Comcast Thinking About Overage Fees And Tiered Usage

from the please-don't-use-our-broadband dept

Following Time Warner's recent plans to test broadband caps and overage fees, Broadband Reports has the scoop that Comcast is very strongly considering the same thing. Unlike Time Warner Cable's plans to test super low caps, Comcast is looking at 250GB/month -- which it claims will only impact 0.1% of users. Overage fees will be pretty high, however: $15 charge for each 10 GB over the cap. Comcast will also give users one free "slip up" month per year, for those who go over just for that one month.

There are some good and bad things to this news. On the good side, it would represent a big step up for Comcast in terms of actually being transparent. The company has always had caps, but they've been totally secret "fuzzy caps." Users would have no idea if they had gone over until Comcast sent them a nasty letter telling them to cut down on usage -- or they would lose their account. That said, the problem with tiered broadband is that it can serve to hold back innovation. It puts a limit on what people can do online, just as ISPs should be encouraging more innovative uses. As higher bandwidth applications are coming, limiting the value of an internet connection doesn't seem particularly wise. Providers who embrace innovation and supply the bandwidth to support it will be rewarded with happy customers.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    eleete, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:26am

    The Saga Continues

    Yet another episode in the story of how limited, unlimited really is. Nasty letters and all.

    e

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:29am

    Yeah, So much for their Bullshit ads about unlimited service, Thats ok, I stopped using ComCrap months ago.

     

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  3.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:29am

    Comcast

    I've never really had a problem with Comcast (except their support/billing people). They have always given me more than what I pay for. I pay for about 20 channels I get about 200 (really good digital TV). I pay for up to 8Mbps I get 24Mbps. With all that I will still dump their asses if they put this in place.

     

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  4.  
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    Jim B., May 7th, 2008 @ 5:50am

    Seen from another side

    the other side of this coin, however, is that there is a limited amount of bandwidth from the head end downstream to each house. Even if you have a terabit backbone, you still are limited by the cable head end. So the question is, should I have to suffer slow internet connections just because there are a couple of neighbors with teenagers who are maxing out bandwidth downloading movies and music 24x7?

    If you need full time high bandwidth, pay the freight for a dedicated T1 and then max it to your heart's content. If you are going to benefit from the reduced price of a shared connection, be prepared to accept limitations.

     

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  5.  
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    Matt, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:51am

    Re: Comcast - what about when they give you less?

    See, the whole problem is, they still aren't getting it. 4-8 years later where people are trumpeting their idiocy, they still aren't getting it.

    Also, if getting what you pay for means you get less than before, for that same money, how do you like that?

    I hate comcast. However, there are no other providers that come even close on speed out here for download and even upload, as sad as that is (thanks for locking us in chicago)

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:22am

    Chrono where in the world do you get that service from comcast. I pay for 10 and barely get 750K on downloads.

     

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  7.  
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    martdi, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:24am

    Those limits ain't that bad

    If you check Videotron in the province of Quebec (Canada), you are limited to 20GB down, 10 GB up and it costs an extra $8 per extra GB.

    The only other real company that offers broadband here is Bell Canada (Sympatico), which uses bandwith throttling for their customers and all resellers.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:25am

    Re: Comcast

    I'm curious: if you have no trouble with Comcast except for their billing and support folks, why is it you need to talk to their billing or support folks?

    I'm also skeptical of the "pay for 20 channels, get 200." I mean, are they giving you anything of value, or do you find you only ever watch 8 stations? I can't find more than a dozen shows spread over three channels that I care to watch.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:29am

    Re: Seen from another side

    Until now, though, those connections were sold as unlimited. I will not accept a limit if I've bought unlimited service.

    Should you have to suffer from slower service because you're on a shared line? Well, I guess you have to be prepared to accept the limitations if you're benefitting from the reduced price -- you are only paying for *up to* certain speeds -- but if it were *me* I would want some kind of assurance from my provider of a minimum amount of service. That shouldn't be so hard to implement, should it? And it's better, I think, to tier minimum service rather than maximum, so that I pay for better quality rather than paying for fewer restrictions.

    Just a thought.

     

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  10.  
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    Thane, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:33am

    Limits...

    If you have limits there should be a way see your usage. I use bellsouth (at&t).

    Does anyone know of a way to check your usage with any of these broadband ISPs?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:33am

    Re: Those limits ain't that bad

    The fact that there is worse service elsewhere does not mean that this service is not bad.

