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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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RE: Hmm. . .
By Aloonatic on 8/29/2008 11:03:48 AM , Rating: 2
wow, 250 GB seems a pretty good "limit", assuming anyone actually reaches that of course.

I quess 0.01% of their customers might.

Traffic limits are pretty common over here in the UK, are they oft seen in the US?

Typically, "full speed" broadband (~8Mbps) is free when bundled with TV and phone at a fairly reasonable price with a limit of 2GB and many people are happy with that, but they are typically households without children.

Then there's the 40GB to 80GB range which is the most common, where you start to pay for your internets and then you can pay extra for "unlimited" which I guess is what this 250 GB is replacing?

I think I'm on the 40 GB limit, have never gone over it with my current provider, I did go over the 2GB one for a few months, which got me a couple of advisory letters and the I was forced to trade up package, which was fair enough.

It does seem that increased demand will be happeneing for many hoseholds though, especially children.

The days of just 1 computer attached to the interwebs is over in thees housholds. Now many have a PC, a couple of laptops, a games console and then mobile phones, PSPs and DSs all sucking in the packets and spitting them back out again.

Not to mention the doenloadable HD TV/Films that we have been promised, as FitCam pointed out and a move towards full games being available for download.

The BBC iPlayer is a big hit over here (apparently) and people will only want it to get better, quality wise, which is going to cost someone.

I guess ultimately, as demand increaes these caps are the only way realistically for ISPs to enable growth in net use to happen but seem a bit of a weird way of doing it, allowing more to use the internet more by imiting the amount that some use it.

It's only fair that you pay for what you use though.

In 5 or 10 years time there will be a whole load of new contracts out there, this one will be but a distant memory and we'll all be fighting for our lives in a post apocolyptic ocean world with each other and homeless polar bears by then anyway.

/rambling Friday afternoon comment


RE: Hmm. . .
By mars777 on 8/29/2008 7:20:04 PM , Rating: 2
Uhm, here in Croatia we have 20$ for a FLAT 2MB line up to 16Mb FLAT lines for 80$. Non flat costs half of that.

And i thought these were insane prices...


RE: Hmm. . .
By Aloonatic on 8/30/2008 4:01:59 AM , Rating: 2
That is quite expensive, if they are monthly fees and no discounts or other charges apply.

On ADSL networks:

For about £12/$25 a month you can get unlimited* 8Mb broadband in the UK, including free weekend and International phone calls and line rental**.

This is "up to" 8Mb of course, averages around 5Mb or 6Mb typically.

On Cable:

2Mb = £10/$20 a month.

10Mb = £17/$35 a month.

20Mb = £29/$60 a month.

Cable can be half price all year if you take one of the telephone packages, and extra discounts for taking TV too. They can be haggled with quite easily as well.

Both ADSL and Cable:

Most companies offer half price for the first 6 months of the 12 month contract.

All come with free wireless router.

Switching is a lot easier and faster now as the regulator got on their backs about it and usually takes a couple of weeks at the most, depending on the calibre of muppet you get on the phone when you as for migration codes and set up your new account.

If anyone's interested:

I'm with SKY and get all the traffic I need at 8Mbps (actualy around 6 Mbps so I am lucky really), plus sat TV, plus phone line, plus line rental for around £33/$70 a month.

Could be cheaper now and I will be changing when my contract runs out soon.

With these bundles on the ADSL networks speed can vary quite dramatically in different areas. SKY seem to be quite hit and miss, luckily for me they are pretty good where I live.

* Unlimited comes with a "fair usage" policy of course, but that typically means that if you are sending or receiving a lot of data your connection will be slowed during peak hours.

** Is "line rental" just another one of those extra charges that we accept in the UK only or are people in other countries conned into paying for the up keep of a network which isn't updated regularly, even though they have charged you for doing this for years and years and years and now say that they need to charge more to update the equipment for "the information age"?


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