Comcast Enforces Invisible Broadband Caps

from the guess-we-missed-that-*-after-unlimited dept

Unlimited: not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity or extent. Seems pretty straightforward, right? Apparently not to broadband providers, who seem to interpret it a bit differently. Because they've marketed their services as unlimited, then done a poor job of designing their networks, they get upset when people actually take advantage of those supposedly unlimited connections, and complain that they're screwing everything up for all their other users. Comcast is the latest to start giving people the boot for using too much bandwidth, even though they don't have a published limit. When pressed by a reporter, a company spokesman wouldn't give any specifics, just that it's "roughly the equivalent of 13 million e-mail messages or 256,000 photos a month", which is hardly helpful. While these companies are certainly well within their rights to put caps on the services they sell (even though it's an annoying practice for many consumers), they need to disclose them clearly to users, and not market their services as if they're unlimited. They also then need to give users ways to track how much bandwidth they've used -- for instance, Cox emails subscribers that go over its disclosed bandwidth caps, and in lieu of pointing them to tools where they can track their monthly usage, it just pushes them to get a more expensive "business" account. While caps may be an annoying way to cover up poor networks or to create tiered levels of service, they're not the real issue here. The real issue is the way broadband providers hide the caps and other restrictions on their services deep in the fine print -- if at all -- where they're far out of sight of their marketing materials.
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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2007 @ 7:00pm

    "invisible broadband cap" ... is that anything like a tinfoil cap???

    First!?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    fu, 14 Mar 2007 @ 7:32pm

    comcast doesn't suck

    I have the 2nd tier comcast, and it costs me an extra $10 a month for three times the upstream speed as the first tier. This lets me Bittorrent down faster, which is the reason I got it. I upload 20-30 GB per month, and they don't cap me. $10 a month extra is WELL worth it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Prophet, 14 Mar 2007 @ 7:32pm

    I have the comcast 6mb service in PA and regularly get 18mb Down and between 768 and 1.5 up. The Cap seems to be kinda invisible to me. But i dont try to email upwards of 10 million emails a month so who knows.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, 14 Mar 2007 @ 7:38pm

    Cap

    "256,000 photos a month"

    With my pictures that equals about 475G a month. That's one hell of a cap. I don't think I've reached that yet, but I have tried.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      nonuser, 14 Mar 2007 @ 8:28pm

      Re: Cap

      Companies are known for calculating metrics in tricky ways, advantageous to themselves, so let's try another possible approach. Film plays back at 24 frames per second, and there are 3600 seconds in a hour, so 256K photos works out to... about 3 hours of video per month.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tonicart, 14 Mar 2007 @ 7:47pm

    256,000 pics a little vague

    256,000 pictures could mean a cap of 25,600MB for ~100k pics, or up to 768,000MB for ~3MB pics... What a shady way of doing business. I'm glad I'm on Verizon DSL now; i used to be on Comcast/RoadRunner Cable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Seth Brundle, 14 Mar 2007 @ 7:57pm

    Grass is green

    The one and only reason we have $14.95 unlimited DSL is because by and large the average home user doesnt come within a fraction of 1% of saturating their available bandwidth.

    If we did saturate, say, a DSL line on average Mbit pricing, it would be a few hundred dollars a month at least.

    However, overnight Bittorrent users slashed the hell out of the already razor-thin margins of such pricing and its only going to get worse as broadband speeds increase along with the size of the ISOs ( I imagine well be seeing raw HDDVD ISOs soon if not already)

    So, they can either cap the heavy downloaders, or raise everyone's price. Those are really the only two options.

    As for advertising the caps, that is completely impossible for any company to start without the industry as a whole cooperating, because it would kill them. No one wants to be reminded of AOL-style pricing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scott, 14 Mar 2007 @ 8:25pm

    ISP's build their pricing model based on the fact that they can aggregate traffic of a large number of connections in a local region. It's the best way to give users the greatest bandwidth and keep the overall costs down.

    The only times I've understood ISPs to actively restrict a user is when other users in the local region begin complaining that their service is affected.

    ISPs could do themselves a big favor by simply defining how this policy is implemented rather than hiding behind some mystical, top-secret number.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2007 @ 8:28pm

    As for advertising the caps, that is completely im

    so their competitive situation makes it ok to tell lies in their advertising?