    We ought to be upset with Comcast; you ought to be even more upset with Videotron.

     

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  12.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:38am

    Re:

    I live in the city of Pittsburgh. It's probably the "in the city" part that gets me the good connection.

    The two numbers you gave are actually less different that what you think. Comcast advertises (up to) 10Mbps (little B) and you are downloading at 750KBps (Big B). A B (byte) is 8 times the size of a b (bit). So when we get everything down to a common denominator your downloading at 5.8Mbps.

    Try this, go to www.ati.com and download their catalyst software. I found that when I did this I got 3MBps (Big B) download. This douse all depend on what the website you're downloading from can push out.

    or you can try the speakeasy speed test and get some numbers that my look familiar.

     

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  13.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:51am

    Re: Re: Comcast

    Support: Internet went down once (so far). Had to call support and he asked for the IP address of my computer even after I told him that I had a router. My internal network was fine. Turns out the modem likes to overheat.

    Billing: Wanted to get Discovery HD. Got an ad that said the HD service was free and so was the box. Confirmed with the sales person that I would be paying around $60 for everything that I wanted. (had to add standard cable to get HD). The first bill came and it was over $250. The billing people were not nice and the only reason I still have comcast is because the "customer loyalty department" were actually able to explain (the sales person lied) and fix my bill. I don't have standard cable nor HD any more.

     

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  14.  
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    James Riley, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:53am

    Glad I've got FiOS

    I couldn't be happier that I'm getting FiOS installed next week after hearing that.

     

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  15.  
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    Ross, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:02am

    For the price we pay...

    For the price we pay Comcast and the likes for their internet access this should be illegal. What happens if someone is stealing your wireless or connection?

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:15am

    Re: Glad I've got FiOS

    /jealous

    Seriously, in parts of southern Washington you have two choices: Qwest DSL or Comcast Cable.

    Qwest DSL has people at every node every day tweaking things. Internet service is not 24/7 because your node may go down, and then your speeds are crap anyways.

    Comcast has great speeds and so far hasn't been too bad for the bills. They still suck a bit and lie a lot. For example, we were told the second box was free. It isn't.

    Still have it because the only channels we watch require it, but if it was easier to mvoe it from TV to TV (depending if we're upstairs in the bedroom or downstairs in the living room) I'd rather do that than pay for the 'convienience.'


    BTW, when I say Comcast sucks I mean my downloads start out fast, eg at advertised speeds, and then drop to half that. Still twice as fast as Qwest, but shitty.

    If you have the option to switch to something better be greatful. Large spats of the country are essentially vendor locked for an ISP. Only a handful of mini-Bells own the cable.

     

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  17.  
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    ansdcd, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:16am

    You should have your connection(wireless) secured i.e. WPA keys etc

     

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  18.  
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    Matt, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:24am

    Re: Re: math?

    Okay, many things are off here this time.

    1: Catalyst is video card drivers for windows; unless you have a conflict between the video card and the network card (very highly unlikely), it's not going to affect your speed. There were problems with Nvidia Nforce motherboards previously, but nothing from ATI graphics cards.

    Comcast doesn't offer 750KBps anywhere. If they did, people would jump on it like FOS, including myself. Not only that, but that would be a competitive upstream value for the US market. Simple math of 10Mbps down = divide by 8, and thats the cap in KB. so 800kbps = 100KBps. Use KB because its realworld. 100KBpbs = 1MB every 10 seconds= 6MB/minute downloaded, since computer storage keeps track in Bytes and not bits.

    Comcast's powerboost is 100% intended to make the speakeasy test look good. Comcast's powerboost basically ups your download/upload caps for a period of 30secs to about a minute at the beginning of any HTTP download. It does make sense, but that is the real purpose behind it. You will never see the speeds you test at in real world usage of anything larger than 10-20MB in size.


    Your statement of 5.8Mbps comes out to about (5800/8 = 725KB/s)....is basic comcast cable, but you'll never see that speed either outside of the speedtest and Linux distros.

     

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  19.  
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    John Doe, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:42am

    Matt is correct, I max out on DL around the high 6xxkB (that's big B).

    Altho I don't like the idea of a limit, when you're under the impression of paying for unlimited internet. If you think about it. 250gb a month is about 300 700MB divx movies, or 56 DVDs. I myself, who is a big BT-er for all my TV shows that i miss do not reach amounts like that a month...

