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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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This totally acceptable
By SunAngel on 8/29/2008 10:43:41 AM , Rating: 2
250GB a month. I can not see anyone going over this. No one here downloads dozens of movies from iTunes/Vongo/CinemaNow each month, so it is going to be virtually impossible to go over the limit. A new release of Fedora Core occurs what - 4 times a year? For the .mkv/bittorrent thugs Comcast just said, "checkmate". You now have to pay more to play more. There is also a good chance as time goes on and legal files get bigger Comcast will increase the limit.




RE: This totally acceptable
By ckamc on 8/29/2008 1:43:21 PM , Rating: 2
250GB isn't enough

I just checked my bandwidth use-age on my router and found that I have already used over 195GB this month.... and I haven't even watched/downloaded that many HD MKV files... mainly a lot of ps3.

500Gb sounds a bit more acceptable for this modern HD era... pre-hd I would say 250gb is good enough.


RE: This totally acceptable
By plonk420 on 8/29/2008 3:42:31 PM , Rating: 2
the single MKV for the full Olympics opening was 25 or 27gb 720p AVC... so you may want to not say "files"


RE: This totally acceptable
By bodar on 8/29/2008 9:35:28 PM , Rating: 2
So do we need Family Plans if we plan to use a router? People forget that this is per household, not per person. What happens if your neighbor decides to crack your wi-fi and download his torrents all day? Overage charges for you, my friend.


RE: This totally acceptable
By SunAngel on 8/30/2008 9:52:59 AM , Rating: 2
This the exact reason, I'm sure, Comcast made it 250GB vs 50GB per month. I agree its not uncommon for as many as five individual computers in a household network at one time. But, even with so many computers and everyone being responsible and not downloading illegal material it is still virtually impossible to hit 250GB in a month. The absolutely only way to make it over this amount is p2p/bittorent video download. Even p2p/bittorrent music download would not go over the 250GB limit in a month. So, I feel the 250GB limit is much fair. Those that need more bandwidth will just have to pay for it so the rest of us won't have to foot their bills.


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