As Broadband Usage Caps Expand, Nobody Is Checking Whether Usage Meters Are Reliable

from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept

Despite the hype surrounding Google Fiber and gigabit connections, vast swaths of the U.S. broadband industry are actually becoming less competitive than ever. As large telcos like Windstream, Frontier, CenturyLink, and Verizon refuse to upgrade aging DSL lines at any scale, they're effectively giving cable providers a growing monopoly over broadband in countless markets. And these companies are quickly rushing to take advantage of this dwindling competition by imposing entirely arbitrary, confusing and unnecessary usage caps and overage fees in these captive markets.

The benefits of these pricey limitations are two fold: they allow cable providers to not only jack up the price of service, but they're an incredible weapon against the looming threat of streaming video competition. Caps and overage fees make using streaming alternatives notably more expensive, helping to protect legacy TV revenues. But cable operators are also exempting their own streaming services from these caps (as Comcast did with the launch of its own, new streaming platform this week), while still penalizing competitors. This kind of behavior is just one of several reasons why net neutrality rules are kind of important.

Oddly though, you'd be hard pressed to find politicians or regulators from either party that give much of a damn that this massive distortion of the level internet playing field is occurring. Which is why, unlike in other sectors, nobody anywhere is verifying whether ISP usage meters are accurate. As a result, there have been countless instances where users say they've been billed for bandwidth despite their modem being off or the power being out. And numerous studies have indicated ISPs routinely abuse this lack of oversight by overcharging for service.

Comcast has, of course, been at the forefront of imposing these usage limitations and overage fees. And unsurprisingly, consumers pretty consistently state that the cable giant -- already world renowned for historically-abysmal customer service -- isn't tracking usage or billing these customers accurately. Users who were billed for usage while away on vacation have had no real ability to challenge Comcast's meter readings. And Ars Technica documented another user this week who says he battled with Comcast for months over errant meter readings before cancelling fixed-line broadband service entirely:

"At one point, Weaver says he left town for three days and had left his wireless router unplugged, though the modem itself was plugged in. After his trip, Comcast's meter showed that he "used 500GB in three days of not even being home and not having a Wi-Fi network running," Weaver said. He then tried disconnecting the modem for three days and found that Comcast's meter finally stopped counting data usage, he said.

"I have been told no less than eight times that I can rest easy if I would just buy the $50 unlimited data plan," he said. "This whole thing reeks of scam."

In short it goes something like this: lobby to keep the broadband industry uncompetitive, use that lack of competition to impose arbitrary and unnecessary limits that hinder competitors, then charge users $50 more per month if they want to enjoy the same, unlimited connection they used to enjoy. It is a scam, but again, you'd be hard pressed to find absolutely anybody in government that gives much of a damn, despite the ploy's negative impact on competition and the health of the internet. What a wonderful time to dismantle some of the only rules we have protecting consumers from this kind of behavior, don't you think?


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 10:51am

    Caps

    It will never become a problem until it happens to them.

    It will never happen to them since the cable people don't want scrutiny of their behavior.

    Must be nice living in a bubble where you are better treated then those you are suppose to represent.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 10:58am

    Gee, we make sure gas pumps, water meters, etc are all accurate... why not these meters?

    Is it because the FCC is a toothless bunch of bought and paid for wonks who only consider whats good for the carriers & consumers be damned?

    They talk about how the corps are spending so much on upgrading, while delivering speeds less than some African nations.

    They lower the speeds we should be getting, so the corps can keep profits high.

    They refuse to make them honor agreements where they got paid for promises that they broke, and broke, and broke, and broke.

    If there is another carrier within 150 miles of you, even if they won't service your area, you have competition.

    Pendulums are supposed to swing back, and considering how far they pushed it this time the carriers are going to scream.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 12:12pm

      Re:

      I fear the pendulum is nearing a point where it may make a 360 instead of returning to the previous goal-posts.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:07pm

      Re:

      Gee, we make sure gas pumps, water meters, etc are all accurate...

