Comcast considering bandwidth caps, surcharges

Comcast considering bandwidth caps, surcharges

Summary: Today's Press of Atlantic City had a tiny sidebar on a troubling trend of bandwith caps and surcharges coming down the proverbial pipe from Comcast:Comcast Corp., the nation's second-largest Internet service provider, is considering setting an official limit on the amount of data that subscribers can download per month and charging a fee for those who go over...


Comcast considering bandwidth caps, surchargesToday's Press of Atlantic City had a tiny sidebar on a troubling trend of bandwith caps and surcharges coming down the proverbial pipe from Comcast:

Comcast Corp., the nation's second-largest Internet service provider, is considering setting an official limit on the amount of data that subscribers can download per month and charging a fee for those who go over...

For years, Comcast directly called customers who used up several times more bandwidth than the typical subscriber's 2 gigabytes per month - for instance, by downloading hordes of movies. The big users were asked to reduce their use or have their accounts canceled.

Broadband Reports expands on the Comcast plans from a source:

A Comcast insider tells me the company is considering implementing very clear monthly caps, and may begin charging overage fees for customers who cross them. While still in the early stages of development, the plan -- as it stands now -- would work like this: all users get a 250GB per month cap.

Users would get one free "slip up" in a twelve month period, after which users would pay a $15 charge for each 10 GB over the cap they travel. According to the source, the plan has "a lot of momentum behind it," and initial testing is slated to begin in a month or two.

I'm not a huge downloader or anything but this kind of thing scares me. First they implemented Sandvine to forge TCP packets and kill BitTorrent traffic, now bandwidth caps and surcharges.

Topics: Browser, Networking, Telcos

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  • Backdoor rate increase, time for regulators to step in!

    I can see how this is going to play out in several jurisdictions: Comcast quietly enacts this rate increase, then customers start getting whopper monthly broadband bills because they don't realize that using Comcast for web gaming, Youtubing, Netflixing, iTuning, and so forth chews up major bandwidth. Of for that matter, so does visiting lots of sites that have giant ad-related file content that automatically downloads to their PC.

    Anyway, customers get the bolt-of-lightning charges that double their monthly bills, then start complaining to regulators (since Comcast is a "franchised monopoly" utility provider in many places. Lengthy negotiation ensues, and maybe Comcast is forced to rebate a few pennies, but keeps the lions' share, a bunch of lawyers get even richer, and the consumer once again gets the shaft from all sides, including from their so-called representatives in Congress and the public utility boards.

    Here's what you can do: write you Congressman a good old-fashioned paper letter, complete with envelope and postage stamp. Do the same for you state and local regulators. And consider switching broadband providers on a regular basis just to keep the churn going and teaching them that they can't take you for granted.

    I just dropped Roadrunner and signed up for DSL from ATT. Not because ATT has any better service, because they don't. But Roadrunner was taking me for granted, discontinuing my introductory rate. So off to the competition it was, saving $20/month in the process. In six months, I will go back, after giving the ATT Customer Support line a beating and writing a letter to their CEO.

    The sad fact is that, just as many web content providers are coming out with attractive offerings like the Netflix instant-viewing package, ISPs are getting backed up because they have neglected their infrastructure investments for years, especially Comcast.
    terry flores
    • Please

      First of all 99.99% of users don't even get anywhere near the 250 GB. So this massive uprising you believe will happen won't. For most nothing will change.

      Second, this whole "ads use up a lot of bandwidth" excuse is crap. I've rarely encountered an add over 50 KB but even if the average ad was 100 KB one would have to encounter 3500 ads in a day to go over 10 GB.

      Online gaming? Even if you used Xbox Live 24/7 at most you use 10-15 GB a month.

      Youtube videos stream at under 320 Kbps. Watching 4 hours of youtube videos everyday( quite sad if you do ) uses maybe 16 GB a month.

      Streaming 8 hours of internet radio a day uses 15 GB a month.

      LEGALY downloading 7 songs a day would use maybe 1 GB a month. Considering the cost of 7 songs day would be over $200 month I don't think a $15 overage fee is something you should be worried about.

      Using a VoiP phone 8 hours day would use at most 12 GB a month.

      Watching 5 hours of streaming TV shows over LEGITMATE sites(, etc ) would use AT MOST 100 GB a month.

      Downloading 10 standard def XBL movies a month uses no more than 15 GB.
      • Comcast positions the first pawn....

        I agree that 99% of most home users do not come close to 250GB cap at this time. But everything and everyone is pushing to cloud as being the future of technology, entertainment and media. Not just computing for work and pleasure, but television, movie rentals, and VoIP phones, smart phones, etc. in 5 years 250GB is going to look like 250MB.

