Print 25 comment(s) - last by Complinitor.. on Sep 1 at 10:01 AM

Comcast gets another mouthful

What are the words of the day at the FCC’s headquarters? President Reagan’s famous maxim: “trust but verify.” So goes the Commission’s approach towards whipping-boy Comcast, who – despite Comcast’s own inroads towards a path of redemption – still appears to be not good enough in FCC Chairman Martin’s narrowed eyes.

Quick note: that Reagan quote is the FCC’s words (PDF), not mine.

Now, the FCC wants specific details on Comcast’s stated “compliance plan,” right down to the nitty-gritty: specifically requested are the “precise contours” of the “network management practices at issue” – read: data discrimination – including names, dates, and the thresholds set on all of the various network equipment it used, as well as a specific list protocols it affected.

This order comes hot off the heels of the FCC’s August 1 announcement, in which Martin & Co. shot Comcast with frowny glances and a wagging finger. It demanded, on threat of “interim injunctive relief,” specific details on Comcast’s network management practices, as well as the aforementioned “compliance plan” with specific details on data discrimination’s successor. While I initially wrote that Comcast’s August 20 announcement appears to have satisfied the FCC’s demands, I now know that I was wrong: Comcast left out a number of important details – things like the specific thresholds necessary to trigger bandwidth throttling – that the FCC immediately pointed out.

(Indeed, judging by the timing of both the FCC’s and Comcast’s announcements – they both released on the same day – I consider it possible that one announcement was written without knowledge of the other.)

With Comcast’s new plan of throttling individual bandwidth hogs and its reported consideration of everywhere-else-but-the-USA style bandwidth caps, however, I can’t help but wonder if we’re heading down collision course of sorts: on one side, there are a number of content providers pushing Video-on-Demand via the World Wide Web – like Microsoft's Xbox 360 and its just-announced Netflix integration, for instance, or Hulu, or Joost. On the other side, we have ISPs testing metered bandwidth caps with abhorrently low allowances, like 5 or 20 gigabytes a month.

If both of those paths follow their course, I predict we’re going to have a big problem just as soon as WWW-based VOD hits critical mass: Johnny Gamer is going to use his Xbox 360 to happily burn through his entire Netflix queue on some large, long-running show like 24 or Stargate SG-1 – throw in a couple of movies for kicks – and he’ll open his mailbox to discover a truly massive bandwidth bill. The issue will blow up as soon as it’s featured on The Consumerist, and pretty soon we’ll have the FCC writing another set of nasty letters, this time about ISPs’ attempts to monopolize their TV businesses via discriminatory bandwidth allotments. (A similar battle already played out between telco/ISP hybrids and VOIP providers, although in at least one case it ended on a positive note.)

Worse, some of these online TV providers seem to be gunning for complete replacement of the traditional TV setup, and with the ongoing convergence of hardware and software I see this as a possible reality within the next couple of years. Those of us without any TV service – like me, and yes I am quite happy that way – may already be getting our fix through online services, illicit or not. I, for example, like to catch up on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s latest on Hulu. I haven’t metered my usage, but I prefer watching my shows in 480p, and the high-quality stuff that I like to streamrip off of YouTube and other Flash-based players is usually pretty large, especially when the video file in question is long.

We haven’t even begun to explore the other ways one can blow their bandwidth cap: A friend of mine currently lives and works in the Middle East, and with her paltry bandwidth allotment she refuses to buy games from services like Steam or Stardock Central; instead, she'll usually wait until she can purchase hard copies at the local commissary.

All in all, it’s an interesting time to be an American internet user, doubly so if you’re with Comcast. ISPs seem to be doing everything they can to put a lid on subscribers’ growing bandwidth consumption, and subscribers are finding more and more ways to put the crimp on ISPs. Where are we headed?

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By iocedmyself on 8/25/2008 2:13:23 PM , Rating: 2
Ok well i pay $60 for my 16/5 service since it's only about $15 more a month than the 8/2.5 service. As comcast markets their speeds by using a 6mb connection when comparing against DSL, it's a fair assumption that you'll get a minimum connection of 6mb/s download. Going up to the performance package of 8Mbit, it is a fair assumption that you'll be getting sustained bandwidth above the previous price package....