      Really? When was the last time your water meter was checked for accuracy? I've never known it to happen.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:19pm

        Re: Re:

        Just asking (I have my own well): there isn't a regulatory body that ensure water meters are accurate?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:28am

        Re: Re:

        After moving in and receiving the first bill, I complained that it was impossible for me to use that quantity of water even if I turned on all faucets. They replaced the water meter. The bills have been much more accurate since then.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 11:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          A guy I know did a similar thing with the electric company, twice now. The electric company *claimed* that the meters tested good when they got them back and that they would charge him for replacing the meter the next time it happened.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 11:56am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I had hard data to prove the amount they claimed, in cfm, was impossible to attain given the sum in cfm of all faucets at full capacity. My main concern was a water line break under ground, but that was not the case - it was the meter ... way off

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 11:10am

    >After his trip, Comcast's meter showed that he "used 500GB in three days of not even being home and not having a Wi-Fi network running," Weaver said. He then tried disconnecting the modem for three days and found that Comcast's meter finally stopped counting data usage, he said.

    That is a lot of pings, no wonder there are bandwidth issues.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 11:27am

    I would start calling someone at your state Weights and Measures office. https://www.agr.state.il.us/weights-measures/ for example.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 11:34am

    Difference between cable and Internet

    I know there are some practical difference, one is copper (I think) and the other may be copper or fiber or a combination. One goes downhill only and the other goes both ways. But the basic purpose of both is to deliver digital data. One is subject to caps and the other is not, and the one that is not, I'll bet, uses a whole lot more bandwidth than the one that is. But there is no meter on the one that uses more bandwidth.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 11:52am

      Re: Difference between cable and Internet

      The major difference between cable and the Internet, is that cable broadcasts all available channels to all users in parallel. The Internet sends individual streams to each use. As a result, for every shared part of the infrastructure, cable uses the same bandwidth whether zero or thousands are viewing its content, while the total bandwidth demand on the Internet is 0 if there is no user, and increases as each user starts a stream.

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 11:59am

        Re: Re: Difference between cable and Internet

        Thank you for that, but in terms of infrastructure aren't there ones and zeros flowing down each pipe? Sure I understand that one of those is less complicated (broadcast) but the complexity is on the Internet user, deciding which ones and zeros to request. In between, it's just equipment.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 12:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: Difference between cable and Internet

          In both cases the use decides which ones and zeros they want. With cable their box selects those from all the ones and zeros flowing past them. With the Internet, a server, hopefully a caching server, has to start a new stream to that user.

          Also, note that with cable, the number of streams is decided by the number of channels on the fattest cable package available. With the Internet, the number of streams equals the number of users demanding a stream at that time, and this can easily exceed the number of cable channels, even if all of those streams are for the same program.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 12:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: Difference between cable and Internet

          The model of broadcast, in all forms, is to send all data that anyone might want, and rely on the recipient(s) to accept the parts they want and ignore the rest. The model of the Internet is primarily unicast (there are some provisions for non-unicast, but as far as I know, those are not used in any of the contexts where this discussion is relevant): each recipient receives a private copy of the data, regardless of how much duplication this causes.

          Look at it as the difference between getting your news from listening to the radio (broadcast - the sender doesn't even know you exist, nor whether your radio receiver will be powered on, nor whether you'll be in the room when the radio emits the sound of their transmission) versus reading the newspaper (you get a private paper to read, at your leisure, and you don't need to worry that someone else reading the same article reads faster or slower than you, because they're not using the same paper; they're using a distinct copy of the paper printed with the same contents).

          We regulate broadcasts primarily because the transmission technology imposes a cap on how many broadcasts can usefully be sent through a given area before they start disrupting each other. We don't meter them because the design model assumes they're always sending (ignore stations that close down at night).

          Internet meters make sense if, and only if, the network is so overburdened that it's impossible to adequately serve all consumers at the level they demand. While the ISPs have done an impressive job at neglecting their networks, demand still hasn't reached the point that the network is sufficiently overburdened that meters are the right solution. Even if they were right, the implementation most ISPs are using is grossly unfair for two reasons. First, as discussed in this article, there's no reason to believe the meter's analysis matches reality. Second, the overage fees are invariably vastly in excess of reason. Considering the nature of typical Internet usage, deprioritizing (not artificially slowing, just moving to the back of a crowded line) burdensome users would be far more fair than any of the things the ISPs have actually imposed (overage fees or, in some cases (particularly wireless), punitively slowing the customer's traffic far more than is strictly needed to ensure other customers get a fair allocation).

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 5:12pm

        Re: Re: Difference between cable and Internet

        The major difference between cable and the Internet, is that cable broadcasts all available channels to all users in parallel. The Internet sends individual streams to each use.