        And so the game begins...

        Ever telecommute, take online classes, rent movies, etc.

        Telecommuting is becoming more and more popular these days. Especially considering all the case studies that are coming out on how it actually saves company money. Gas prices are rising, traffic congestion, pollution, Employee retention and productivity, etc. etc. Then there are online classes, movie rentals, VoIP phones, smart phones, etc.

        Once you connect to an office via VPN and start working, it can start racking up the MB's pretty fast. Especially if you also include VOIP and a soft phone. Most online classes stream video. Any idea how much bandwidth a 1+3 video ichat can use??? It pushes the limits of most high speed connections.

        Currently I am a Surewest customer and I have fiber directly to my house... So I am not directly affected as of yet. But I get my internet, TV, and home phone over fiber. My monthly bandwidth far exceeds 250GB.

        Currently I work for a major university and we have quite a few staff members who telecommute. A lot of them have Comcast as their ISP. This does not bode well.

        I previously worked for Oracle for 5 years and I would telecommute and run VoIP on a soft phone to my home office. Comcast was not able to handle my bandwidth, so I dropped them and switched to a fiber provider in my area (Winfirst who was later bought out by Surewest).

        Comcast is well aware of the projected future of all this, after all, it is the business they are in. I suspect they realized that NOW would be the time to introduce a bandwidth cap with the least amount of public resistance. If they set the precedence now, they are set up for tomorrow when a cap is commonplace and already publicly accepted. And being that Comcast is the only choice to a lot of areas, they are setting themselves up to squeeze the oranges for a little more juice.

        I see this as a negative factor in the push to move technology and entertainment to the cloud. But hey... that's Comcast for you. The question in my mind is... Are they shooting themselves in the foot?
        • Just one thing

          "Once you connect to an office via VPN and start working, it can start racking up the MB's pretty fast. "

          That sounds like that person needs BUSINESS account since he is doing BUSINESS with his RESIDENTIAL connection. Or he needs his company to help pay for any overages that occur because of his work he's doing online.
  • RE: Comcast considering bandwidth caps, surcharges

    I too think this is scary! I can totally understand users of services like satellite having restrictions (I'm one of those). But being wired has always been the wild fronter. This ranks right up there with trying to control the net. Everything is moving to web based services. Even legit movies are downloaded from services like NetFlix and they are by no means the only one's offering services like this. Where is this all heading? This might as well be big brother sneaking in to control what we do and when we do it... NUTS!!
  • Fair

    This is the only fair way to do it.
    If ISPs set a reasonable cap and
    communicate it clearly to their
    customers, then they don't need to
    forge packets to slow them down.
    Xmission, one of the best local ISPs
    in the US, has been doing this for
    years. In addition to their well
    defined bandwidth caps, a clear
    schedule for purchasing more
    bandwidth if needed, and an easy way
    to check your current bandwidth
    usage, they also have a firm policy
    not to mess with any packets
    transferred over their network. I
    much prefer this to always being in
    the dark concerning what my IPS is
  • Happens in Australia Already

    Honestly i dont see why everyone is complaining about it as much as they do , it happens here in Australia and it's always been that way for as long as i remember it, we would KILL for 250gb of usage for anything under $100 a month.

    For example im on a cable connection with Bigpond and im charged $80 AUD for a 30 megabit down/1 megabit up connection with 25 gigabytes of usage (that also includes upload usage) , and if i go over that they 'shape' my connection down to just above dialup speeds (64kbit) until the start of the new billing period , no excess usage charges etc

    For 250gb of usage over here you would be charged well over $200-300 a month for a connection with ANY decent speed

    ADSL2+ connections here offer the best value for money (EG iinet charges $80 for a ADSL2+ connection with 20gb of peak usage and 40GB of offpeak usage without your uploads being counted) however if your not close to the phone exchange (3 or so kilometers or less) or its not ADSL2+ enabled or the phone lines in your area arent in great condition your out of luck because the best speed you can hope for is around 6 megabit down/700 or so kilobit up and that drops dramatically the further from the exchange you get

    Consider yourselves lucky
    • The reason people are not happy

      is because for YEARS, Comcast and other providers have hawked their services as "Unlimited usage".

      But now that some of their customers have taken them up on that offer, they want to change the rules.
      Hallowed are the Ori
    • Your problem

      Consider ourselves lucky? For being American? You're damn right!

      As for the rest of your message...well, just because Australia and other countries bilk their people (not only for ISP, but everything else...gas, food, clothing, etc...) does NOT mean that it has to be that way for us! Your problems are your problems, not ours...get over it! That's like someone with cancer telling you that you should have cancer too!'s only fair!

