Comcast Officially Caps Broadband That It Had Already Secretly Capped

from the fair-enough dept

As was rumored back in May, Comcast has finally come out and officially announced that it’s capping its broadband at 250 GB per month as of October 1. Despite earlier reports, there was no confirmation of any overage fees for those who go beyond that. While I still think that tiered broadband is an overall mistake, Comcast’s plan is a lot better than most other ISPs who are putting in broadband caps that are often ridiculously low. And, since Comcast has already had a secret cap, all this new plan does is finally reveal what that cap is. So, realistically speaking, this is a step in the right direction, in that Comcast is actually revealing what its secret cap is and it’s made the cap so high that it shouldn’t impact most users.

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Comments on “Comcast Officially Caps Broadband That It Had Already Secretly Capped”

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73 Comments
Rick says:

At Least It's Reasonable

While I don’t agree with caps or tiered service based on bandwith used, I’m at least impressed that the cap is actually reasonable – for now.

What I would like to hear is their plan on how that cap will increase over time as more bandwith heavy services come along or are more widely used. Comcast still has an obligation to it’s customers to continually improve their capacity.

Now we’ll have to see how the other major ISPs react and hope the industry doesn’t act like the airlines and just match whoever made a change first. It’s time to start seeing some actual competitive differences as more ISP choices come available over the next few years.

wasnt me! says:

Im pretty sure some will complain about 250 GB per month but were I am highest cap is 10 GB per month, and costs 90 USD.

I read some were that: You get a warning on your 1st offense and if you go over the limit a 2nd time with in 6 month you get disconnected for a year, but they are considering charging extra for the extra bandwidth.

now with the “bad part” of the deal, comcast doesn’t provide any tools for its users to monitor there transfers: Personally i expect them to lie and cheat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I have a secret too.

Um wrong car analogy dude.

This is more, the dealer *advertises* 20,000 a year and then the deal (contract) is really only 10,000 a year.

Comcast supposedly has had this ‘cap’ for a while now. Also, you’d be surprised what you can do with 250gb/month. As long as you aren’t seeding a ton of torrents anyways.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Many Different Tiered Plans

There are many ways in which to have a tiered plan. Comcast does indeed have a tiered plan – you can pay more to have faster download speeds. Whether those higher priced plans also come with larger caps is not clear, but Comcast does indeed have tiered internet plans.

Gary says:

Re: What the crap?

That’s usually how it works. FTC has some pretty strict guidelines protecting customers for truth in advertising, and also clear definitions of what constitutes deceptive advertising.

For example, see the complaints in “BayleySuit”, C-3117 (consent agreement) (September 30,1983) [102 F.T.C. 1285]; Figgie International, Inc., D. 9166 (May 17, 1983) and 87 F.T.C. 421, 497 (1976), aff’d, 605 F.2d 964 (7th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 934 (1980), modified, 100 F.T.C. 500 (1982)

Jake says:

Re: What the crap?

For all practical purposes, ‘unlimited’ in this context means ‘as much as we can possibly give you without the servers crashing or catching fire or something’. Comcast are simply coming clean about what the upper limit of what they can provide actually is, for which I must give them a certain amount of credit; they’re still guilty of letting Marketing make promises their hardware can’t keep, but at least they’re making an effort to put things right.

Rob (profile) says:

This is awful...

Seriously, if you work from home, do backups, web design, w/e, this is literally awful.

I dont think many of you realize how fast you can burn through 250 gigs with 100% legal use. Hopefully this is the rise of the T1 in home. Cable internet companies have officially become cell phone bastards… the net is going down the tube.

Yosi says:

250GB is low?!

Author must be failing on basic arithmetic. 250GB is huge amount of data. It correspond ~ 100kbps sustained transfer rate for 24/7 for all month. I don’t have this amount of data despite heavy use of eMule for fun and VPN for business.

The guy with “work from home” have no idea what he talking about. For almost any work-from-home activity even dial-up connection will be fine. Unless you transfer huge files, in which case you should be asking yourself wtf are you doing it in a first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 250GB is low?!