        Except that it uses datagrams, not "streams". Usually, those datagrams are part of a stream initiated by the subscriber, but nothing requires it: anyone can send you data whether you want it or not, and if you're billed based on "usage" that's going to count against you. Which means that the guy who "used 500GB in three days of not even being home and not having a Wi-Fi network running" might have been metered correctly—the usage did stop, after all, when he turned the modem off.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: Difference between cable and Internet

          anyone can send you data whether you want it or not, and if you're billed based on "usage" that's going to count against you.

          A lot of people don't understand that point.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 10:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Difference between cable and Internet

            "A lot of people don't understand that point."

            A lot of people believe that it is wrong to charge customers based upon that rather questionable method of measurement, these people do in fact understand that ... quite thoroughly. What is to stop an ISP from blasting all its customers with crap packets just to jack up the charges? Nothing. What do they do when called out on it? They pay trolls to post silly rationalizations on various blogs attempting to gloss over the huge bullshit mountain they have created.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 11:49am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Difference between cable and Internet

              And what's to keep a ghost from coming in when I'm away, using my internet, and jacking up my charges?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:03pm

      Re: Difference between cable and Internet

      In broad strokes: Broadband and cable are two designations for different copper setups to provide last mile access. Broadband is reduced by distance to provider central, cable isn't. Cable is dependent of number of users sharing connection, broadband isn't. Since copper is a limiting ressource and most use has historically been based on download, the providers has stadardized a split that provides better download speed than upload speed (it can be changed!).

      Fiber is a completely different beast. It is straight up better than copper for internet access (copper can dual as both internet and phone infrastructure and since phone lines are already installed it saves on installation costs!). Fiber has a much better capacity and has a more upload friendly capacity ratio, is more reliable and is straight up better than copper on almost all parameters. The problem has historically been the cost of installation which was significantly higher than copper per meter once upon a time. However, if you have a choice, fiber is often a no-brainer over copper if you want a better internet connection.

      The reason the fiber roll-out has stalled, is the much less infrastructure costly wireless connections. But 4G wireless suffers from capacity issues and less reliability than pure fiber cable. 5G will be a significant upgrade to capacity, but several reliability issues are unlikely to ever be addressed by wireless, unless the tower density is significantly increased or terrain is changed to accomodate the connectivity!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:20pm

      Re: Difference between cable and Internet

      Not sure what distinction you're trying to make. "cable vs. Internet" is nonsensical. Do you mean cable vs. Ethernet?

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:28pm

        Re: Re: Difference between cable and Internet

        Well, if you want to get technical. :-)

        I use my Ethernet network to supply the Internet to my various devices, so the differentiation can become blurred to a non-technical dweeb like me.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 10:58am

      Re: Difference between cable and Internet

      "One goes downhill only and the other goes both ways"

      Are you trying to be funny? Because this is funny.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 11:47am

    Plenty of us are checking by logging with our routers. In my experience they are not accurate at all.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 12:10pm

    Data discrepancy origin

    While what I've observed doesn't rise nearly to the volume described here, I've seen effectively continuous junk usage at home, too. Specifically, any time the modem is up and connected, I get ARP requests for MAC addresses of other customers. Apparently the ISP's router's ARP cache is too small to remember which home has which device, so the router is **very** frequently (once every few seconds) trying to rediscover to which home each of several dozen MAC addresses belongs. It happens regardless of whether any of my systems are using the network. I can't stop it because it's not even for me. It's *their* router doing its job in a barely adequate way. As a quick estimate, ~60 bytes per ARP request, with an average of 2 per second, that comes to -> 60 bytes/packet * 2 packets/second * 60 seconds/minute * 60 minutes/hour * 24 hours/day -> ~9M per day, or 296M a month, just for leaving the modem connected. That figure assumes the meter counts the traffic accurately, and assumes he gets the same level of junk traffic I do. If they apply fudge factors, like assuming that every packet is Maximum Transmission Unit sized whether or not it is, then multiply by (1500 / ~60) and say 7415M a month, just from junk. If the junk characteristics are different for Comcast in his area, that could shift the number by a couple orders of magnitude in either direction.

    In my case, there are only two ways to stop it: (1) Get their router a big enough ARP cache that it can remember the same host for more than a few seconds or (2) Get rid of enough other customers on that router that the existing cache is big enough. (1) is an ISP infrastructure upgrade. (2) is either an ISP infrastructure upgrade or a campaign for mass cancellations. Neither is remotely feasible.

    [Markdown off because it gets confused by math.]

