When Is Unlimited Not Unlimited?

from the when-it's-just-used-for-advertising-purposes dept

Someone at Comcast has apparently forgotten to look up the word “unlimited” in the dictionary. While the company is clearly marketing their cable modem service as having “unlimited” usage, if you go beyond some invisible usage line, they send out a letter saying you’ve violated their policies. Considering their policies say “unlimited”, it’s tough to figure out how that’s possible. Admittedly, the guy in question was using quite a bit of bandwidth. However, if Comcast wants to stop that sort of thing, then they should make that clear in their advertising and their policies. You can’t advertise “unlimited” and then try to redefine unlimited to your own standards. I’m reminded of an “all you can eat” buffet place that tried to make a customer pay extra after he ate plates and plates of shrimp. A court later ruled that since the place was advertising “all you can eat”, they had no claim against the guy.


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Comments on “When Is Unlimited Not Unlimited?”

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18 Comments
Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

It's been done before

DirecPC (internet via satellite) had an unlimited service package, but they had a Fair Access Policy that stated if you used more than your fair share of bandwidth, your bandwidth would be halved until such time as your average bandwidth utilization was below their arbitrary limit. This was known as being FAP’ed.

The problem was they wouldn’t tell you what the limit was.

Someone started a class action lawsuit against them demanding that they either buy back all their satellite equipment and return fees paid for ‘unlimited’ service or reveal all the details of the Fair Access Policy. They lost and decided to reveal the details of the FAP, but they lost a lot of faith and a lot of customers (me for one) along the way.

Sebastian Cristea says:

Re: FAP explained....

Have a look at http://www.fapguard.com/fap.html. Might enlighten you about fap and they have a tool for keeping that in control somewhat.

Anyway, FAP info is hard to come by, and about impossible on Hughes Network…. not to mention that their FAP document for Europe is so far from reality that you’ll get FAPed 100 times before reaching the 500MB limit they state there. Sounds familiar?

Richard says:

Why Not Redefine Unlimited?

We have had all of these redefinitions for quite some time.
‘Unlimited dial-up’, now mind you that doesnt mean you can stay connected 24/7.
‘Free Checking’, this is the biggest running joke in the banking industry.
‘High speed dialup’, this is the latest lie, they calim outrageous numbers that no one will reach in a real world by compressing the data, since most of the data we transfer ,mp3, jpg, zip,tar etc is already compressed then the real speed increase is in the low 1-5% range.
Hell call me lazy I dont want to think anymore.

Mike N says:

There's a way around this..

I recieved my ‘letter’ from Shaw.ca last year…

I downloaded 13gigs, and uploaded 15-20 in a 2 week pereiod. The threat was pretty empty, pointing me to a ‘fair usage policy’ page.

What I discovered through some digging, is that you only get flagged by maxxing out your upload speeds. Stay below their port throttle and they don’t notice you. I set my up speed to 20K/sec and just leave the donkey on for long periods.

Swift says:

So what?

This has been going on in Australia since about 6 months after ADSL was launched by the major telco.

I dont think you can find a true cable or ADSL ‘unlimited’ package in Australia that doesnt suffer some drawback like going over acceptable use or having your speed shaped down.

Americans have it great in the broadband market compared to Australia.

Axel Cushing says:

Unlimited use and the single geek

Having worked for a large broadband ISP previously and dealing with another one, I understand the whole concept behind “unlimited” ad campaigns. Joe Blow, the non-computer geek, who sits down and checks his mail, maybe hits a few auctions, trolls for a bit of pr0n, but otherwise doesn’t use up a whole lot of bandwidth of the course of his service thinks “Wow, this is great.” He thinks it’s great because he doesn’t have any clue about the FAP or whatever it’s cousin is for that ISP. Even if his kids pull down a few MP3s here and there, not a big deal.

His neighbor Joe Root, the uber-geek, who downloads eight different Linux distros, half of BMG’s music catalog, summer blockbusters for the last five years, and is running a couple game servers on top of it all quickly runs afoul of the FAP. Yes, he’s using considerably more bandwidth than Joe Blow, but both men are paying the same price per month.