“250GB is low?”

Sure, but do you think it will always be 250GB?

Let’s say Comcast adds more subscribers, and then what happens? “Hi Friends, so we can better serve you, we need to lower to caps to 100GB so we can continue to squeeze more people on your node.”

Then they announce an unexpected increase in subscribers. Then what happens? “Hey guise, we need to lower caps again.”

Think about it.

SpecialEd says:

Re: 250GB is low?!

I like to backup my family pictures to machines outside my house. I have around 50 GB in legal pics and videos could eat a good bit for a new upload (usually just incremental).

Think about HD movie downloads. If I don’t go with TWC for my HD moving streaming, I could use my Tivo to download HD content from Amazon unbox. Each movie is anywhere from 4-40 GB. So you can watch 5-10 movies a month?

We are in Europe right now, so the slingbox is running constantly. That must slowly add up as well.

At least 250 is somewhat reasonable. The incremental cost to double should not be excessive IMHO.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: 250GB is low?!

I do between 5-15GB/day, some work and most whatever I want, on cable. 100KBPS is child’s play, at a couple of customer sites I get 1-2 Megabytes/second, but usually keep around the 250GB/month. On a busy month I can double this though, but I have 4 computers online all of the time.

The 250GB/month is more than adequate for 95% of the users, but if they keep going down, there will be a revolt.

Michial (user link) says:

Re: 250GB is low?!

Yosi;

I work from home, and am responsible for 9 servers that are all co-located. I am connected to these servers nearly 24×7, and hourly pull incremental backups off them to a local system. Once a week and once a month I pull full backups which are 35g each.

My guess is that if I am not hitting the 250gb limit I am pretty close to it. I guess I’ll wait and see what comcast does to me, I’m on their highest speed package, and pay top dollar for it.

Freedom says:

Re: Re: 250GB is low?!

When you get right down to it, if you are using 250GB a month, you are probably doing something fairly intense and getting a second line to increase your cap to 500GB isn’t a big deal. Frankly, getting 4 lines to get 1TB per month wouldn’t be a big deal if you are really using it for legit or otherwise reasons.

I can’t believe all the whining I hear from home users about how expensive their bandwidth is and how offended they are by this cap. Try buying bandwidth for a business sometime where you pay $400+ for a basic boring T1/DS1 line, or over $3,000 for a DS3 line which is about twice as fast as a standard cable connection except for the upload speed of course.

My only worry about the cap is that 250GB which is sufficient for most users today may be way too little tomorrow as we start to stream more and more video and expect hi-speed connections to our office and around the world.

I also worry if this is a combined total – upload and download. This could be an issue, but if just download shouldn’t be an issue.

Freedom

In disbelief says:

Re: 250GB is low?!

Um, yeah, who here really has no idea what they’re talking about? Any serious business professional in this day and age can tell you that dial-up is COMPLETELY WORTHLESS for ANY sort of normal work-from-home activity. First of all, you can only get about 5-6 KBps transfer rate, which can potentially cause even a simple Microsoft Word document a minute or two to open (much longer if there are embedded graphics, etc.). Secondly, any work-from-home activity will require an encrypted VPN connection, which pretty much cuts your current real-world bandwidth in half due to the over head.

The best you can hope for in that situation is to open a remote desktop connection to a PC that’s actually in the office, so the only thing getting pumped through your tiny pipe is screenshots of the remote console. And believe me, even that is hopelessly slow. I know, because I’ve done it before. There are times you click on one thing and wait for 2-3 minutes for the whole screen to get itself updated. And of course slow connections like that are often unstable, so you could continuously lose your connection (again, it’s happened to me). Even web-based apps are no help, because they won’t be any faster than basic internet websites over a dial-up connection. In fact, they’ll be even slower due to the VPN connection.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 250GB is low?!