      Stick up for yourselves or get over it and stop trying to insinuate that your social problems should be the worlds problems! live on an island...everything is (and should be) more expensive on an island! Consider yourself lucky for living on that beautiful island! Ha....see, how's that feel!?!
      Randy in Chicago
    • not only Australia a lot of countries do it

      not only Australia a lot of countries do it
      SO.CAL Guy
      • Their problem too...

        Again, that's their problem, not ours!

        Point is...we shouldn't "consider ourselves lucky" for anything! America has it's own rules and policies and we shouldn't be "lucky" to not being gilted for our Internet access (just an example of course), we work for it and have built a capitalistic society around it...luck has nothing to do with it.

        Now the real issue is what are WE going to do to fight this from companies like COMCAST? If you read my other reply you'll see my argument against why this is ridiculous.
        Randy in Chicago
      • I wish I was you

        Just because we are America does not mean we have the greatest things!
        One, people from other country's hate us because of our leaders.
        Two, Gas prices are way to high because we use so much. I wish I was with other country's for 10 cents a gallon.
        Three, get used to it. I am not bitching about your country, but do not say we live in heaven when you have no idea how we live.
  • There goes competition....

    The cable companies are concerned over NetFlix and Blockbuster's plans to offer movies that would be downloaded. Notice that the DSL providers have not even made one hint that they would do this.

    I wonder if this is more due to the cable companies not wanting to spend money increasing bandwidth to the customer, while at the same time tirying to improve performance on their network. We have had numerous problems with our Comcast service over the past 12 months, and it has only gotten worse. Slow interent, more pixelization and blocking on cable TV channels which has moved from just the HD channeles is now seen more and more throughout the entire spectrum.

    It also becoming more like the other industries while we are getting nickled and dimed with little fees. Extra bag fee, overweight bag fee, late fee, regulatory recvoery fee.

    I now charge the companies that I do business with a "Inconveience Fee". For example, if I drop a call on my cell phone, I not the day and time, and each month send my cell company an invoice, charging them $10 for each dropped call. Maybe if everyone did that, the companies would take notice.
    • Does it work?

      The $10 fee, I mean. Have they ever paid you?
    • RE: There goes competition...

      That's the problem in so many areas. [b]NO COMPETITION!!![/b]

      When big telco and big cableco are your [b]only[/b] broadband choices; the consumer [b]gets screwed.[/b]

      Even then, [i]just how do you expect Comcast to pay for the infrastructure needs??[/i]

      [b]By depriving their stockholders???[/b] NOT ONCE CHANCE!!!

      They will [u]deprive[/u] their customers^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H suckers!!!!
    • Pray that they never send you the $10

      The money that you will spend defending a claim of postal fraud will turn your joke into a fool's mission in no time.

      If you need a real life example of the consequences of such billing, just look to the 'companies' that sent out the bogus yellow page billings. Business thinking that the mailings were legit bills paid the invoices. Look up the consequences.

      Most cell companies has policies in the TOS that will either refund the cost of the dropped call or credit the minutes back to you. I would imagine that once they stop ignoring the bills that they will just drop you as an account.
  • You Americans realy are lucky

    I mean if anyone was able to afford a 250GB cap in South Africa i would be in nirvana. But anyway thats what a telecomunications monopoly does to your internet market.
  • Fair but doesn't fix all bandwidth issues...

    Perhaps it would be better to rephrase this before thinking it's scary... Isn't it perfectly fine for a "bandwidth provider" to charge for specific ranges of bandwidth usage?

    But when it comes down to Comcast supposedly trying to address consumer bandwidth issues - the congestion that occurs during peak load times - won't be fixed by caps. When the kids are home from school and adults home from work, the load peaks and you get congestion.

    Thats where the folks at Comcast need to apply their money (perhaps from charging for extra bandwidth use!) and the skills of their network engineers...
  • For those that think downloads will replace Physical Media...

    Here's yer sign...
    • Really?

      If you REALLY believe that then enjoy life in the 90's pal! Change is inevitable and I grantee that one day people will be purchasing all of their media electronically. With the advent of newer technologies to store and play these forms of media what sense does it make to pay for physical media? I do NOT buy CD's any longer, in fact I cannot remember the last time I bought a physical CD. I buy all of my music online and then keep in on my computer and media players. Now with that comes the responsibility of backing it up to ensure I don't loose it...but I have no problem with that; it's really no different than making a backup of a physical media in case you scratch it, break it, melt it, etc...

      Get with the times or be stuck with your 8-Track player and VCR, oh...and good luck getting new releases buddy!
      Randy in Chicago