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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 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 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 ( and it is a free service which shows you all the ISP's available to you and compares all their plans.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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