You have no idea what you’re talking about. I *require* broadband to work from home. I have to do updates from a software repository and they can take upwards of half an hour to 45 minutes. Guess what? I’m on FiOS (as is the place where I’m updating). Working from home wouldn’t even be remotely possible with dial-up. It’s annoying even with just DSL. On top of that, I have to do off-site assistance which requires a VNC connection (imagine something similar to remote desktop). Forget that if all you have is dial-up.

If you think most “work from home” jobs can be done with dial-up, you *really* don’t know what you’re talking about. People telecommute all the time for a plethora of different careers.

I think somebody is behind on technology.

And just to let you know, 250gb is a decent amount. However, I know a lot of people who believe that streaming movies and streaming HD as well, are the future. This is gonna put a hamper on that. The future is in high-bandwidth usage services. This is going to severely harm that.

Will says:

Calculate this

@Yosi:”For almost any work-from-home activity even dial-up connection will be fine.”

Try running windows update, or any other for that matter, over dial-up. Last week I installed Windows XP and development software on a computer. Downloaded SP3 (324MB). Downloaded drivers (75MB). Downloaded Visual Studio SP1 and MSDN update (2GB). Downloaded other development tools and updates (4GB). While that was going on I ran Windows update on my dad’s computer, my mom’s computer, and my nephew’s computer (25-40MB each in incremental updates). You obviously like math, calculate how long all that would take over dial-up (28 to 56Kbps) and at 100KBPS.

I also transferred a set of photo proofs for a layout – 65 photos at ~45MB each. Add to that all the web browsing I, my dad, my mom, and my nephew did in that week – average 10 hours each for them, 25 for me. Consider how graphic intensive most web pages are these days, what’s average? Calculate the time to download all that ove dial-up and at 100KBPS. Over dial-up the browsing alone would have been impossible.

My dad occassionally likes to stream sports video from ESPN because they don’t offer it over the satellite (blackout rules). Impossible over dial-up, less than ideal over 1.5Mbps dsl if others are surfing simultaneously.

Yosi obviously uses the Internet like a 75 year old blind man who fears computers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Does this cap count . . .

“Um, when you watch the video on YouTube, you’re still downloading it. You may not be saving the file locally in a known location on your hard drive, but if you can watch it, it has been transferred to you. Same bandwidth, either way.”

I knew this is just Comcasts way of forcing me to watch thier crappy G4 network to get my YOUTUBE fix!

Anonymous Coward says:

Figures

I started monitoring the data transfer for our family of five (mostly casual use, some work) out of curiosity. I guessed it at 1GB weekly average and 3GB for the rare heavy week. It’s closer to 25GB average and 40GB on a heavy week. We don’t download or stream movies or music aside from the small stuff embedded in mainstream web sites.

On the other hand, my brother visited for a week just before his fall semester started. He was up most of the night and sleeping most of the day and I found out why later. He downloaded a lot of material – naughty movies and candid photos to the tune of 150+GB.

CastorTroy-Libertarian, Lover, General Annoyance f says:

Its going to be just like it was back in the late 90’s lots of providers (at least DSL, T1, and Fiber) and they will force cable to either compromise or get out of the business, plus i think you will see a re-surge of Fiber providers in the US as limits become even more of a sticking point for most consumers…. Cable listen up, piss off the customers, and you open the door for others, Period. Once you have competition, your screwed because you never have figured out how to provide customer service. And anything you can provide over Cable I can provide over DSL or Fiber, and I have a clue how to treat customers.

logic says:

stop complaining!

Enough already. 250gb per month is a perfectly fair amount of bandwidth for $50. If you want/need more, then pony up the money and get a better connection.

Believe me, I am no fan of Comcast, but if you need more than 250gb a month, that means you are constantly pirating large files, or too cheap to buy the bandwidth you need for your “legal” purposes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: stop complaining!

People that are working online with graphic intensive file swaps are legal. Get real. 250 G is nothing when you are doing things legally, such as purchasing music, video, Sling, etc.

I would say that Netflix via cable modem would be a legal use for this, wouldn’t you?