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 5:25pm

      Re: Data discrepancy origin

      That figure assumes the meter counts the traffic accurately, and assumes he gets the same level of junk traffic I do.

      Junk traffic varies wildly by IP range: "The most extreme case we've observed so far is the address 1.1.1.1, which attracts up to 1Gbps of unsolicited incoming traffic to just that address. But that’s not the only address that stands out from the background. Other addresses also attract large quantities of traffic, But precisely which address and how much traffic is not possible to predict. It appears that the best way to find out just how big or small the problem may be for each addresses is to test them, to see precisely how much traffic it attracts, and whether it can be stopped.

      In terms of acting as an unsolicited traffic attractor all IP addresses are not the same."

      (Ignore the bit about "whether it can be stopped", because with a consumer ISP's tech support you won't get anywhere near a person who can do that.)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 10:13pm

      Re: Data discrepancy origin

      Occasionally the internet says hi, with scans and stuff (or arp or whatever). So, having your modem on will generate usage, regardless of whether you are "using" the internet.

      Also the usage meter in question may lag by 24 hours (or some value in time).

      In Australia, 4G mobile data can lag by 2-3 days(!! Thanks Optus!)

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:35am

        Re: Re: Data discrepancy origin

        "Occasionally the internet says hi, with scans and stuff (or arp or whatever). So, having your modem on will generate usage, regardless of whether you are "using" the internet."

        You say this as though it were acceptable to include such traffic in the capped usage number used to determine billing amounts. One would think it to be more of an overhead category and be included in the base rate rather than pretend it to be actually driven by usage and therefore subject to charge.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 11:53am

          Re: Re: Re: Data discrepancy origin

          You say this as though it were acceptable...

          Most ISP's require that you accept their terms in order to use the service. So, yeah, you probably accepted it.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 12:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Data discrepancy origin

            The word "acceptable" was used in context, perhaps you missed the meaning. So yeah, you are being a bit silly.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 12:13pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Data discrepancy origin

              If you accepted it then you obviously found it to be acceptable. Or you were being a bit dishonest when you accepted it.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 2:23pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Data discrepancy origin

                Like they come out and tell you (in the tos/eula) that they intend to do things that are not spelled out explicitly or ... you know be a bit dishonest about it.

                Why do you make excuses?

                Yeah, I was dishonest ... are you that silly?
                Yes, it is all my fault - I see the light.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 6:36pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Data discrepancy origin

                  Let's take a look at that service agreement. Which ISP was it?

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

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2017 @ 7:26am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Data discrepancy origin

                    The ISP I presently use does not state there is a cap, but I assume there is one anyway. If they do not admit to capping yer ass, what exactly do you hope to find in the tos wrt overage charges?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 1:54pm

      Re: Data discrepancy origin

      I had exactly this problem a couple of years ago, except I was getting 40-50 ARP pings per second, 24/7. Usage was in the "many hundreds of GB per month". I could not find a single person at Comcast who knew anything about what I was talking about, let alone willing to help me.

      Then, out of the blue, one day, it just stopped. For now.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:03pm

    So - charging based upon an inaccurate meter ... sounds like fraud to me, what am I missing?

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:07pm

      Re:

      The capacity of the FCC and FTC and the DoJ to ignore.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:38am

        Re: Re:

        I suppose that selective enforcement of the law is sort of a tradition here on planet earth so I should not get too worked up about it because it has been going on like forever - but this is now becoming more in your face abuse and more folk are not liking it. Wonder what will happen.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:43pm

    One more time.

    Comcast's CEO claims every single bit that goes down the pipe is billable. He has stated time and time again that bits are like water and he charges customers for each one, or zero.

    Disconnect your wireless blocks nothing. It simply disconnects your wireless from the Comcast cable modem. The modem is still connected to the internet, free to hammer with DDoS, telnet port connect (DPT 23), massive old-style W* net-bios looking out there for everybody and anybody to talk net-bios with.

    Comcast counts everything. Regardless of whether it goes past the cable modem or not. If you are out of town, the only safe bet is to turn off the modem.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 2:25pm

      Re: One more time.

      "Comcast counts everything"

      Sounds like fraud to me.

      Funny, these same people probably get all worked up about ad blockers.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:25pm

        Re: Re: One more time.

        Sounds like fraud to me.

        It's like a cell phone. You pay for incoming calls and text messages whether you wanted them or not. It sucks but that's the way it is.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:00am

          Re: Re: Re: One more time.

