The High-Tech Texan Blog

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Listeners Weigh-In On Comcast Internet Capping

I threw out a topic on my show that I figured would get some listener response but I didn't figure how hot it would be.

We're talking about the Comcast announcement to cap Internet downloads beginning on October 1. Though the 250GB monthly limit should not affect most users it is already causing unease and havoc with some current customers.

Local Comcast customers have not been officially notified of this new policy nor the penalties if they exceed the limit which had people calling in to my show to complain why one of the world's largest communication companies has yet to communicate this to them. (We now know the penalties including a one-year termination. See below.)

My big beef is not so much about the cap nor the lack of customer communication. I can only assume this announcement will be forthcoming in the next billing statement. My issue is that there is no metering tool to let customers know how much data they have downloaded and how far away they are from reaching the 250GB cap.

If Comcast wants to meter its customers then give them a tool to monitor where they stand. As I repeatedly said on my show, if cell phone providers can tell us how many minutes have been used each month and water and electric providers have meters to show usage, ISPs need to have real-time (or near real-time) meters to make users aware of their download data.

Tech blogger Om Malik rants on even more concerns:

If you’re going to meter, then please let us know how you are factoring in the overhead associated with TCP/IP. Will this be included or excluded in the cap? After all, overhead includes control messages (session control, packet headers) and this can be as high as 40 percent.

This is where FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has to step up and do something. If he is going to allow Comcast to put caps in place, then the FCC needs a firm bond from Comcast saying that they wouldn’t lower the caps to, say, 150 GB or 100 GB using the same lame excuse of 1 percent people degrading the network.
I received several emails after my show with suggestions like third-party download meters. I also got a call from a Time Warner Cable technician in Beaumont who knows about Internet capping first-hand. TWC began capping customer downloads a few months ago (with a max of "only" 40GB per month). He said he initially heard many customer complaints but things have quieted down a bit.

A local Comcast technician sent me an email complete with this internal memo circulating the company with Q&A on the subject:

This e-mail provides talking points to be used when addressing questions from customers regarding the recent decision by Comcast to establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB per month per account. Please read the attachment for answers to FAQs or click this link, http://help.comcast.net/content/faq/Frequently-Asked-Questions-about-Excessive-Use.

Comcast Statement on Amended Acceptable Use Policy Source: Michael Bybee, Manager, Public Relations Thursday, September 04, 2008 "We have been considering establishing a monthly data usage threshold as part of our Acceptable Use Policy for quite some time. Last week, we announced that, beginning on October 1, 2008, we will amend our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB/month per account for all residential customers.

The monthly data usage threshold will have absolutely no impact on 99% of our customers because their usage doesn't even come close to 250 GB in a month. The current median monthly data usage by our residential customers is approximately 2 - 3 GB." Comcast maintains an excessive use program to provide a high-quality online service for all of our customers because extremely high-data users can negatively impact the experience for our other customers.

Our inclusion of a 250 GB data usage threshold is something we have been considering for quite some time and it should not come as a surprise, as it had been widely covered by the press and on various blogs late last year and this past May. Comcast's overall policy on excessive use of our service remains the same-the only thing that will change is that we will provide a specific monthly threshold beginning in October of this year.

250 GB/month is a large amount of data, much more than a typical residential customer uses. Currently, the median monthly data usage by our residential customers is approximately 2 - 3 GB. For those that exceed the monthly data usage threshold, we may notify them that they have gone above 250 GB and ask that they modify their online behavior. If they hear from us that they have surpassed 250 GB-and they are among the heaviest of users for a second time within a six-month timeframe-their service will be subject to termination for one year.

We are taking a number of steps to notify our customers: We have posted a preview in PDF format of the amended AUP on our Network Management page as well as an overview and a link to updated FAQs(http://help.comcast.net/content/faq/Frequently-Asked-Questions-about-Excessive-Use.) We are also running banners on our Comcast.net portal as well as on our Security Channel Web page directing customers to the Network Management Web page. In addition, we will be sending customers a bill stuffer notification that the amended AUP will officially go into effect on October 1st.


No doubt this topic will continue to boil up as we approach the October 1 date. Feel free to weigh-in your own opinion below.

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1 Comments:

  • Whoa. Thanks for the heads up Garf. Comcast continues to suck.

    I'm done.

    By Anonymous Jefferson G, at 4:55 PM  

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