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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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Gaming
By JosefTor on 8/29/2008 8:26:03 AM , Rating: 2
Does anyone know how much data is used by a typical game played on a gaming console or PC? And is this limit per person? I can't imagine families with larger families having to use the same as a one person studio. I have a 4 person unrelated house and each of us have netflix accounts and 360's. I can only imagine that limit slipping by quick.




RE: Gaming
By AlvinCool on 8/29/2008 8:28:33 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think you can exceed this cap playing games, but my concern is can you exceed the cap by running a game server 24/7?


RE: Gaming
By Digimonkey on 8/29/2008 9:07:10 AM , Rating: 2
Online games usually only use a few megs per hour. Nothing to worry about. Now multiple netflix accounts may get you into trouble.


RE: Gaming
By 3kliksphilip on 8/29/2008 3:52:10 PM , Rating: 2
Games use hardly anything. Downloading patches, maps, textures etc does but when that's all over and done with, very little information is sent while the game is being played. I don't want to try and guess but you're looking in the region of 3 - 20 kbps for CSS, probably a bit more for MMORPGs.

We have 3 computers on most days, usually do about 45 GB a month. This includes an awful lot of youtube videos, about 10 GB of game downloads (OFF STEAM, not illegally) and about 6-7 videos (NOT ILLEGALLY, just... um... BYE!


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