          It's like a cell phone. You pay for incoming calls and text messages whether you wanted them or not.

          You don't "pay for incoming calls", you pay for talk-time. If you don't answer the call (usually you have caller ID) you pay nothing, and if you do, you're not paying any more than if you'd placed the call yourself (less because there's no distinction between long-distance and local).

          So I don't count that as unfair, just undesirable. Charges for incoming texts are unfair.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 11:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: One more time.

            If you find that the call or message was one you did not want you still pay for it. And I guess you haven't heard that caller ID can be blocked or spoofed.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:48am

          Re: Re: Re: One more time.

          "It's like a cell phone. You pay for incoming calls and text messages whether you wanted them or not. It sucks but that's the way it is."

          Wired internet service is not the same as wireless service.
          So, no ... it is not like that at all.

          They have a base rate and add over cap charges. Including all traffic in those numbers is fraud. For example, much of the background traffic that occurs regardless of whether you are "online" or not is received by everyone and gets added to everyone's accumulated usage and billed is then accordingly. This is ok with you? What about the incorrect meters that charge incorrect amounts .. is that ok too?

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 12:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: One more time.

            They have a base rate and add over cap charges.

            So does my cell phone.

            This is ok with you?

            Nothing in comment said it was OK. Why is it OK with you for phone companies to do it?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 5:29pm

      Re: One more time.

      Comcast's CEO claims every single bit that goes down the pipe is billable. He has stated time and time again that bits are like water and he charges customers for each one, or zero.

      And yet I don't get billed when someone aims a firehose at my house. (And it's rather hard to do that from across the world. For now.)

      Comcast counts everything. Regardless of whether it goes past the cable modem or not. If you are out of town, the only safe bet is to turn off the modem.

      It's generous of them to not count traffic directed at the modem, when the modem is off. It already used up their bandwidth after all.

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

  • icon
    TKnarr (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 2:21pm

    I've monitored it before, and the ISP's numbers were always really inaccurate regardless of which ISP it was. The problem was usually that the ISP counted everything in or out of the cable modem's upstream (HFC) interface, which included a lot of traffic that wasn't mine or wasn't customer traffic.

    It's not hard to configure any router that does DD-WRT or OpenWRT to give you a detailed breakdown of traffic. The hard part was always setting up the filter chains to count the right traffic for what you wanted to monitor, and a lot of that was because I wanted to monitor more than just gross traffic for various protocols.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 5:35pm

      Re:

      I've monitored it before, and the ISP's numbers were always really inaccurate regardless of which ISP it was. The problem was usually that the ISP counted everything in or out of the cable modem's upstream (HFC) interface, which included a lot of traffic that wasn't mine or wasn't customer traffic.

      Do we know how/where they do this? Last time I had a cable modem, I had SNMP-write access to its admin interface (I had to spoof their headend's IP range but the modem was happy to accept those IPs from the "wrong" interface, and everyone had the same password)... and it was easy to reset the traffic counters.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 3:55pm

    If NOT checking them, then how do you know AREN'T reliable?

    Clearly, HAS been checked, so you've a contradiction at center of this... story.

    Rest is just anecdotal fitting your bias against Comcast.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:36pm

      Re: If NOT checking them, then how do you know AREN'T reliable?

      I thought you were against corporations? Why does a story about Comcast bother you this much?

      Oh, right. The only corporations you can't stand are Google and Facebook. You'd suck the left nut off the rest if it meant they get to avoid scrutiny.

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

  • icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:04pm

    Solution: ‌ [Some learning and trial-and-error involved.]

    Put your modem into bridge mode and disable it's WiFi.
    [You'll find instructions for bridging most modems online.]
    Now it's strictly a modem without an internet-facing address
    of it's own but you can still connect to it's local address.
    Your PC will negotiate a public IP address every time it
    connects and will be directly connected to the internet
    through that modem from now on.

    To maintain control of the modem on the same wire you can
    have your PC's TCP/IP driver use a local and an internet
    address at the same time. ‌ Look up "multi-homing" for
    instructions on that simple little trick.

    Traceroute anywhere and note the IP address of the first hop.
    Block that address in your PC, which is now your [infinitely
    more powerful] router/firewall. ‌ If that suspect IP address
    is in the same local subnet as your modem be sure to add
    that address to your modem's own little firewall. ‌ This ends
    the hidden waste of bandwidth. ‌ If that breaks things block
    only the pings and anything else you see from the suspect
    AFTER your PC gets access to the internet. ‌ Your PC will
    probably resist other abusive ISP traffic by simply not
    responding like the expected custom-linux-based modem.