    Another point is, lets say we are back in the 56k ages of dial up. How piss would you be if they limit your usage to 1gb a month when you're paying for unlimited vs the 10 hours a month plan i remember some companies used to advertise.

     

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  20.  
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    allen moran, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:44am

    overage fines

    If my math is right it would be cheaper and more effective for someone who is regularly going over the limit to puchase a second account at $50/month(the price of 30GB over) rather than incur crazy fees.

     

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  21.  
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    JLJ, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:44am

    Bandwidth

    I actually work for an IPTV service that is currently avaible nationwide. My desk is near our call center and I am constantly hearing issues with people hitting "unstated" caps or having to deal with "fair access" policies. There is also an ISP provider in Florida that is notorious for blocking ports that are necessary for our company's services to work.

    I can't wait for the day that a major ISP decides that we are a competor to their services and to just completely block us.

    With so much money being invested by many different companies in severices that are provided over broadband, something is going to have to change. M$ and their movie services through the 360 and a future potential set top box, the various IPTV services that are currently on market or coming to market, there is just too much being thrown at the ISP's now.

    With our IPTV service hitting homes across America, we are seeing people's usage jumping massivly in just one day.

    I wonder what Comcast is going to say to our customers?

    JLJ

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:45am

    Re:

    Yeah, cause that works.

    Sorry, jaded. It's better than nothing, it'll keep most people out, but if someone wants your wireless they can get it. The point being "that doesn't answer the question of what if someone's stealing your access" rather than "don't bother securing your network."

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:48am

    Re:

    This doesn't account for web surfing, retrieving email, live updates on a whole host of programs, and online video games. How much data an hour is sent using WoW?

     

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  24.  
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    JB, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:53am

    The New AOL

    AOL used to charge by the minute. Whatever happened to that?

     

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  25.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:59am

    Re: Re: Re: math?

    1) The catalyst download is just a 60M file that can be downloaded from one of the fastest servers I've seen. It's just a test. I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear. It's not to install.

    2) He is downloading at 750KB. That is in the download window. Not a speed test. Compleatly diffrent numbers.

    3) Vary Possible. The speakeasy speed test just tests burst speeds not consistent download. Hence the ATI test. Plus speakeasy measures in Mb where as the ATI test would measure in MB.

    4) 750KBps * 8 = 6000Kbps / 1024 (1024K per M) = 5.859375Mbps.

     

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  26.  
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    inc, May 7th, 2008 @ 8:08am

    250GB per month is nothing. I get 1.5TB a month on my server with a 100Mbps Full Duplex connection in a big air conditioned room for $99. Still my provider manages to make a profit why can't comcast? To pay upwards of $50, in addition to your cable bill, a month for 6Mbps down with only 250GB is crazy. They should lower their prices and give customers that pay $50 at least 1TB if so, but you know that will never happen.

     

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  27.  
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    Kenneth Murray, May 7th, 2008 @ 8:42am

    Caps and Overages

    Do they provide tools so I can know when I'm going over or reaching my cap?

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 8:54am

    if they did this to my area i would pay for the construction costs to get FiOS in my area just on principle :)

     

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  29.  
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    shanoboy (profile), May 7th, 2008 @ 8:58am

    Re: Comcast

    I've had some other friends tell me the pay for 8Mbps and ger 24Mbps too.

    I get this also, it's called speed boost and that golden 24Mbps only lasts for about 30 seconds of the initial download. After that the powerboost.

     

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  30.  
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    Liquid, May 7th, 2008 @ 9:08am

    WOOT

    GO CAPITALISM

     

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  31.  
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    Clueby4, May 7th, 2008 @ 9:58am

    Metering Responsibilities

    The current users ARE paying for their access, its just that, much like AOL in the 90s, they are defrauding their customers by not investing in infrastructure. So this current suggested "tiered" solution does not resolve or address that issue.

    Additionally, implementing a cap should address content that should not be applied to the cap.
    - isp generated false reset packets
    - email/spam
    - dns queries
    - popups/ads
    - failed downloads
    - troubleshooting (ie test downloads, internal speedcheck pages, etc.

     

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  32.  
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    Ferin, May 7th, 2008 @ 10:02am

    Argh.

    God forbid they actually spend some moeny to upgrade the network capacity and push their partners to do the same.

