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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 heffeque on 8/29/2008 4:53:54 PM , Rating: 1
I have a good life, thank you :-) How many different countries have you lived in? And how many have you visited with your pals? Probably not that many (if you've ever been outside your own country that is). I go every other year to the States to visit family there and most of them have Comcast, that's why I'm interested.

And no, downloading music or movies shouldn't be illegal. That's just trying to prevent something that in the long run can't be prevented, more or less how musicians felt when phonographs and the radio appeared: they thought that their jobs would disappear because nobody would go to their concerts anymore.

Access to culture should always be available for everyone (just like libraries), so what better way than by P2P?
You can always go to concerts if you're a fan of the artists, or go to the cinema if you're a fan of the director, actors or the story... so no, the artists aren't going to disappear because of it. There will always be good artists willing to actually work for earning money (and not just making 2 good songs and living out of them for the rest of their lives).
As for the music labels... the less middlemen there are, the better for everybody. It's a basic economical principle, but the big-ass middlemen have too much power and want to convince people that it's wrong to live without their (unwanted) services, and that you have to actually pay for receiving culture.

Access to culture and knowledge shouldn't be only for the wealthy, it should be a universal right.

RE: Hmm. . .
By wvh on 8/29/2008 10:19:33 PM , Rating: 1
While I totally agree with the basic premise of your post, realistically there are technical limits – fair or not. If everyone would download 600Gb, the pipes would saturate pretty quickly, especially in some of those places in the US where the powerline and telecomunications infrastructure are dangerously outdated (as far as I know anything about that).

If access to broadband is a universal right (as you claim), it should also be ensured that everyone gets a fair share of the bandwidth. Internet capacity isn't infinite. Hence I think it's reasonable to expect people who use vastly larger amounts of bandwidth to subscribe to a more expensive service.

Ofcourse, it's up to individual countries and states to ensure the local infrastructure can keep up with technological advances and hence demands, but frankly, that isn't my problem, nor are the local monopolies in some countries and states.

RE: Hmm. . .
By ElBrujo on 8/30/2008 12:29:30 AM , Rating: 2
Traveling is a form of "access to culture". Why aren't you trying to insist on your right to free travel?

Your reasoning is the biggest load of cr*p I've heard in a long time. The most shameful part of it is how you forget that your wealth is what enables you to download movies that aren't yours, yet you imply that you aren't wealthy. Then you bring up how much you travel (as if your culture were relevant), and at the same time forget that it's your wealth that enables you to travel. Too bad that traveling doesn't teach morals.

Most of the time I hear a new justification for download of IP that isn't yours, the person tries to use a perspective that's remarkably one-sided. Try imagining for a moment that you're doing something that someone else thinks is a luxery of the wealthy, and so that justifies some crime against you. If a little kid in the ghetto came and stole your iPod, would you say, "Aw, shucks, he deserves free access to culture, he can have mine"? If you were fool enough to say so the first time, how many times would it have to happen before you changed your mind?

It may be an economic inevitability, but until the model changes, saying something should happen doesn't make it so. Try using that argument in court when you've violated a speed limit everyone thinks ought to be changed.

It's funny how people think that such and such ought to be a "universal right" as long as it doesn't cost _them_ any money. The reality is that there is no free lunch, and that everything has a price; just because you aren't willing to pay it doesn't justify your taking it.

RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/30/2008 8:06:58 AM , Rating: 2
Cheap travel is starting to exist. Madrid-Munich+Munich-Madrid = 43 euros. That seems pretty cheap to me :-) Slowly but surely, access to culture is getting more universal.

RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/30/2008 8:13:17 AM , Rating: 1
Downloading music isn't stealing.

You have an apple.
I take your apple.
You no longer have an apple.

That is stealing.

You have knowledge about something.
I learn it.
You still have your knowledge and we both benefit from it.

That is NOT stealing. I can steal a wheel, but I canNOT steal the knowledge of what a wheel is.

RE: Hmm. . .
By enlil242 on 8/30/2008 12:18:21 PM , Rating: 4
Then learn to make your own music / movies / software / wheel, instead of stealing the blood and sweat from the person who made it in the first place.

While you were working at McDonald's earning money, the person responsible for what you find valuable enough to steal does not, thus needing support from the people who use their handiwork.

Your example makes no sense and makes you a fool.

RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/30/2008 1:43:20 PM , Rating: 1
Actually, other than being a computer science student, I've been playing the clarinet for 16 years, 6 of them professionally. I've never worked at a McDonald's, although I have worked for 3 years as an English teacher for the University of Salamanca, if that helps.
My reasoning does not make me a fool, it just makes me more socialist than you. I still don't know why people in the US are so afraid of socialism, when it works so well in Norway, Iceland, etc.

RE: Hmm. . .
By twhittet on 8/31/2008 5:48:06 AM , Rating: 2
Ok - so I'm not a big fan of the RIAA, but, your logic seems a little flawed. By listening to songs on P2P, people gain interest in the band, and go to their concerts, thn making them money on something they have worked and sacrificed to create. If you download a band that never comes to your country, how do they benefit? So, they work their ass off, and because music is a cultural thing, they don't deserve any compensation from possibly hundreds of millions of people that enjoy their work but don't go to a concert. The system is admittedly flawed, but thinking you have a "right" to get everything for free is sadly worse.

RE: Hmm. . .
By heffeque on 8/31/2008 10:05:22 AM , Rating: 2
If they don't come near me and I can't go to were they're playing... I guess it's their fault. They should earn money working. Singing a song and living out of it without giving concerts is a thing from the past. Artists have to earn their pay, and that's working. Musicians have to play all over the world if they want to earn money from all over the world. If they only want money from the US, then they'll just do concerts in the US, right? Some Spanish singers go to America to do concerts in latin-america and earn some money there. I see nothing wrong there. I see no flaw there. Good musicians enjoy the fact that people listen to their music, and give all the concerts they can all over the world to get to the people who really enjoy their music. Nothing wrong there.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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