All this probably begs the question “why don’t they change the model to something different, a per-minute fee or a fee based off the amount of bandwidth used monthly?” The answer: there’s no incentive. For the billion or so people who have Internet access at all in the world, broadband is still in the minority, and of that minority, the big bandwidth users are a minority. Believe me, the majority of broadband users don’t have a clue, and they don’t want a clue. They just want web sites to come up right away, they want to get pictures of their grandkids without the mail program choking, they want to VPN into work (or at least try), and they want their pr0n in the least amount of time possible. Everybody is given the same set amount of bandwidth (not unlimited, despite the ad campaigns, but again they don’t know and they don’t care to know), for the same price as everybody else. Per-minute pricing has fallen out of favor even for simple dial-up(too many people pissing and moaning) and usage-rate pricing is either impractical for the companies to implement or would result in churn when the big bandwidth users got their first bill and bailed to some other provider for broadband (if one can be found).

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Unlimited use and the single geek

Right. I don’t think anyone denies this.

However, the companies shouldn’t be advertising “unlimited” then. They should make it clear what the limits are, and the fact that most people will never reach them.

If they want to stop excessive users, they need to define what excessive is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Unlimited use and the single geek

Ack! Read the full thread at Broadband Reports. Seems this guy was capturing the streaming signals of 5 radio stations – simultaneously for 8-10 hours at a clip, day after day. A little applied math came up with 200 gigs/mo. That’s, oh, about the same as 50 DVDs.

He didn’t get much symphathy at BBR and doesn’t deserve any. He’s lucky they didn’t just terminate his account outright.

BTW, the Comcast page has been revised and “unlimited” has been removed.

Sebastian Cristea says:

FAP explained

Sorry for posting this the wrong way the other time… here it goes again:)

Have a look at http://www.fapguard.com/fap.html. Might enlighten you about fap and they have a tool for keeping that in control somewhat.

Anyway, FAP info is hard to come by, and about impossible on Hughes Network…. not to mention that their FAP document for Europe is so far from reality that you’ll get FAPed 100 times before reaching the 500MB limit they state there. Sounds familiar?

Joe N says:

former Comcast Employee

I, according to comcast, am still an employee on administrative leave with pay, we with an IQ above 10 know this means till we can print your final check.

You have probably seen I have responded to some of the idiots that have attacked you. They really do brainwash the empployees but the most important thing, is they intimidate them. Those employees who are defending comcast to you in a public forum could get fired just for defending them if you can believe that LOL!

I was fired because i believe customers complaints to much. Comcast motto (this is an undeclared motto it is a motto only taught to employees) Customer is always lying and trying to get something for free. When in fact it is actually Comcast that is trying to get money for nothing. when a persons service has not been working properly, we don’t offer a credit unless they ask! Comcast has no problem taking your money, if you are willing to pay it, even when service doesn’t work.

Here is a story that will make you laugh your as off. Dec 14th we had one of the worst wind and rain storms ever in washington sate seattle area. over 1,000,000 people without power, cable, and phone. we were not allowed to go fix cable lines until power put theres up first. we sent out a press release saying all installs and disconnects were put on hold until every comcast customer was restored. So a lady calls in and says, my cable and power is down a tree fell on my roof and knockedthe cables down. we told her we could not come fix her cable line till her power lines were fixed. she understood. well she was unaware and the comcast employee did not tell her she was over due on her bill. well when an account hits 82 days past due you are interupted in service. if it goes 92 days you are diconnected from the pole. well on the 16th r 17th of dec she became 92 days. and all those techs that were supposed to be restoring services, one of them didn’t get the memo the sent a tech out to disconnect her even though she had no service any way and still no electricity. alot of people were without both for 2 weeks. so he went out the lady saw him climbing the pole and said, you should stay away from there they haven’t fixed my power yet. the guy told the lady to mind her business he is going to shut her cable off as he was ordered to. He hooked or bumped something caused a power surge to go into the ladys house it blew up her microwave, and caught her refridgerator on fire and he got zapped! All over comcast greed. If they had been doing what they told the press they were doing restoring outages with every available man this would not have happened.

so anyway, I am not sure what the band limit is but I also know that their “unlimited Long Distance” is not unlimited either. I work in collections and we were calling people all the time telling them to lower usage or we would have to charge them business rates? It just doesn’t make sense. If they cal another country if they get say 150.00 in long distance say in a 2 week period they shut them off till they pay it b4 they turn long distance back on. no matter how long customer is with us.

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