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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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By tastyratz on 8/29/2008 8:42:56 AM , Rating: 2
While they announced a 250gb cap... they did not announce what happens after that. Do you just get an innocent phone call like they make it appear? do you get 3 strikes? do they charge you over 250gb? do they throttle you over 250gb?
Most people don't know because they only push 1 tier, but comcast has MANY tiers for different speeds. they could charge xyz per gb for the 6mb service, and abc for the 1mb.

Is there going to be a cap for business customers? If residential customers want to use more than 250gb will they be required to get a business plan with expensive SLA premiums? or will they have a new "power user" package?

is 250gb combined bandwidth? is it only upload/download? What about customers already paying more for higher speed packages? Are they going to provide tools for users to go online and check their data usage for the month? What about a "low" warning?

Many questions here are left unanswered. We should certainly not settle for a provided scope of only "250gb or else"
While 250gb is a very reasonable limitation for "most" users it sets a precedent for data caps on home users. Comcast is huge and other providers will follow. Soon our internet could be like gas prices...

Have no illusion that it will stay this proportionally large.

Time will go on and 250gb limits wont go higher as capacity is needed... OR they will slowly lower the 250gb limit till its more restrictive. People will accept the idea of a high limit and in 6 months it could be dropped to 200gb, then 100, then 50... but they already got their foot in the doors with the limit so people wont rebel much at 250... whats a little more?

RE: incomplete
By tastyratz on 8/29/2008 10:19:09 AM , Rating: 2
I forgot to mention the services this WILL hurt.

What about voip? IPTV?
This is setting precedence. If caps start popping up in all flavors through providers as some sort of trend we may see the wonderful prospect of iptv killed before it takes off, and existing home voip will diminish.

RE: incomplete
By Staples on 8/29/2008 11:40:29 AM , Rating: 2
You can use VOIP 24/7 and you will not come anywhere near this limit. But iptv would use 200x more bandwidth. HD MPEG4 would use at least 2GB an hour.

RE: incomplete
By GaryJohnson on 8/30/2008 12:55:09 PM , Rating: 2
While they announced a 250gb cap... they did not announce what happens after that. Do you just get an innocent phone call like they make it appear? do you get 3 strikes? do they charge you over 250gb? do they throttle you over 250gb?

Maybe this is all just a PR FUD campaign designed to scare people into bandwidth conservation and/or scare high bandwidth users away from their service?

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