     

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  33.  
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    evgen, May 7th, 2008 @ 10:09am

    Innovation comes from limits, not abundance

    Contrary to the claim made here, innovation is not driven by unlimited resources, it is driven by attempts to get around limits. We use mp3s because there was not enough bandwidth the push around lossless copies of music tracks. We move to better and faster video codecs so that we can squeeze more content down narrow pipes. Current generation p2p systems were developed because it was impossible to distribute a large payload through a single narrow upstream pipe to multiple endpoints and sharing the workload was the best way to work around the problem.

    All packets should be subject to the cap. This will push application developers and tcp/ip stack maintainers to work smarter solutions into their products. If caps are explicitly stated by providers then customers can vote with their wallets and select the plans or providers that are most appropriate for how they intend to use the connection.

     

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  34.  
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    Ronald, May 7th, 2008 @ 10:46am

    Comcast pay for overages

    I think this is a fantastic IDEA!!! Internet is not free.. This will finally make all the over eaters pay for their usage and will hopefully make things faster in the long run for those of us not abusing the service!

     

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  35.  
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    Brian, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:03am

    Re: Re: Comcast - what about when they give you less?

    Matt - Are you actually in Chicago?
    If you are, I assume you'd know about RCN.

    I get 20 Mpbs down and 2 Mpbs up as part of my cable / internet package.

    You should check them out if you're in the city.

     

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  36.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Comcast pay for overages

    Or you could realise that your Internet connection is slow because of all the little kids coming home from and jumping on youtube and myspace, not from the less than 0.1% (BS) that would be affected by this.

    This is just Comcast being to lazy and greedy to update their connections to meet the demand of the Internet 2.0.

     

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  37.  
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    Devon, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:18pm

    shit a 250gig limit would rock where i live, currently we have 1.5 mb dsl 10 gig limit a month and 10 bucks pre gig over it, for the 10 mb cable it has a huge 20 gig monthly limit and still 10 bucks a gig over it

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Seen from another side

    If you need full time high bandwidth, pay the freight for a dedicated T1 and then max it to your heart's content. If you are going to benefit from the reduced price of a shared connection, be prepared to accept limitations.
    Perhaps you should take your own advice. If you are going to benefit from the reduced price of a shared connection, be prepared to accept limitations. If not, pay the freight for a dedicated T1 and avoid the inconvenience of sharing.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re:

    Sorry, jaded. It's better than nothing, it'll keep most people out, but if someone wants your wireless they can get it.
    Not likely with WPA.

    The point being "that doesn't answer the question of what if someone's stealing your access" rather than "don't bother securing your network."
    What if a gang of "internets thieves" breaks into your house, ties your family up and "steals your access"? Same difference and about as likely.

     

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  40.  
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    Mike Hammett, May 7th, 2008 @ 2:15pm

    The problem here is that the consumer (most of you here) has no idea what is involved in providing these services and what they cost.

    Broadband was, is, an always will be limited, no matter what they in big letters on TV. If you ant dedicated bandwidth, purchase it. Many if not all large MSOs provide a dedicated fiber service. You can get a T1 or T3 from Ma Bell. There are thousands of independent DSL and wireless ISPs out there that can offer you a tailor made solution, with a cost appropriate to what you're asking for.

    You can't expect to leave the faucet on or the AC on 24/7/365 and not get billed for the extra usage. Why should broadband be any different?

     

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  41.  
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    Mike Hammett, May 7th, 2008 @ 2:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: math?

    Most file transfers are less than the 20 meg download10 meg upload of PowerBoost. I would imagine it helps most people more than you think.

    I'd imagine the Catalyst comment was just picking out a large download, and not necessarily what the file actually was.

     

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  42.  
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    Mike Hammett, May 7th, 2008 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re:

    All of that is minimal. I know several ISP owners and several of them have reported that a vast majority of their users do not surpass 1 GB a month, and some have only done 1 GB this year. I don't have a transfer record of my customers, only cacti graphs of speeds.

     

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  43.  
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    Mike Hammett, May 7th, 2008 @ 2:31pm

    Re:

    Because it costs far more to deploy a network to your house than a network down the hall in a carrier hotel.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Limits...

    yes... use a router and then set up a box with MRTG to log your traffic usage. I use that to know what I'm pushing and pulling. MRTG does much more.

