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Subscribers now have a visible limit on their internet usage

ISP giant Comcast announced an official, 250 GB usage cap for its subscribers Thursday, which it plans to deploy October 1.

"250 GB/month is an extremely large amount of data," reads its official release, "much more than a typical residential customer uses on a monthly basis."

The "median" usage per customer is within 2 - 3 gigabytes per month, says Comcast. In order to exceed the data cap, a customer would have to send more than 50 million e-mails, download more than 62,000 songs, or watch more than 125 standard-definition, 2 GB movies per month.

Comcast's new policy on data consumption appears to be just a part of an overall initiative to reshape the way customers use its network. Last week the company announced its "fair share" program, which is designed to throttle a customers' connection when they consume too much bandwidth. Rumors of a bandwidth cap had been in circulation for quite some time -- Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner were reported to be experimenting with the concept -- but the actual thresholds implemented proved to be much higher than predicted.

With the increasing popularity of internet-based video and software distribution, ISPs throughout the world are finding ways to curb customers' internet usage. While data caps are commonplace outside the United States, publicly-announced limits are incredibly rare among the U.S.' largest ISPs. Particularly egregious users have run into invisible limits, however, and a handful of heavy downloaders have seen up to a year's suspension of service due to crossing the company's "invisible line in the sand" despite paying for service advertised as unlimited.

Curiously, the announcement hints that the invisible threshold may have been 250 GB all along. "This is the same system we have in place today," says the announcement. "The only difference is that we will now provide a limit by which a customer may be contacted. As part of our pre-existing policy, we will continue to contact the top users of our high-speed Internet service and ask them to curb their usage."

AT&T Wireless users who exceeded an invisible 5gb quota -- a lot, considering that the network is designed for PDAs and Smartphones -- quickly learned of similar sanctions last year.

Subscribers who exceed their quota "may be contacted by Comcast to notify them of excessive use."

"At that time, we'll tell them exactly how much data per month they had used. We know from experience the vast majority of customers we ask to curb usage do so voluntarily," reads the release. Customers will be notified of the change through banner ads posted on the Comcast.net home page, as well as flyers to be included in upcoming billing statements.

A previous attempt to curb subscribers' usage, which ended up selectively meddling in a few different types of internet traffic -- BitTorrent, namely -- attracted the ire of the Federal Communications Commission due to a "discriminatory" preference against certain kinds of data. After almost a year of this, Comcast answered the FCC's demands with a handful of new programs designed to clamp down on excessive usage regardless of the protocols involved.



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RE: Hmm. . .
By aegisofrime on 8/29/2008 8:06:11 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure how the ISP market is in the USA, since I'm not American, but I wonder if current Comcast subscribers can show their displeasure by switching to another ISP?


RE: Hmm. . .
By Noya on 8/29/2008 8:10:54 AM , Rating: 2
I would say 99% of the people in the USA have the option of a single DSL provider, Comcast or dial-up within their city. So it's Comcast or DSL.


RE: Hmm. . .
By idconstruct on 8/30/2008 12:19:47 AM , Rating: 2
Not necessarily Comcast... In certain areas where I've lived the only available service is Road Runner... but the essence of the argument is the same; You have a choice between dial-up/DSL or whatever cable company has the monopoly on your area


RE: Hmm. . .
By therealnickdanger on 8/29/2008 8:12:15 AM , Rating: 2
In my area (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Comcast has a monopoly on cable-based broadband (of course, by offering phone and television service, they are able to silence any claims of a true monopoly). Qwest is starting to roll out a FIOS-esque service, but it's still not as fast as Comcast.


RE: Hmm. . .
By ebakke on 8/29/2008 9:34:13 AM , Rating: 2
That, and Qwest is no better than Comcast


RE: Hmm. . .
By GaryJohnson on 8/29/2008 8:36:48 PM , Rating: 2
If they'd just lose the interleaving...


RE: Hmm. . .
By imperator3733 on 8/29/2008 6:57:35 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the Twin Cities (and I guess most cities in the US) don't have much choice as far as internet. We have 1.5Mbps Quest DSL at my house. Quest only has three DSL choices (784kbps, 1.5Mbps, 3Mbps) and their new fiber option. Comcast has insane prices - they advertise cable internet for around $33/month, but that's only when you get the combined package, so it's really $99. I wish there was some way of getting rid of the Comcast monopoly, because that's what it is, regardless of whatever else they provide.


