Comcast keeps promise, launches data usage meter

Comcast, which has imposed a cap on data usage for its customers, delivers on its promise to launch a data-usage meter that will allow customers to track their own usage.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

Nearly a year ago, Comcast first announced that it would establish a data usage tracking meter to help its broadband customers determine the amount of data being used on their accounts, especially since the company imposed a 250 GB cap on usage last year.

Today, Comcast announced that the meter is being launched in its first market - Portland, OR - as a test before the service is launched into other markets. Over time, the meter will show three months worth of data usage, including the current month. The meter will display usage by gigabytes and will round down to the nearest gigabyte - giving the customers a bit of an advantage. The meter will update every three hours.

The company acknowledged that even some of the most tech-savvy customers had a tough time understanding about their monthly data usage. After all, the use of data - unlike minutes on a phone - are harder to determine, especially in today's households.

In my own house, it's not enough that there are three laptops and one iMac all tapping into my cable Internet connection. There are also two iPod Touches, one Droid, one Vonage line, two on-demand DirecTV set-top boxes, one PlayStation 3, two PlayStation Portables, a Nintendo Wii and an AppleTV (and probably a couple of neighbors) tapping into that connection. Comcast's data meter will track usage across the entire home network - even those other devices.

While the company has placed a cap on usage, it stresses that the limit will only impact a small group of users. In an e-mailed statement, company spokesman Charlie Douglas said:

It's important to underscore that almost 99 percent of our customers should not be concerned about their monthly data usage or ever crossing our 250 GB per month excessive usage threshold. The median customer consumes approximately 2 to 4 GB or data in a month. For the fraction of less than 1 percent of our customers who are concerned about exceeding our excessive usage threshold, this meter will help them monitor and calibrate their usage. It may also help them identify potential problems such as the presence of a bot or virus or excessive use of their bandwidth via an unsecured wireless router.

As a Comcast customer, I initially had concerns over a limit being imposed - especially since I pay for always-on access. There's a lot of Internet usage happening in my house - or so I think - and the last thing I need is some outrageous bill over data charges. (I've dealt with one of those crazy bills on a wireless bill once and don't ever want to go through that again.)

Comcast has done a good thing here, something that will help consumers take control of their usage, just as they have for voice minutes on their cell phones.


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