    At my Data Center I use Ubersmith to watch customer ports and bill them for usage. THey can also log in and watch their usage so they can change their commit rates to avoid overage charges.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 4:01pm

    Re: Re: Seen from another side

    No thank you. A T1 from ATT is $500/month at least. I have Cogent and they installed a fiber NID for me and I run 1GigE from my home to a local datacenter and I run off their 10GigE trunk.

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 4:22pm

    Re:

    You can't expect to leave the faucet on or the AC on 24/7/365 and not get billed for the extra usage. Why should broadband be any different?
    Yeah, and just because you're paying for unlimited cable TV that doesn't mean you can watch your TV on 24/7/365 either does it? Bull.
    And if I was paying for unlimited utilities then I would expect unlimited utilities too.

     

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  47.  
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    MrScott, May 7th, 2008 @ 4:28pm

    I'm SO happy that I dumped Comcast right before the whole "BitTorrent" story went public. I'm now on fiber optic (not FIOS though) and my speeds are faster up and downstream than before the switch, and for less money. I get IPTV and internet for $15 less per month than the other place charged.

    Now, I wonder about one thing. What about the people on Comcast that have an online movie rental service? By what I understand, they won't be able to "rent" many movies because of a cap on their bandwidth, and if they go over that cap (God forbid) they're gonna get charged MORE for this "one time slip-up" per year?? What brilliant employee of Comcast came up with that idea?

    Um...Comcast...WAKE UP!! The internet is NOT static web pages and text to read, anymore. It's filled with online services, live video, applications, online meetings, MMORPG, streaming movie rentals, IPTV, and a multitude of programs that require some bandwidth. Isn't it time to change your infrastructure to handle the demand, instead of punishing your customers who need bandwidth?

    Like an old saying that goes....you can't make money, if you don't SPEND money. In Leiman's terms, that means if you can't keep the customer happy, he'll go elsewhere. And pissing off the customer sure won't keep him, and won't make you any more money if he goes elsewhere.

    I know that some of you CAN'T switch to another ISP, because there is none. I've heard that argument many times. I'm not debating that. What I AM debating is that the first chance you get to get away from Comcast, do it! I switched a while back, and I'm certainly more happy with fiber optic than with cable. I'm not limited in ANY way as far as a bandwidth cap, or my torrents. There simply are none. ...And for less money per month, to boot!

     

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  48.  
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    Gimme a break, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:00pm

    All,
    It's a pretty simple concept really. Make more money. Comcast is looking for ways to improve their margin and wealth to shareholders.

    If you don't like it, drop their service. Go somewhere else. Cell phone companies have used this method for years. There are people out there that will pay.

     

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  49.  
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    inc, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:44pm

    Re:

    the problem is that there are tons of cell phone companies all wanting your business. There are not a lot of broadband providers that you could call it competition. What they should to to increase their margin is figure out how to make bandwidth cheaper so they can deliver on their "unlimited" marketing instead of trying to figure out way to fuck people.

     

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  50.  
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    AB, May 8th, 2008 @ 1:03pm

    Re: For the price we pay...

    Put on WPA security, never run wireless unsecured.

     

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  51.  
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    frnkblk, May 8th, 2008 @ 6:06pm

    Re: Bandwidth

    Rather than IP TV, I think you mean Internet TV. Big difference.

     

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  52.  
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    frnkblk, May 8th, 2008 @ 6:12pm

    Re: 250GB per month is nothing

    1.5TB in a data center is a lot different than 1.5 TB on a residential broadband access network. There's no local loop to worry about, a high density and volume of bandwidth, lowering costs.

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    frnkblk, May 8th, 2008 @ 6:15pm

    Re: Argh.

    So Verizon's billions for FiOS, AT&T's network expansion for Uverse, and Comcast's plan to have 25% of network upgraded to DOCSIS 3.0 (or something like it) doesn't count for anything?

    Stop spouting, look at the facts.

     

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

  54.  
    identicon
    Clueby4, May 9th, 2008 @ 7:44pm

    Yep it doesn't count

    Yep it doesn't count. And if you obtusely claim the DOCSIS upgrade is just for bandwidth, then you are not looking at facts, perhaps press releases.

     

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

  55.  
    identicon
    Alex, Feb 16th, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Comcast pay for overages

    If you've purchased an unlimited plan how would you be "abusing" the service? Technically, you should be able to download 24/7 at the maximum allowable (contracted) rate with no penalties (UNLIMITED)

     

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


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