I am also led to believe that Netflix via cable modem would cut Comcast out of Pay-Per-View revenue, wouldn’t you?

Wise up.

Nasch says:

Re: stop complaining!

Enough already. 250gb per month is a perfectly fair amount of bandwidth for $50. If you want/need more, then pony up the money and get a better connection.

That’s great if it’s possible. Is it? Some people are saying Comcast isn’t offering any higher caps for a higher price, just 250GB for everyone, period. Do you have a source indicating customers can pay more for a higher or nonexistent cap? Or are you saying people should move to another provider if they don’t like Comcast? Some people have that option, some don’t, and for some Comcast is the best option despite their flaws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: stop complaining!

“That’s great if it’s possible. Is it? Some people are saying Comcast isn’t offering any higher caps for a higher price, just 250GB for everyone, period. Do you have a source indicating customers can pay more for a higher or nonexistent cap? Or are you saying people should move to another provider if they don’t like Comcast? Some people have that option, some don’t, and for some Comcast is the best option despite their flaws.”

Are you saying that Comcast has some societal obligation to supply more then that? Do they have an “obligation” to supply broadband at all?

Anonymous Coward says:

To those who are touting how big of a cap this is. Let me just throw out some of the ‘other side of the fence’ type of thoughts i’ve got.

Comcast offeres it’s users 12Mb/s max speeds.

that’d yield a sustained transfer rate of 1500KB/s

You’d basically be able to use your max speed for under 2 days before you get cut off.

Correct me if i’m wrong.

I don’t think you have to go out of your way to hit that cap… try going to HULU.com and watch some HD-TV for 2 days and see how long you’ve got internet.

Thom says:

Why

I think the main reason Comcast is making its limits known is because they are so high compared with the numbers we’ve seen published lately for other services. While some of us may fuss and complain because we can and do hit 250GB the truth is most don’t without some serious entertainment use (and comcast would rather supply that through their cable service anyway). Ignore the (legitimate) gripes above and ask yourself how many users of other capped services are drooling over 250GB – it’s probably quite a few.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: This is GOOD

Yeah, it’s all well and good, IF you can get a competing service. But when fiber isn’t available and you’re too far away from a switch to make DSL feasible, thus making cable your only option…

The important question is, how can I monitor my usage? Because “just keep going and we’ll tell you when you’re over” doesn’t cut it.

Lets Starts a Boycott Campaign says:

Boycott Campaign

These corporation only understand the Financial and Reputational Pain. I have about over 100 friends of mine they are pissed and ready to jump the ship. Lets float this disconnection boycott campaign around among friends and setup a deadline and inform local comcast services that we will leave comcast in 30 days.

sam

Kevin M says:

Utitlization

My big concern is there is no commitment for a tool that monitors my usage. I would hope Comcast would be above board in dealing customers and not using “you exceed your limit” as a way to deal with customer service issues or punish customers who present problems for whatever reason.. Without a tool to see what I am using, I have no way to monitor usage and change behavior accordingly, and I have to take the word of the ISP about my usage.

Optimistically, I would love the bandwidth war between ISP to offer the most bandwidth.

logic says:

to chef:

If you have enough money to legally purchase 250gb of music, movies, etc… then shell some out for a BETTER CONNECTION.

I understand that some people’s jobs require them to use a large amount of bandwidth….but guess what: Comcast’s $50 residential plan is not for you!

So since you “legally” purchase 250gb of media per month, which I am estimating must cost you upwards of $200-$400, why not upgrade your bandwidth, and stop complaining on how you are being ripped off.

All I’m saying is that if you need more than 250gb a month, then you need to pay more than the rest of us.

ann says:

Re: to chef:

There is plenty of legal free stuff out there. Try downloading a few linux distro’s – won’t take long to reach 250Gb if you do anything else with the web; especially if you like free music/clips/tv shows etc provided by artists and national broadcasters.
I work at home and my connection has become vital. However, I would have give it up if the connection cost anymore than it currently does.
And yes, I do work a lot with graphics heavy documents and pp presentations.