    If you want WiFi and/or wired access for more users get a
    cheap router and connect any of it's LAN ports into your PC. ‌
    [Add an Ethernet card if the PC only had one port.]
    Leave the router's WAN or "upstream" port unused and
    disable it's weak firewall. ‌ Now it's just a simplified,
    crashproof high-speed hub between your users and your PC.
    Other PCs and laptops in your house can hook up through
    your cheap in-house hub and everything's protected by your
    PC's stronger firewalls and defenses instead of a mere
    company-supplied (always-underpowered) router/modem.
    Each user will also have a public IP address and seem to be
    directly connected to the internet even though connected to
    and protected by your PC. ‌ No more port-forwarding needed! ‌ ;]

    The above isn't exactly simple for a beginner but your PC's
    vastly greater processing power makes your connection that
    much more reliable. ‌ It puts control of your firewalls
    and other defenses into your hands with better PC-based
    tools you are familiar with and effectively stops the abuse.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:21am

      Re: Solution: ‌ [Some learning and trial-and-error involved.]

      Put your modem into bridge mode and disable it's WiFi. Now it's strictly a modem without an internet-facing address of it's own

      Cable modems, and some fiber devices, always have management-addresses of their own. They're not supposed to be internet-accessible, but the large providers ran out of private (rfc1918) IP space years ago, so don't count on that.

      Traceroute anywhere and note the IP address of the first hop. Block that address in your PC, which is now your [infinitely more powerful] router/firewall. ‌[…] This ends the hidden waste of bandwidth.

      This only helps if it's the ISP sending lots of garbage traffic. What ISP does that, and will they actually stop if you block the traffic? After all, you can only block traffic after you've already received it and been billed for it. And it would only work if they send the garbage from "the IP address of the first hop", which is very unlikely. That's probably a router or PPP endpoint; anything but a tiny ISP is going to have a centralized administration network several hops away.

      If you want WiFi and/or wired access for more users get a cheap router and connect any of it's LAN ports into your PC. ‌... Leave the router's WAN or "upstream" port unused and disable it's weak firewall. ‌ Now it's just a simplified, crashproof high-speed hub between your users and your PC. Other PCs and laptops in your house can hook up through your cheap in-house hub and everything's protected by your PC's stronger firewalls and defenses instead of a mere company-supplied (always-underpowered) router/modem. Each user will also have a public IP address and seem to be directly connected to the internet even though connected to and protected by your PC. ‌ No more port-forwarding needed! ‌ ;]

      Protected from what? What problem is this the "solution" to? Not metering.

      If you want a public IP for each PC on DSL, they'd each have to have the login credentials and your ISP would have to allow multiple logins. (And then your PC's firewall wouldn't be helping, because they rarely look inside PPPoE streams.) For cable, the ISP would have to allow multiple customer devices (usually they'll allow 1-3, but to get the DHCP responses, your PC would have to be bridging, not routing).

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

      • icon
        Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 30 Sep 2017 @ 3:41am

        In bridge mode your modem becomes simply a modem and it's
        own IP address disappears, leaving only your PC visible on
        the net. ‌ They can't even ping it because it functionally
        is nothing more than a peripheral of your PC at that point.

        Now that it's literally out of the way all the previously
        hidden garbage traffic becomes visible to your PC and, in
        addition to blocking it your PC doesn't have to respond to
        it, thus ending all the back-and-forth traffic which was
        inflating the bandwidth count. ‌ Once your end stops
        responding with these various nonessential services and
        protocols, their end also slows down to just the occasional
        ping or probe. ‌ That's how the problem is easily solved.

        Note that this does nothing at all to impair their metering,
        which in itself is a lawful and acceptable practice, but what
        it does do is effectively eliminate all that [surely "unintentional"]
        traffic from wasting your bandwidth and padding the counts. ‌ ‌ ;]

        As for IP addresses, your PC was bridging to begin with.
        If you have more users than automatically provided IP
        addresses it is easy to enable the built-in router service
        on your PC to act as a NAT for additional users, and the
        users wouldn't have to do a thing because, to them, it
        would just work as usual. ‌

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:56am

      Re: Solution: ‌ [Some learning and trial-and-error involved.]