RE: Hmm. . .
By StevoLincolnite on 8/30/2008 12:35:09 AM , Rating: 2
I guess this where Australia is lucky, generally if you have ADSL with Telstra or Optus or Internode, chances are you can choose another Half a Dozen ISP's or more which use part of there networks.

My Granny has a 1.5mb line, with a 500mb download limit (That counts uploads in the download limit) for $69 a month, after that she is speed reduced to 64k. - That's with Telstra BigPond though, I'm with WestNet and have a 40gb Download Limit during on-peak, 60gb during off-peak hours for $110 a month and runs at 1.5mb.
I was going to go with Dodo Internet, but there Customer Service is worst than trying to talk to Animals at a zoo, although they do have a nice plan which is 100gb on-peak and 100gb off-peak though.

There is a wireless plan Optus has which uses the 3G network, Basically you are given a Download limit ranging from a few hundred megabytes to around 10gb, after you reach that you are sped reduced to dial-up speeds, but here is the catch, if you visit a webpage or check an email, then log-off/shut the connection down, it is counted as 10mb minimum regardless if you only downloaded+uploaded 100kb.

And Cable? It's practically non-existent to a vast Majority of Australians unfortunately.


RE: Hmm. . .
By FITCamaro on 8/30/2008 9:30:00 AM , Rating: 2
Christ I'm glad I don't live in Australia. $110 a month for a capped 1.5 mbit/s DSL line? You can get business class service here cheaper than that.


RE: Hmm. . .
By gt1911 on 8/30/2008 8:49:59 PM , Rating: 2
The examples he's giving are not really that representative. I'm in Sydney and we have ISP's being much more competitive.

Virtually all ISP's are fighting in the $30-$50 range for ADSL2+ (24Mb max potential) connections. For that money you'll get somewhere between 2 - 20GB, depending on who you go with.

Telstra, the ISP he quotes is easily the most expensive for data in the country.

Coincidentaly, I spend $110 a month as well, but for that I have two ADSL2+ lines teamed together giving me a stable 34Mb and I have a peak quota of 55GB. I usually don't hit the quota unless I am hitting the downloads pretty hard.

We have a great tool for working out which ISP to use. It's called Whirlpool (whirlpool.net.au) and it is a free service which shows you all the ISP's available to you and compares all their plans.


RE: Hmm. . .
By mattclary on 8/29/2008 8:44:46 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry, but putting a 250GB cap on is just NOT going to affect 99% of people. That is a pretty freaking huge amount of data to use in a month.

I don't think we will see caps inch down much either, DSL has a hard time competing on speed, but they can compete on a cap.


RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hmm. . .
By MrSmurf on 8/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/29/2008 4:53:54 PM , Rating: 1
I have a good life, thank you :-) How many different countries have you lived in? And how many have you visited with your pals? Probably not that many (if you've ever been outside your own country that is). I go every other year to the States to visit family there and most of them have Comcast, that's why I'm interested.

And no, downloading music or movies shouldn't be illegal. That's just trying to prevent something that in the long run can't be prevented, more or less how musicians felt when phonographs and the radio appeared: they thought that their jobs would disappear because nobody would go to their concerts anymore.

Access to culture should always be available for everyone (just like libraries), so what better way than by P2P?
You can always go to concerts if you're a fan of the artists, or go to the cinema if you're a fan of the director, actors or the story... so no, the artists aren't going to disappear because of it. There will always be good artists willing to actually work for earning money (and not just making 2 good songs and living out of them for the rest of their lives).
As for the music labels... the less middlemen there are, the better for everybody. It's a basic economical principle, but the big-ass middlemen have too much power and want to convince people that it's wrong to live without their (unwanted) services, and that you have to actually pay for receiving culture.

Access to culture and knowledge shouldn't be only for the wealthy, it should be a universal right.


RE: Hmm. . .
By wvh on 8/29/2008 10:19:33 PM , Rating: 1
While I totally agree with the basic premise of your post, realistically there are technical limits – fair or not. If everyone would download 600Gb, the pipes would saturate pretty quickly, especially in some of those places in the US where the powerline and telecomunications infrastructure are dangerously outdated (as far as I know anything about that).

