broadband Internet Access Services

November 24, 2017

Introduction

GCI has always been and will continue to be committed to providing the best broadband services possible to our customers, including access to an open Internet.

At GCI, we strive to make our services easy to use and our policies easy to understand. This Guide is part of that effort. In this Guide we provide information about various policies and network management techniques we use to provide high-quality Internet access service you. Our goal is to make sure that consumers are fully informed about our Internet access services and to provide information sufficient for Internet companies and device manufacturers to develop, market and maintain their own Internet offerings.

The information in this Guide pertains to our consumer Internet access services, including our public Wi-Fi hotspots. These plans are designed for residential use.  If you have questions about our commercial Internet access services, please ask your account representative about GCI’s Dedicated Internet Access Service which we also make available to consumers upon request.

The technology used to deliver Internet access service can be complex and the details change frequently. The information we provide here is for your convenience only and we reserve the right to change our Internet policies and network management practices at any time without direct notice to you. Please check back to this Guide for updates, which we will make periodically.

Your use of GCI’s Internet access services is governed by our Terms and Conditions (https://www.gci.com/about/terms-and-conditions) and any policies that are incorporated into your service contract(s) by reference. This Guide is not part of any contract you may have with GCI and the information we provide here does not change your rights and obligations, or ours, under any such agreement.

Other Relevant Information

In addition to the practices and policies described here, we want to make sure you know about other information we provide that is relevant to the Internet access services we offer. The following policies are applicable to your Internet access service, some or all of which may have been incorporated by reference into the Terms and Conditions of the service or services you purchase from GCI.

Our web site also contains other information that may be relevant to you, including:

Data Usage

Most of GCI’s Internet access services currently offered to consumers come with usage allowances. For instance, GCI’s cable modem No Worries Internet plans include a specific amount of high-speed data usage per billing cycle. Once all of the high-speed data included in the plan is used, the Internet service will be reduced to a Basic Level of Service for the remainder of the billing cycle. Customers on these plans are given the option to continue using the Basic Level of Service, upgrade to another plan, or authorize the purchase of an additional high-speed usage bucket. Each purchase must be authorized before charges are incurred, and there is no limit to the number of buckets a customer may opt to add. At a Basic Level of Service, no applications, websites, or services are blocked at any time. Activities such as email, online shopping, banking, and most web browsing may load faster and work better than applications that require high speeds, such as large file downloads or streaming media. When using a Basic Level of Service, you may find that content requiring high speeds is sometimes embedded in web pages, which may slow down the overall web browsing experience. When your new billing cycle begins, the Service will automatically return to the normal high speed plan to which you subscribe.

While some GCI products (including but not limited to GCI’s 1 GIG red Unlimited plan) provide residential customers with unlimited data usage and no overage charges, any such products are subject to reasonable use and applicable network management practices. This service is intended for residential use only and may not be used in any manner that has the effect of excessively contributing to network congestion, hindering other customers’ access to the network, or degrading network performance by maintaining a sustained or continuous data connection.  Activities that involve extensive high-volume and continuous data transfer might cause your account to be considered in excess of reasonable usage and subject to review. Examples of these activities may include, but are not limited to, use of the service as a substitute or backup for Dedicated Access internet service; continuous or frequent and sustained operation of server devices,  host computer applications such as continuous Web camera broadcasts, or streaming video and peer-to-peer file sharing programs; commercial or business use; or an unsecured wireless signal. GCI proactively identifies accounts with usage in excess of 3TB per billing period for account review and may provide the opportunity to upgrade your service or discuss how to maintain usage within acceptable ranges. GCI reserves the right to impose reasonable network management policies, including bandwidth limits and deprioritization of traffic, and/or to terminate service if a mutually agreed upon resolution cannot be reached.

While some GCI mobile wireless products (including but not limited to GCI’s Simply Unbeatable plan), provide unlimited data usage and no overage charges, users who exceed the specified amount of data in the current billing period may experience temporarily reduced data speeds on that line when in locations where there is high network utilization.  This plan is intended to be used primarily in certain areas, and only occasionally in other areas known as “Extended Markets” which are subject to a separate and specified amount of included data.  Please call Customer Service or visit http://www.gci.com for more information including a list of Extended Markets.  If you exceed the amount of included data in an Extended Market, we may suspend or terminate your Service without prior notice to you. 