One of the 95% says:

Internet Hogs

Will, #18, it’s people like you who have caused this problem for the rest.

Regarding your comment “Yosi obviously uses the Internet like a 75 year old blind man who fears computers.” That may be true, but you and your family are internet pigs.

May all your torrents and streaming be throttled.

Nasch says:

Re: Internet Hogs

Will, #18, it’s people like you who have caused this problem for the rest.

1) There is no problem for the rest. If you don’t use 250GB/month, you have no problem. 2) IMO it’s lack of competition that causes problems. If there’s healthy competition, companies serve their customers’ desires or go out of business. If there’s little or no competition, companies tell their customers what they’re going to get and for what price.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

The unintended consequence of a metered internet is that the end user will block more ads to save on bandwidth. This will decrease revenues for websites making it harder for them to stay in business. That will make the web less interesting as fewer will invest in setting up such websites.

But is it really unintended? Of course the cable companies would love to kill off the net. They want us to watch their content not surf. Let’s face it, with unlimited broadband access you would no longer need cable TV. You could watch your favorite shows from the broadcasters’ websites or from bittorrent. You could watch movies from iTunes or Netflix.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anyone who thinks 250gp is a lot… does not really understand how the internet works. Also is this 250 upload and download combined? Sounds to me like they are trying to put online HD content providers out of business plain and simple. One HD move can be anywhere from 4-10gb from itunes/xbox/ps3 or other vendors who are cutting into comcasts business.

Woadan says:

In general, I think the GB limit of 250 seems reasonably high enough that average users will probably not be impacted by this.

However, I checked the Comcast site (I still have access to my account though 2 weeks ago I had Verizon install FiOS at my residence), and in their FAQs for the limits, they advocate that users install a bandwidth monitor from a third party.

My problems with that solution is that a bandwidth monitor has to be installed on each computer/device connected to the network. Things like AppleTV, NetFlix Roku, Vudu, Fyrebox, SlinBox, and many others are not something a monitor can be installed on. And because of that, you won’t ever have an accurate picture of your usage.

Verizon does have a bandwidth monitor tool accessible via this link:(http://netservices.verizon.net/portal/link/help/item&objId=22828), but verizon is reporting at (https://netservices.verizon.net/portal/link/main/onlineusage?linkflag=user_fios_primary_east_undecided) that:

“We are sorry, but your current Internet connection service does not monitor online usage.”

That seems to mean that FiOS users (at least as of August 2008) are not subject to bandwidth limits from Verizon.

Dial-Up and DSL users probably are, so the link for the tool is there for them.

In my mind, Verizon has done this right–they have a bandwidth cap, and they provide a tool that shows usage by account.

Comcast needs to do better, and its customers should report the lack of a unified account usage monitor to the FTC, FCC, and their elected representatives.

Ditto for any other ISP that has usage limits and doesn’t provide an easiy accessed report or monitoring tool.

Now, while I think 250GB is a pretty liberal limit, that is for now.

250GB is the standard HDD size most manufacturers put in their default configurations for laptops.

But as bandwidth increases, so will default HDD size, and as they move up, so should the bandwidth limit. (If they don’t, it’s probably a good indication that the ISP isn’t doing anything to improve their network infrastructure.)

Also, if the bandwidth cap doesn’t apply to offerings from the ISP (viewing video on your PC via the Internet), but it does to a competitor, then that is also an issue.

Woadan

Bryan Price (user link) says:

There is a reason why Comcast did this.

http://www.panhandleparade.com/index.php/mbb/article/comcast_settles_with_attorney_generals_office/mbb779610/

Comcast Settles with Attorney General’s Office
08/29/08 – 11:51 AM
Attorney General Bill McCollum
Tallahassee, Fla:

ATTORNEY GENERAL REACHES $150,000 SETTLEMENT WITH COMCAST
~ Settlement resolves concerns over disclosures related to bandwidth use ~

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced his office has reached a $150,000 settlement with Comcast Cable Communications Management, LLC and its affiliated entities resolving concerns over disclosure issues related to bandwidth use policies. Comcast will reimburse the state $50,000 for the costs of its investigation and will contribute $100,000 to fund future investigations on behalf of Florida consumers.

The Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division began investigating the enforcement of Comcast’s high speed internet “Acceptable Use Policy” which, in part, prohibited the excessive use of bandwidth or downloading. According to the policy, the company would notify customers of excessive use and if a customer’s bandwidth usage did not significantly decrease, that customer faced the discontinuation of his or her high speed internet service. Comcast, however, allegedly did not inform consumers of a specific bandwidth limit, which led to concerns about the proper disclosure of the terms of usage.

Under today’s settlement, reached with Comcast’s full cooperation, the company has agreed not to enforce the excessive use policy without prior clear and conspicuous disclosure of the specific amount of bandwidth usage that would be considered in violation of the policy. The new policy will take effect no later than January, 1, 2009.

deewhite says:

I have Comcast & here are the facts.

If anyone is actually a Comcast subscriber, which most of you that are arguing don’t see to be, then you would have received their new terms of service/user agreement/whatever they call it via e-mail to your main @comcast.net account.

In it, they explicitly say that nothing has changed since they announced the 250gb limit. As it has always been their policy, they look at the top bandwidth users each month and notify them via a phone call that they are using too much. (NOTE: These calls are where the whole ‘invisible cap’ issue came up b/c of people using the BitTorrent protocol excessively, forcing Comcast to use sandvine. The FCC hearing was about Comcast using sandvine without telling the customers. Then, these two issues got merged when the FCC said they had to disclose more information about their network practices and stop using sandvine. But in fact, they are two separate issues that all got resolved at once, with help from the FCC.) This equates to less than half of 1% of their customers in any given area. These users have ALWAYS used WAY more than 250GB/month. All the “cap” did was set a threshold that they will NEVER call/complain about.

If you do not go over the limit, you have nothing to worry about.

If you go over it, and are not one of the top users, you will not get a call. Period.

If you go over it, and are one of the top users, you will get a call.

So, in effect, their policy HAS NOT CHANGED. This cap/limit was just put out there to make the FCC (and some stupid users) shut up about the false advertising BS.

Anyone that HAS been contacted by Comcast for excessive usage, IS overwhelmingly using the service against the TOS/UA. PERIOD.

If they contact you; and, you tell them you are using it for business purposes, they will cut off your service and make you upgrade to Business Class (which has no limit that anyone is aware of…why would it?).

And yes, for those of you that still want to argue, Comcast specifically said that NOTHING HAS CHANGED ON THEIR END WITH REGARDS TO CALLING CUSTOMERS ABOUT EXCESSIVE USAGE, AS NO ONE THEY HAVE EVER CONTACTED USED LESS THAN 250GB. If you can’t follow that logic, then: they will continue calling the top users, and only the top users, regardless of how many people actually go over 250GB/month.

This is a fake cap that is used for no purpose other than to make you guys shut up. Nothing has changed on Comcast’s end.

deewhite says:

One last point.

Stop arguing about whether 250GB is “enough” or not. It is a moot point because, as I stated before, YOU CAN USE MORE THAN 250GB.

They do not put a quota on your cable modem’s MAC address. If you hit 249,999,999KB then download a 2KB e-mail, you will not be shut off half-way through the e-mail. Your internet will still work. And, as long as you aren’t one of the top, top, top users, you will never hear a thing from Comcast.

Have you heard anything from them yet? Then you still won’t, because their practices of contacting top usage customers has not and will not change.

I hope this has gotten through because reading your comments almost made my head explode from all the idiotic rhetoric.

Mike (profile) says:

I had a friend who had his monthly quota go over because he was using some remote desktop software to give tech support. Apparently the downloading of the person’s information was enough to overwhelm his cap. He forgot to take it into consideration when measuring his allowance. I think he had to pay over $200 in fees. I cannot believe that limits on downloading still exist…

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