Print 118 comment(s) - last by Shimyr.. on Sep 1 at 6:03 AM

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 Lord 666 on 8/29/2008 9:14:01 AM , Rating: 3
Its not that small when you consider around October Netflix will enable Xbox 360 streaming movies. I only view this as Comcast trying to prevent users from taking advantage of the free streaming movies from Netflix. Considering the large population of Xbox users, there will be many more people watching the movies on their TV.

Masher - If you want an IP idea, how about this one. Instead of the Killawatt device that measures electrical useage, you can create a home meter that measures broadband home useage.

With our EVDO Rev A cards, we hover around 2.5gigs monthly just using Cisco VPN and the electronic health record application. Citrix/RDP isn't an option because paper charts are scanned using a thick client on PC.

Breakdown of legal usage for most users;

1. Xbox Live downloads (60mb - 1gig per download)

2. Xbox Live voice and gameplay (Voice has to be around 30k and about 200-300k for interaction)

3. Netflix streaming movies (Xbox and from their website) 1-2 gig each?

4. Gaming - Should be around 30k voice stream and maybe tops 200-300k interaction.

5. Telecommuters - Working on client environments from home and retrieving email/voicemail could range drastically. Considering I have some work engagement 7 days a week (leave computer on to just sync data) Lets peg this at 500mb a day.

6. Webcams - 300 to 400k total steams?

7. Comcast VoIP - does this count against the limit?

RE: Hmm. . .
By Mitch101 on 8/29/2008 10:51:32 AM , Rating: 2
I would vote you up for that if I didn't already post and add to it.

3. Netflix streaming movies (Xbox and from their website) 1-2 gig each? (Est 700-1.4gig each)
(HD movies will be even more and possibly a deal breaker) (Est 4-9gig each)

8. TV Shows. My HD Direct TV unit has Video on Demand and we download a lot of shows to catch up on series or build interest in a series. If we get hooked like Dexter we watched the first 2 seasons in about a month all from VOD.

Patches but this can vary. Mainly referring to Wow and Windows service packs not to mention playing online as you already have.

9. Napster/iTunes/Rhapsody - They include video as well as music.

Good pointing out Voip services.

I did the calculations below and I came to the conclusion that if your skeptical about the limit then its time to consider DSL. Heck I might only get 3meg bandwidth but will never have to worry about a 250 gig limit. I run a real estate website and a backup of the site can eat that up very fast.

RE: Hmm. . .
By walk2k on 8/29/2008 7:24:14 PM , Rating: 2
The cap does not apply to Comcast phone service no.

RE: Hmm. . .
By FITCamaro on 8/30/2008 9:42:54 AM , Rating: 2
I don't believe Netflix plans to offer HD movies on its streaming service anytime soon. Most people don't have the connection for it to work properly.

And wouldn't your Direct TV box get the show through the satellite network? Not your internet connection? I don't have satellite so I don't know.

And if you run a real estate website, you should probably just get a business class connection. I doubt those would be capped.

RE: Hmm. . .
By GaryJohnson on 8/30/2008 9:53:26 AM , Rating: 2
And if you run a real estate website, you should probably just get a business class connection. I doubt those would be capped.

Especially if doing backups of that site can eat up 250GB fast. Either you have a huge site (like or something) or you seriously need to consult someone about optimizing your media for the web.

RE: Hmm. . .
By Azzr34l on 8/29/2008 11:44:23 AM , Rating: 2
Just a note about Telecommuters such as myself - I suspect most full time Telecommuters that work for a larger organization whose employer pays their phone and IP bills are on commercial accounts, not residential ones. The commercial accounts are unaffected by this because of the SLAs in place. I suppose they could modify the SLAs in the future though....

RE: Hmm. . .
By Lord 666 on 8/29/2008 3:13:53 PM , Rating: 2
Yet the commercial accounts are still going over the same wire within the same node... completely destroying Comcast's argument in the first place.

I used to work for Comcast just went cable modems were being introduced. The infrastructure is simply not there to keep up with demand in certain areas. However, this comes down to Netflix and VoIP services competing with Comcast.

RE: Hmm. . .
By natebsi on 8/29/2008 12:39:20 PM , Rating: 2
I don't disagree that there a legal uses for excessive bandwidth usage, but come on now... Do you really do all of those things all day, every day? 250GB's works out to about 8GB's PER DAY! That is a tremendous amount of data to use consistently, and I the overwhelming majority, well over 99% I suspect, would never come close to using that in a month.
I'm not saying I agree that bandwidth should be limited, but I can see comcasts point.

That said, I think this suck, not because of the cap, but because as others have pointed out, this is just a first step. Once they get users used this idea, they will be much more emboldened in lowering that limit in the future should they see fit.
Even worse, you can bet every other ISP will be watching this closely (just like airline fuel surchages started by a single airline). If there isn't too much fallout, I bet others will follow suit.

RE: Hmm. . .
By Alexstarfire on 8/29/2008 2:55:49 PM , Rating: 2
Multiplayer gaming doesn't even come close to 200k, let alone 300k. If you mean kbps.... then perhaps. But games don't even use 100KB/s.

And I'd be very interested in that device. I'm on the internet like 24/7 just about... thanks to people stopping the recording on my shows on the DVR. Those bastards force me to go download the latest episode after it's been uploaded.

RE: Hmm. . .
By Darkk on 9/1/2008 1:12:15 AM , Rating: 2
7. Comcast VoIP - does this count against the limit?

Nope. It's a separate service. Comcast is putting a cap on DATA service for your PC, not your phone long as VOIP is being provided by Comcast.

Even you have Vonage, I wouldn't worry too much as it takes up little bandwidth anyway.

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