Other GCI Internet plans, for example legacy plans and Alaska Xtreme plans, have a maximum usage overage charge that GCI will bill a residential Internet subscriber on a single invoice, up to $200.00. Customers on these plans who reach up to $200 of usage charges will no longer be billed for any additional usage during that billing cycle, but the Internet service will be reduced to a Basic Level of Service for the remainder of the billing cycle.

At GCI, because we want to make sure you understand your bandwidth needs, we provide you with tools to help estimate and measure monthly Internet usage. Our website provides information on:

We also provide our customers with access to our Usage Viewer, which is a tool that allows our subscribers to measure their actual Internet and certain other types of network usage (http://www.gci.com/support/support-articles/wireless_how-do-i-view-my-usage). Our mobile customers may also download GCI’s Usage Viewer Mobile App to your smartphone which will provide quick and easy access to usage data. You will need a MyGCI account to use this app which you may obtain here: https://apps.gci.com/profile/external/signup.

As stated in the terms and conditions of our Internet services, GCI makes the usage viewer app and online usage viewer available to our customers for their convenience only. Each customer’s usage information must be collected and then processed before it can be displayed accurately. For this reason, GCI’s usage viewers both clearly explain that customers should not rely on the usage viewer for real-time usage updates.

As a courtesy for our customers, GCI can provide you with an email notification if your home Internet data usage or your mobile data usage approaches and/or exceeds the defined usage threshold for your selected service plan. Text message alerts are available for residential wireless data plan customers as well. To receive these notifications, we need to have an email address and/or wireless number on file for you. Please note, it is important to make sure that any spam filtering services or products you may be using are set to not block messages from GCI or you may not receive these notifications. As with the usage viewer, there sometimes is a lag before e-mail and text notifications about usage levels are sent so you should not rely on these notifications for real-time usage updates. We do not send usage notification texts during nighttime and early morning hours when doing so might wake you up.

To receive e-mail or text notifications, or if you have any other questions about your usage, please contact customer service at 1-800-800-4800 (Residential) or 1-800-800-7754 (Business).

Application Specific Behavior

As described below, GCI’s Internet access congestion management practices do not treat traffic differently based on the type of service or application being used. (Please see below for a discussion of GCI’s non-broadband Internet access services.) In addition to the congestion management techniques describe in the next section, GCI may prioritize certain applications that require real-time interaction, such as voice service, in order to ensure that applications work effectively for all our customers even during times of congestion. On our mobile wireless network, GCI has implemented video optimization technologies to allow available network capacity to benefit the greatest number of users, while ensuring a high-quality experience for other users of the network taking into account which devices are most commonly used.  Streaming video downloads will be adjusted to approximately DVD quality (480p) unless a different video resolution is disclosed in the description of a particular plan.  This practice makes no distinction based on the content of the video or the website from which it is obtained.  To achieve this optimization, we limit the throughput speeds of such video downloads or streams.  This practice results in the video provider’s content server sending the appropriate resolution video file for that speed, if available.  In most situations, less data will be consumed without discernable impact on the quality of your viewing experience, although in some cases your video viewing experience may be negatively impacted. This technology will encompass all devices using the plan’s data connectivity, including mobile hotspot (tethering) connected devices. Mobile wireless devices that are connected via Wi-Fi will not be impacted. Certain of GCI’s satellite-based services employ caching technology GCI purchases from a third-party vendor that may prioritize certain traffic when under the control of that caching technology. GCI does not direct or control how any such prioritization might be applied, if at all.

With the exception of ensuring network security and integrity, addressing traffic unwanted by our users (such as viruses, spam, etc.), and preventing certain harmful or illegal activity such as the distribution of viruses or other malicious code or the transfer of child pornography or other unlawful content, we do not prohibit the use of, block access to, or block traffic from any services or applications even when we use network management techniques. As provided for in the Terms and Conditions of service, GCI sometimes will provide notice to our customers by redirecting web browsers to our captive portal, such as when we notify a consumer that their data usage is approaching or has exceeded the allowance of the plan they selected. This means that you sometimes may be directed to a webpage from GCI that you will need to take action on or close before you can access the Internet content you selected.

Congestion Management

At GCI, we design and affirmatively manage our networks to ensure that all of our customers receive high-quality Internet access services and that network resources are shared fairly among all our users. Our congestion management practices are guided by and in accordance with industry standards and protocols. Because network capacity is a shared resource, portions of our network may nevertheless become temporarily congested when a large volume of customers are enjoying high-bandwidth activities at the same time. Because congestion is a function of how many people happen to be using the network and what activities they are engaging in at that moment, congestion often is unpredictable. If congestion occurs, it is usually brief and intermittent. GCI is continually investing in and upgrading our networks and seeks to avoid congestion by keeping ahead of the exponential demand for broadband.