If access to broadband is a universal right (as you claim), it should also be ensured that everyone gets a fair share of the bandwidth. Internet capacity isn't infinite. Hence I think it's reasonable to expect people who use vastly larger amounts of bandwidth to subscribe to a more expensive service.

Ofcourse, it's up to individual countries and states to ensure the local infrastructure can keep up with technological advances and hence demands, but frankly, that isn't my problem, nor are the local monopolies in some countries and states.


RE: Hmm. . .
By ElBrujo on 8/30/2008 12:29:30 AM , Rating: 2
Traveling is a form of "access to culture". Why aren't you trying to insist on your right to free travel?

Your reasoning is the biggest load of cr*p I've heard in a long time. The most shameful part of it is how you forget that your wealth is what enables you to download movies that aren't yours, yet you imply that you aren't wealthy. Then you bring up how much you travel (as if your culture were relevant), and at the same time forget that it's your wealth that enables you to travel. Too bad that traveling doesn't teach morals.

Most of the time I hear a new justification for download of IP that isn't yours, the person tries to use a perspective that's remarkably one-sided. Try imagining for a moment that you're doing something that someone else thinks is a luxery of the wealthy, and so that justifies some crime against you. If a little kid in the ghetto came and stole your iPod, would you say, "Aw, shucks, he deserves free access to culture, he can have mine"? If you were fool enough to say so the first time, how many times would it have to happen before you changed your mind?

It may be an economic inevitability, but until the model changes, saying something should happen doesn't make it so. Try using that argument in court when you've violated a speed limit everyone thinks ought to be changed.

It's funny how people think that such and such ought to be a "universal right" as long as it doesn't cost _them_ any money. The reality is that there is no free lunch, and that everything has a price; just because you aren't willing to pay it doesn't justify your taking it.


RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/30/2008 8:06:58 AM , Rating: 2
Cheap travel is starting to exist. Madrid-Munich+Munich-Madrid = 43 euros. That seems pretty cheap to me :-) Slowly but surely, access to culture is getting more universal.


RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/30/2008 8:13:17 AM , Rating: 1
Downloading music isn't stealing.

You have an apple.
I take your apple.
You no longer have an apple.

That is stealing.

You have knowledge about something.
I learn it.
You still have your knowledge and we both benefit from it.

That is NOT stealing. I can steal a wheel, but I canNOT steal the knowledge of what a wheel is.


RE: Hmm. . .
By enlil242 on 8/30/2008 12:18:21 PM , Rating: 4
Then learn to make your own music / movies / software / wheel, instead of stealing the blood and sweat from the person who made it in the first place.

While you were working at McDonald's earning money, the person responsible for what you find valuable enough to steal does not, thus needing support from the people who use their handiwork.

Your example makes no sense and makes you a fool.


RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/30/2008 1:43:20 PM , Rating: 1
Actually, other than being a computer science student, I've been playing the clarinet for 16 years, 6 of them professionally. I've never worked at a McDonald's, although I have worked for 3 years as an English teacher for the University of Salamanca, if that helps.
My reasoning does not make me a fool, it just makes me more socialist than you. I still don't know why people in the US are so afraid of socialism, when it works so well in Norway, Iceland, etc.


RE: Hmm. . .
By twhittet on 8/31/2008 5:48:06 AM , Rating: 2
Ok - so I'm not a big fan of the RIAA, but, your logic seems a little flawed. By listening to songs on P2P, people gain interest in the band, and go to their concerts, thn making them money on something they have worked and sacrificed to create. If you download a band that never comes to your country, how do they benefit? So, they work their ass off, and because music is a cultural thing, they don't deserve any compensation from possibly hundreds of millions of people that enjoy their work but don't go to a concert. The system is admittedly flawed, but thinking you have a "right" to get everything for free is sadly worse.


RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/31/2008 10:05:22 AM , Rating: 2
If they don't come near me and I can't go to were they're playing... I guess it's their fault. They should earn money working. Singing a song and living out of it without giving concerts is a thing from the past. Artists have to earn their pay, and that's working. Musicians have to play all over the world if they want to earn money from all over the world. If they only want money from the US, then they'll just do concerts in the US, right? Some Spanish singers go to America to do concerts in latin-america and earn some money there. I see nothing wrong there. I see no flaw there. Good musicians enjoy the fact that people listen to their music, and give all the concerts they can all over the world to get to the people who really enjoy their music. Nothing wrong there.