    I don't think so!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2007 @ 8:38pm

    Go ahead and cap the bandwidth... I dare you. There will be hell to pay when all of the LECs inadvertently turn off all of the DSLAMS and CABLE terminals via malicious code embedded in the firmware of every component on the network. Too bad Adtran does not know what their employees are upto.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael Vilain, 15 Mar 2007 @ 1:12am

    It's this false advertising?

    Why hasn't Eliot Spitzer's replacement in New York or some other state AG gone after Comcast for false advertising? They're selling unlimited service and not providing it. Seems like a simple contract violation to me (but IANAL).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PNess, 15 Mar 2007 @ 4:21am

    "However, overnight Bittorrent users slashed the hell out of the already razor-thin margins"

    taken a look at their SEC financial reports on how much money they are making? lol

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, 15 Mar 2007 @ 4:22am

    legal if crooked

    they will be intelligent enough to make sure it is legal, by stating "terms and conditions apply", and on the terms of service, maiking them so tortous that you never find what the cap is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 15 Mar 2007 @ 5:38am

    Ye ole loophole

    "terms and conditions apply"

    "subject to change without notice"

    and lots of other legalease that we the consumer can never hope to understand short of a law degree.

    Best believe that they have covered their legal tracks on that hidden cap value. If you try to terminate your service then they will hit you with some ungodly "contract termination fee" like a cell phone.

    Quite the trap...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Karl, 15 Mar 2007 @ 6:18am

    Spitzer

    "Why hasn't Eliot Spitzer's replacement in New York or some other state AG gone after Comcast for false advertising?"

    Comcast stopped using the term unlimited in advertising a year or two ago after years of customer complaints and forum gripe sessions. The Globe is about three years late to this story, though the attention to Comcast's inability to come clean is always good....

    From what I can remember the invisible cap is somewhere around 500GB per month, but that varies per market based on network capacity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2007 @ 6:25am

    The reason why Eliot Spitzer's replacement hasn't done anything about it, is that he (or she) isn't running for the governorship YET. As soon as Spitzer looks vulnerable, or ascends to Hillary's seat in '08, then it'll be on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    seaowl, 15 Mar 2007 @ 6:41am

    I think we need to make affordable high speed access avilable to all Americans. Why should only those who can pay the high prices have the bandwith and leave everyone else out in the cold?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      malhombre, 15 Mar 2007 @ 7:22am

      Re: seaowl

      "we" represents who, "we the people"? You want gov't provided ISP service? Or did you have some other across the board method of providing reasonably secure, privacy responsible, low or no cost, unlimited access to "all Americans"? Why should only those who can pay the high prices have the bandwidth? You just answered your own question. High speed internet is not food, shelter, or any other basic requirement for sustaining life. I mean, I think it is unfair that only the wealthy get to drive high-end prestige cars, but hey, that's capitalism. No one said I can't buy one, but I do have to pay.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        seaowl, 15 Mar 2007 @ 1:20pm

        Re: Re: seaowl

        I think that the companies should be allowed to charge more for certain applications or super fast speeds, after all they need an incentive for buildout. But I also think that ther should be a minnimum speed that everyone gets at a reasonable price. The FCC's current deffinition of "high speed" is 200kbps. What the heck can you do with that, read email? The standard should be at least 2mbps downstream and 1mbps up. High speed, high capacity networks will eliminate bandwith scarcity and promote an open Internet. Part of the Governments role should be to establish oversight, accountability and reporting as well as stimulating investment.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Laura Unger, 15 Mar 2007 @ 5:31pm

        Re: seaowl by malhombre

        When the telephone was first invented no one thought it was a necessity either. Then it became clear that it was, and federal telcom policy required universal service. A high speed connection IS becoming a necessity. Yes, it's capitalism and we are going to have to figure out some way to incent companies to provide high speed service to rurual areas and other markets where people can't afford it. Maybe tax breaks, maybe letting a portion of a larger, higher speed infrastructure be used to provide higher priced services. The point is, right now there is no policy, no accountability, no consumer protections and companies like Comcast can do whatever they want.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2007 @ 7:24pm

      Re:

      "I think we need to make affordable high speed access avilable to all Americans. Why should only those who can pay the high prices have the bandwith and leave everyone else out in the cold?"

      For the same reason I am happy that you cannot afford a gigabit internet connection. I pay $10k a month so that I can have wide open access to a data trunk. if I had everyone and their mother on trunks like that, they would be littering my pristine network. Stay out you poor shits... There is a reason some people are poor and complain about it. It is called self imposed poverty... no-one else is complaining about the ones that don't complain.