In the absence of network congestion, the traffic management techniques described in this section have no material impact on any user’s Internet experience. With the exception of ensuring network security and integrity, and addressing traffic unwanted by our users (such as viruses, spam, etc.), we do not prohibit the use of, block access to, or block traffic from any services or applications even when we use network management techniques. These issues are discussed more fully below.

On GCI’s consumer internet networks, we employ a practice that allows the traffic of users that are imposing fewer demands on the network to get through highly utilized portions of the network more quickly than the traffic of heavier users. This policy is implemented without regard to the customer’s specific identify or what specific content, application, service or device they are using.  A user may be deemed a “heavy user” based on usage during a short period of time (e.g., 15 minutes) or on a monthly billing cycle basis, or both. Thus, someone identified as a heavy user at the present time might be determined to be a light user just a few minutes later or with sufficient usage may be deemed a heavy user for the remainder of their billing cycle. There are many positive effects of this policy for all of our users and only a small percentage of our customers are negatively affected by this policy each month. We implement this policy in a way that even those users who are negatively impacted may not perceive any lessening of the quality of their service depending on the level and duration of heavy network utilization. Sometimes however, heavy users identified by this process may experience longer than normal times to download or upload files, somewhat slower web browsing, or delays in online gaming. Because this technique manages congestion in real time, the periods of management may be sporadic and are temporary.

GCI’s wireless network utilizes a number of different transmission technologies and, consistent with industry standards, our wireless congestion management techniques vary based on the specific equipment and protocols we have deployed in a particular location. Certain of our wireless technologies employ an algorithm in the base station scheduler that controls how users get served on a given sector. Where such technologies are in use, when the number of users and/or traffic demands exceeds the available network capacity, we allocate system resources by taking into account signal quality (which impacts the bandwidth available to that user) and how long a customer has been in the queue, to provide the best quality service possible to all of our users. On certain of our other wireless technologies, when multiple users are contending for the same system resources, the network will give system resources first to the contending packets being sent to or from a good signal without regard to how long the next traffic in line has been in the queue. Certain of our other wireless technologies do not adjust the order in which data packets are sent and received, but do adjust how Internet traffic is packaged based on signal quality. And certain of GCI’s wireless network technologies currently do not prioritize or otherwise adjust how traffic is scheduled or delivered based upon congestion, including GCI’s Wi-Fi TurboZone hotspots and our femtocells, although we may apply congestion management policies to these technologies in the future.

Performance Characteristics

GCI offers a variety of fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service tiers, each of which offers varying speeds and features that may affect the suitability of such service for real-time applications and other types of applications. The features, pricing and other commercial terms of our service offerings are modified from time to time and not all packages are available in all areas. Each package is priced to reflect the particular speed and features of that package. Full descriptions of currently available packaging and pricing can be found at www.gci.com.

GCI, like most Internet Service Providers, cannot guarantee that specific speeds will always be achievable. GCI engineers its network and your service to provide the maximum speed available with the plan you’ve chosen. We describe below the actual results customers are most likely to experience for certain plans, including during peak periods of network use.

Cable Modem Services

Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai/Soldotna, Mat-Su, Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell, Seward, Valdez, Kodiak, Homer and Petersburg

Package Name Typical Download Speed Typical Upload Speed Latency in ms
FAST 75 Mbps 5 Mbps 10-60 ms
FASTER 150 Mbps 10 Mbps 10-60 ms
FASTEST 250 Mbps* 15 Mbps 10-60 ms
red 1 GIG 600-950 Mbps* 50 Mbps 10-60 ms

*Consumer speeds may vary depending on the configuration and capability of customer owned devices including router, switch, firewall, wiring, computer, and software. Latency reflects typical experience to GCI's speed test servers.