RE: Hmm. . .
By abzillah on 8/29/2008 1:07:48 PM , Rating: 5
This will definitely affect my family, because we have 5 computer in my house and we go over 250GB in a month. My two brothers and I play games online, we watch TV shows online, Movies and surf the net. When I have friends and family visiting, they often bring their laptops and do their work here too.
More than anything this will affect online movie rentals like Netflix, which we were planning on using more often. This will affect TV companies such as NBC ect, because now they cannot put good quality shows online. NBC had millions of hits on it's webpage to watch the Olympics clips.
Oh how I wish there was another company that provided better bandwith, good price and no freaking limit.


RE: Hmm. . .
By Souka on 8/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hmm. . .
By rudolphna on 8/30/2008 9:57:26 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I too was worried about this limit, but as much as i beleive "unlimited IS unlimited (or should be) 250GB really isnt that bad, for most users. I probably transfer between 80-120GB per month, depending. OccasionallyIll download an entire TV series (legal of course) through utorrent, for about 18GB. Normal usage comes out between 5-10GB per day, between all the computers in my house.


RE: Hmm. . .
By Polynikes on 8/29/2008 10:57:28 AM , Rating: 2
Practically every geographic area in the US has one option for cable internet, one for DSL, and that's it. There are a few areas where Verizon is rolling out their FiOS service, but it's rare. I really hope they can spread it a lot more, because if you want the fastest connection possible, cable is the only choice for most people.


RE: Hmm. . .
By Souka on 8/29/2008 7:02:20 PM , Rating: 2
I live a few miles East of Seattle, WA. Comcast cable and Qwest are our only real broadband providers. (ClearWire is here to, but pales in bandwidth and latency compared to Comcast and Qwest so forget that...)

Anyhow... Qwest offers only 1.5Mbps service in most of its area...Fiber is coming, but no ETAs or offical news annoucements of solid value.

I've called Verizon abotu FIOS but got a long story on how the CAN NOT ENTER AN AREA THAT QWEST has coverage! This is due to some old FCC ruling to protect smaller ma-bells from being pushed out. That sucks!

So my Uncle gets Verizon FIOS for $30/month... and has Cable and DSL providers available. But I get jack...sorry, Comcast as my only real broadband option for under $70 (paying $45/mo now).

Oh well... Maybe QWest will go bankrupt and Verizon can move in....


RE: Hmm. . .
By Some1ne on 8/29/2008 12:27:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
but I wonder if current Comcast subscribers can show their displeasure by switching to another ISP?


They can, I did years ago when I noticed my connection would start throttling whenever I used BitTorrent. I contacted their support about it, and they completely denied any sort of bandwidth limiting was in place, so I decided "fuck this shit" and switched to SpeakEasy. And then about a year later the stories about Comcast's "data discrimination" policies started coming out.

I'm glad I switched, and I'll never use Comcast for Internet service ever again.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Comcast customers are going to be either too non-tech-savvy to understand why they should switch, or too lazy to actually follow through with switching. Comcast will suffer almost no consequences for rolling out their quota system, and as a result, other ISP's will start following suit. It's only a matter of time now.


RE: Hmm. . .
By soloman02 on 8/29/2008 4:06:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Comcast customers are going to be either too non-tech-savvy to understand why they should switch, or too lazy to actually follow through with switching.


Also a lot of users have no option to switch. I have no option for another ISP. Comcast has a complete monopoly on broadband access in my area. There is a DSL hub in another town over, but ADSL2 has a max range of 20,000 line feet which we live just outside that. The older DSL versions have even less range. So for me and many others in rural parts of the US it is Comcast or dial up. As much as I hate Comcast, F*** dial up.

We could get satellite, but the latency for games is insane (an 89,000 mile trip for my data is totally unacceptable), not to mention losing the signal if there is a thunderstorm or high winds.


RE: Hmm. . .
By Zoomer on 8/30/2008 9:13:55 AM , Rating: 2
VDSL


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