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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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RE: Hmm. . .
By Some1ne on 8/29/2008 12:27:39 PM , Rating: 2
but I wonder if current Comcast subscribers can show their displeasure by switching to another ISP?

They can, I did years ago when I noticed my connection would start throttling whenever I used BitTorrent. I contacted their support about it, and they completely denied any sort of bandwidth limiting was in place, so I decided "fuck this shit" and switched to SpeakEasy. And then about a year later the stories about Comcast's "data discrimination" policies started coming out.

I'm glad I switched, and I'll never use Comcast for Internet service ever again.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Comcast customers are going to be either too non-tech-savvy to understand why they should switch, or too lazy to actually follow through with switching. Comcast will suffer almost no consequences for rolling out their quota system, and as a result, other ISP's will start following suit. It's only a matter of time now.

RE: Hmm. . .
By soloman02 on 8/29/2008 4:06:08 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Comcast customers are going to be either too non-tech-savvy to understand why they should switch, or too lazy to actually follow through with switching.

Also a lot of users have no option to switch. I have no option for another ISP. Comcast has a complete monopoly on broadband access in my area. There is a DSL hub in another town over, but ADSL2 has a max range of 20,000 line feet which we live just outside that. The older DSL versions have even less range. So for me and many others in rural parts of the US it is Comcast or dial up. As much as I hate Comcast, F*** dial up.

We could get satellite, but the latency for games is insane (an 89,000 mile trip for my data is totally unacceptable), not to mention losing the signal if there is a thunderstorm or high winds.

RE: Hmm. . .
By Zoomer on 8/30/2008 9:13:55 AM , Rating: 2

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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