Bethel, Nome, and Kotzebue

Package Name Typical Download Speed Typical Upload Speed Latency in ms
Basic 3 Mbps 512 Kbps 10-60 ms
Essential 4 Mbps 1 Mbps 10-60 ms
Select 6 Mbps 2 Mbps 10-60 ms
Premium 6 Mbps 2 Mbps 10-60 ms

Cordova

Package Name Typical Download Speed Typical Upload Speed Latency in ms
Xtreme 10 10 Mbps 1 Mbps 10-60 ms
Xtreme 12 12 Mbps 1 Mbps 10-60 ms
Xtreme 15 15 Mbps 1 Mbps 10-60 ms
Xtreme 18 18 Mbps 1.5 Mbps 10-60 ms
Xtreme 22 22 Mbps 2 Mbps 10-60 ms

Barrow

Package Name Typical Download Speed Typical Upload Speed Latency in ms
Basic 3 Mbps 512 Kbps 10-60 ms
Essential 4 Mbps 1 Mbps 10-60 ms
Select 6 Mbps 2 Mbps 10-60 ms
Premium 6 Mbps 2 Mbps 10-60 ms

Satellite served market. Latency reflects typical experience to GCI's speed test servers.

Packet Loss: GCI’s commitment to performance, investment, and best network engineering practices results in an average customer packet loss rate of less than 1 percent.

Please be aware that your Internet experience may be impacted by a number of factors outside GCI’s control, including factors other than the performance of GCI’s network.  For example:

  • The speed of your broadband service can be affected by the type of computer and other hardware you have, the applications running on your computer, the presence of any malware or viruses, and even your Ethernet cabling. You should make sure you are running the most up-to-date operating system your Internet connected device can handle (with all available patches installed) to maximize your connection speeds.
  • The websites you visit, the capabilities of third party networks, and congestion on the Internet outside GCI’s network may affect your Internet speeds. For instance, if a large number of visitors are accessing a site or particular destination at the same time, your connection to that website will be affected if the site or destination does not have sufficient capacity to serve all of the visitors efficiently. Some websites limit the speeds at which a visitor can download or upload material from or to their site. If that limit is lower than the speed of your GCI service, your performance will be negatively impacted.
  • If there is a router between your modem and your computer (which GCI recommends), the connection speed you experience usually will depend on the model of router and how it may be configured. Certain routers are able to pass data to your computer more quickly than others. For example, wireless routers using the 802.11g protocol are limited to 54 Mbps on the Wi-Fi connection and, depending on your signal strength and interference, may give you significantly slower connection.
  • GCI’s networks are a shared resource and occasionally experience congestion that may negatively impact your performance. We work hard to ensure you have a good customer experience and, as explained above, may engage in reasonable network management to mitigate the effects of such congestion.

To test the performance of your broadband Internet access service, use the speed test at speedtest.gci.com. Using this particular speed test site is especially important for our faster Internet products such as GCI red and 1 Gig services because many other speed test servers are not capable of measuring speeds as fast as 1 Gbps. For best results, connect your computer directly to your modem without using a wireless router while running the speed test. As described above, all the connected devices within your home share that modem’s bandwidth and can impact the results. You could also restart your modem and computer prior to the test to ensure nothing is running in the background. For more information on performing a speed test, visit speedtest.gci.com. PLEASE NOTE: conducting a speed test requires sending data from your device to the speed test site and back again to measure how quickly the data are transmitted. Higher speed plans require more data to ensure an accurate test. This data usage will count against the usage allowance associated with your plan.

Due to the fact that GCI’s Internet speeds now exceed the capability of many customer-owned devices in the home, running speed tests from a single device is no longer an effective measure of service quality.  If you feel there may be issues impairing your service, please contact GCI Technical Support at 1-800-800-4800 for assistance. 

Mobile Wireless Data Services.  Measuring the performance of wireless networks is more challenging than measuring the performance of wireline networks. Because the mobile wireless network is stationary and mobile wireless customers are not, traffic loads on our network fluctuate significantly as our mobile wireless customers, and customers of other providers who are roaming on our networks, move throughout our service territory. The number of customers attempting to use the same spectrum resources can significantly affect mobile wireless performance. Mobile wireless performance is also affected by the distance between a mobile wireless handset and the cell tower (or other antenna), terrain, whether the user is inside or outside, the amount of foliage, the transmission technology or protocol at that location, the device you are using to access the Internet, what other programs are running on your device, the latency and available backhaul capacity between the base station and Internet, and many other factors

GCI operates the largest wireless network in Alaska and we are dedicated to offering the best coverage in the state, as well as significant roaming coverage nationwide. Based on our internal testing and testing commissioned from third-party vendors, GCI expects customers generally will experience the following speeds:

Service Technology Typical Download Speed Typical Upload Speeds Typical Latency
2G EDGE 40-200 Kbps 20-80 Kbps <900 ms
3G HSPA 500-800 Kbps 100-500 Kbps <180 ms
3G EvDO 0.5-1.7 Mbps 0.5 - 0.8 Mbps <120 ms
4G HSPA + 4-8 Mbps 0.5-1.5 Mbps <120 ms
4G LTE LTE 6-20 Mbps 3-7 Mbps <90 ms

Typical speeds, latency round trip measured to network edge.