      Piss off

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Martin, 15 Mar 2007 @ 7:27am

    I'd like to see Comcast try to pull the "Terms & Conditions apply" crap with me. When I got my cable/internet installed in 2001, all I did was call and request an install. Then a guy came and installed the hardware. I never clicked through a contract on a web site, or installed any software with a click-through EULA, so I don't see how they can claim they changed my unlimited internet to anything else. What they offered in 2001 is what I should be getting still.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    fuse5k, 15 Mar 2007 @ 8:25am

    I dont usually side with companies on much, but if it is as has been suggested, and the cap is anything between 400-500 gig per month, then i think its fair enough to have a cap. It's really not fair to buy the cheapest account you can and expect the world from it. Someone else said that they are on that service and an extra $10 a month gets you actual unlimited broadband.

    Fair enough they may have falsely advertised, but 99% of their subsribers will never hit 500 gig a month.

    I think the case is here that someone wants something for nothing, there is no way that home broadband use will exceed 500 gb a month unless someone is hitting the bittorrent pretty hard.

    if they are running a business off the connection, then they should be a bit less cheap and spring for a better connection.

    at the end of the day you get what you pay for, and i would say that 500 gig a month is fair, considering that they are not upgrading their service any.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jahrends, 15 Mar 2007 @ 8:50am

    False Advertising

    No matter how you slice this it is FALSE advertising. You can't tell a customer that you are going to give them an XMb unlimited connection then complain when they use it. There is such a thing as QOS (Qality of Service) that if the company had any clue on how to run their network they would know to throttle the heavy users during peak times to ensure that they are not impacting everyone else. If they don't publish their caps then they need to be forced to live up to what they publish.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2007 @ 10:08am

    The reason they refuse to disclose the cap is because it is different in every area, depending on how much others are using the network. Which is completely and utterly unfair as well as shady.

    They hope that the fact of a possible looming cap would frighten some users into using their connection less.

    Thing is, say on average the people in your area with cable internet download about 100gigs a month, and you download around 80. They won't care.

    Now say you move to another neighboorhood, this one on average the people only download say, 20 gigs a month. Suddenly, you are now flagged as a bandwidth abuser and get sent one of these letters.

    They purposely make the letters as incredibly vague as possible, they will NOT at all whatsoever give you an answer that comes anywhere close to determining this cap. They will claim its illegal, confidentinal, don't have the imformation, etc to disclose the cap, or try to be as vague as the letter. And that if you do it again, you will lose your service.

    Questions about what you should do will give you the typical "You should only be using your connection for e-mail and webpages anyway" response.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sgunes, 15 Mar 2007 @ 1:58pm

    Comcast screwing customers

    I got kicked out by Comcast about 2 years ago without a warning. Needless to say, I am now a very happy customer with my DSL. If everybody switched away from them, they would stop misleading customers into thinking that they actually can get full-speed unlimited internet access. Comcast is one of those deceptive, nasty, criminal American companies. I hope one day their CEO's and CFO's... will end up in prison like the Adelphia scumbags. May all these corporate criminals rot in hell forever!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lost One, 1 Aug 2007 @ 1:43pm

    You have a lot of time on your hands for a rich man...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Skullforos, 1 Aug 2007 @ 1:44pm

    heh i agree

    i agree! especially to start shouting at us who actually WORK for a living...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    rob, 13 Aug 2007 @ 7:13pm

    you on crack

    hey yo i think this whole comcast thing is nuthin but a bunch a damn hoolio people that dont care about their customers
    further more
    they aint doin jack sh*t b/c they think they know it all
    as far as im concerned they can go blow themselves up the ass
    lmao
    if you smellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll what the rock, Is cookin
    lmao
    lmao

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    nobody, 29 Sep 2007 @ 9:40am

    bandwidth, BT

    I got a call in April for using too much bandwidth. I've since monitored my usage. So far I've not gotten in trouble using 150GB a month. I've noticed Bittorrent being stopped when downloading over 4 to 5GB in one day. Before that when you download Bittorrent, web browsing went to a crawl. I looks like they changed that tactice from slowing down you connection when BTing to capping your daily BT download in mid-Sept that is when I noticed the difference.

    I have no objection if they just tell me how much I can do on each service. I will comply if I know the exact numbers for each service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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