Comcast took over time warner in houston at the begining of this year i think, from time warner. As much as comcast sucks time warner service was worse. But when the 16mb package was offered it was pitched as an 8mb connection with turboboost performance of up to 16mb. That kinda sounds like 8mb connection minimum with speeds going up to 16mb.

At some point the clarified the 16mb speed applied to the first 10 megabytes of a file download. Handy sometimes, but not what you expect for $60 a month.

With network TV offering streaming HD of primetime shows, along with things like netflix 5 GB a month doesn't cover a single show in an hour long time slot (avg hour long show clocking in at 44 minutes, in full 1080 HD equates to a file size of 5.5 gigs to 7 gigs) That kind of thing is enough to max out full connection speeds, so if you have more than one person with a computer on a network, they're screwed.

100 Gigabit ethernet is already in use in some places,10 gigabit wireless is being tested, 10 gigabit copper has been around for several years as well as 1 gigabit wireless.
In terms of actual data transfer speeds
100 Gigabit = 12,500 megabytes/second
10 Gigabit = 1,250 megabytes/second
1 Gigabit = 125 megabytes/second
100 Megabit = 12.5 megabytes/second
10 Megabit = 1.25 megabytes/second
1 Megabit = .125 megabytes/second

Comcast has 14 million broadband internet subscribers. which puts their monthly subscription fees for internet access alone between

$280,000,000 and $840,000,000

yearly fees at

$3,360,000,000 and $10,080,000,000

That's based on the $20 low end $60 high end, which assume that the user also has digital cable service as well, those without digital cable pay between $40/standard and $90/Performance Plus. It's estimated that the cost to ISP's is TEN CENTS /per Gigabyte of data transfered, and that's a high estimate. In there monthly cap experiments they've put additional charges at $1.25 to $7 for each gigabyte you go over.

Everyone making the claim that population densities are what allow places like japan to have the fastest conections, while the US is so slow due to low population density, it may have something to do with it, but the only reason? BE

Japan--------67 Mbps 337/KM
South Korea--43 Mbps 500/KM
Finland------21 Mbps 16/km
France-------17 Mbps 113/km
Canada------7.6 Mbps 3.2/km
US----------2.3 Mbps 31/KM

Yes, canada isn't fairly represented since 90% of their popluation lives in 10% of the countries area, that still would put them at about the same as us with more than 3 times the speed, finland has half the population density of the US and 9 times the speed while south korea has 50% more people in the same area as japan, but only 2/3s the bandwidth.

They've promised 10 Gigabit connection speeds for subscribers by 2010. Won't that be great? 1250 Megs a second with a 5 gigabyte cap, watch those $2000 cable bills pile up. If they try to put a monthly cap in place, they need to be boycotted.

By FITCamaro on 8/25/2008 3:53:31 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is how do you boycott when you don't have an alternative? Sure you can try satellite and DSL but in my area satellite sucks due to weather. You can say all you like that cloudy weather doesn't affect satellite but I used to work in Best Buy and Circuit City. On rainy days (not even lightning) the picture was always cloudy or static.

By soloman02 on 8/25/2008 6:39:57 PM , Rating: 2
I have DirectTV. It is not as bad as you make it sound. I also live in New Hampshire. The only times I have lost the signal is when it is really windy outside (IE 50Mph+ gusts), Raining like mad, or a thunderstorm is approaching. Also sometimes when it is snowing heavily the signal will drop. The picture is never "cloudy" or "static." When a thunder storm approaches (which happened way more than normal this summer) the picture can become choppy before it finally cuts out.

By Reclaimer77 on 8/27/2008 5:35:13 PM , Rating: 2
Uhhh Direct TV internet is not an option for me or anyone I know. Mostly because I enjoy online gaming which you CANNOT do on satalite connection no matter what anyone tells you. Direct TV has horrible latency like all of them do who send your packets to outer f%$#@@%^ space and back.

By Regs on 8/28/2008 10:08:42 AM , Rating: 2
Right, we have no alternative and the government and local governments allow these mini-monopolies. One town, one service provider, one communications network. The government could allow them to share lines again, but then we'll never build a more capable network.

I live in central NJ, in a town with a population of about 20k. The medium income per house hold is around 120k. I think we are more than capable of affording cable. Yet, Verizon does not want to touch us. Why? Comcast owns us.

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