Packet Loss: GCI’s commitment to performance, investment, and best network engineering practices results in an average customer packet loss rate of less than 1 percent.

For coverage information, see http://gci.cellmaps.com/viewer.html.

For each of the transmission technologies above, you must be using a device and be within the coverage area of that technology to access the network defined by that technology. For example, you must be using a 4G LTE device and be within the 4G LTE coverage area to access the 4G LTE network.

TurboZone

Customers of certain GCI service plans qualify for access to GCI’s TurboZone Wi-Fi network and, in some cases, to the Wi-Fi networks of our roaming partners. Qualifying customers may use TurboZone Wi-Fi to obtain wireless access to the Internet and related services and features. GCI’s TurboZone Wi-Fi may include a specific amount of daily or monthly usage, after which customers will receive a Basic Level of Service before automatically returning to the normal speed of service at the beginning of the next relevant period (e.g., day or month). GCI may also limit the amount of data, or the rate at which data is transmitted, when you are roaming on other provider’s networks. Data roaming is not provided in all areas. See above for a description of the congestion management and other traffic policies related to TurboZone.

Network and End-User Security

GCI reserves the right to protect the integrity of its network and resources by any lawful means it deems appropriate. GCI employs network management practices to protect the security of our network and our customers which may include e-mail virus scanning, spam detection techniques, denying e-mail from certain domains, putting limits on e-mail based on the relevant service, and taking steps to prevent the theft of our customer’s information. For example, GCI may enforce limits on the number of login, SMTP, DNS, and DHCP transactions per second that customers can send to GCI’s servers.

If the router you use for your fixed service is Wi-Fi-equipped, it may provide a capability for you to encrypt traffic transmitted between your wireless device and that router. We urge you to use this encryption setting to protect your service from being accessed by people you don't know and haven't authorized to use your service. Wi-Fi encryption does not encrypt traffic you send over the Internet—it just provides encryption for the Wi-Fi portion of the communications path between your wireless device and your Wi-Fi-enabled in-home router. You are responsible for activity using your connection and you may be responsible for unlawful use by someone else—like illegal downloading or uploading copyrighted material.

Your router or modem may also support other advanced security features such as a firewall, parental controls, logging, and other networking features. See your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s web site for more information on how to set up and secure your router. The following page that describes some of the basic settings for GCI’s Internet and wireless services: http://www.gci.com/support/support-articles/GCI-Basic-Settings

Device Attachment

You may attach any lawful device to the network as long as it does not harm the network or the provision of Internet access service, facilitate theft of service, or violate our acceptable use policy or terms of service, or harm other users of the service. Not all devices are compatible with our network or the bandwidth of your plan. Information concerning the approval of devices for use on the network is available on our website. For information about customer owned modems please visit https://www.gci.com/about/terms-conditions/internet/approved-customer-owned-modems. For information about wireless devices please visit https://www.gci.com/wireless/phones-devices.

Non-Broadband Internet Access Services (Specialized Services)

Separate from your Internet access service, GCI offers several “application-level” services that share capacity on GCI’s networks with your broadband Internet access service. The fixed voice service GCI offers over its cable network is an example of such a service, as is GCI’s cable television service. We may offer additional non-broadband Internet access service today and in the future. GCI uses network management techniques to isolate the capacity used by these distinct services and we generally design our networks and these services so that they can be used simultaneously without significant (or any) degradation of service. Because certain network resources are shared among broadband Internet access service and these specialized, application-level services, it is possible during periods of heavy use that your specialized service(s) or broadband Internet access service, or both, could temporarily be negatively impacted. If you find you are having significant issues, please call GCI Technical Support at 1-800-800-4800 and we will work to identify and resolve any problems.

Emergency Situations

In emergency situations, GCI may follow practices other than as described above to address the needs of emergency communications or law enforcement, public safety, or national security authorities, consistent with or as permitted by applicable law.

Redress Options 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your GCI Internet service, you may contact GCI Customer Service by calling 1-800-800-4800.

The FCC has established procedures for addressing informal and formal complaints regarding broadband service. For information, please refer to the FCC's website at http://www.fcc.gov/guides/getting-broadband.