      "Put your modem into bridge mode "

      This is not something to do if you do not have a DMZ set up with a good firewall as it disables NAT (network address translation).

      How does this stop the isp from charging you for packets you had nothing to do with?

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

      • icon
        Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 29 Sep 2017 @ 9:43am

        It's both vastly simpler and more powerful protection.

        It's the same thing as a DMZ but opens up access for all
        your users instead of just one. ‌ Your PC becomes your vastly
        more powerful firewall working transparently between your users
        and the internet. ‌ The best part is it gives you total control
        over a far stronger firewall than the weak, company-supplied router.

        It also gives you the ability to stop background shenanigans
        between modem and CO equipment that was inflating bandwidth
        counters and wasting bandwidth you had already paid for. ‌
        Now you can see and stop it with your PC's firewall and can
        disable services on your PC you aren't using [and they were
        exploiting on the modem to pad bandwidth counts.]

        You get all your bandwidth back and total control to boot. ‌ ‌ ;]

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 11:10am

          Re:

          DMZ is where the (dedicated) firewall goes, not on your host(s) used for user access. Not sure what you are explaining but it sounds like a short cut which eliminated the DMZ. I'm not so sure that is a good idea, perhaps I should research it.

          Where do the ISPs accumulate your usage? You think it is in your "router"? What would they do if they no longer have access to said accumulator?

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

          • icon
            Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 30 Sep 2017 @ 3:15am

            DMZ is an optional setting in some routers to allow all
            inbound traffic to a particular IP address. ‌ It is generally
            used by knowledgeable users who wish to use P2P and other
            online-intensive apps without having to constantly babysit
            the router by adding port-forwarding rules in order for
            those apps to function properly. ‌ What I outlined above
            does away with all that by shifting all the router
            functions away from the company-controlled modem and into
            the PC connected between it and all your users. ‌ Essentially
            you designate your whole network a DMZ while simultaneously
            giving you [presumably the most advanced user] total
            control over all of it. ‌ From there, you can easily protect
            everyone simultaneously by simply protecting your PC
            because it has replaced that modem as your main gateway.
            You could optionally put some users behind NAT but it's
            much easier on everyone to just manage one firewall.

            ISP bandwidth counters always reside on the ISP Central
            Office Equipment, not the Customer Premises Equipment. ‌
            [Their modem, not yours, so nobody can deny them access.]
            What you are taking away from them is the ability to abuse
            the Customer Premises Equipment to conceal nonessential
            internet traffic waste to deliberately [or "accidentally"]
            inflate your bandwidth usage count on their Central Office
            Equipment counters without letting you use all the bandwidth
            you already paid for. ‌

            They can't complain because you did nothing to equipment
            under their legal custody and it's legal for you to configure
            equipment in your custody as long as it doesn't knock
            anybody else offline. ‌ They can't complain of "stealing"
            access either because you didn't generate an entirely new
            internet account or connection. ‌‌ All they lose is a low
            level bandwidth service fraud scam, which they don't dare
            complain about because never stopped paying your bill. ‌ ‌ ;]

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2017 @ 7:45am

              Re:

              "DMZ is an optional setting in some routers to allow all
              inbound traffic to a particular IP address. ‌"

              A DMZ is more than just a setting on your "router", perhaps you should investigate.

              Most security experts (I am not an expert) recommend keeping NAT in place. If one needs additional capabilities, the creation of a DMZ is recommended while keeping the NAT in place. A well constructed firewall placed within the DMZ will provide security over and above that of the ISP provided router/modem - whatever they like to call it.

              I'm curious, what is a bandwidth counter?
              Many ISPs claim to have methods of usage measurement, but I do not think the units of measure would be in bandwidth (MB/s) - usage would be represented by a simple quantity like MB.

              What you describe would be easily hacked and certainly susceptible to all sorts of worms.

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

              • icon
                Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 30 Sep 2017 @ 11:17pm

                I've actually been using DMZs and bridging for about 20 years.
                My dad was a plant tech when DSL rolled out and I signed up.
                What I described above is doing precisely that by applying
                a DMZ over your whole home network and using a designated
                PC as a gateway/firewall with far superior capacity than
                those typically underpowered ISP-supplied routers.

                I started doing it because they can't handle my traffic.
                The modems are fine but all cheap routers are too weak. ‌ ‌ ;]


                You are right that ISP bandwidth meters are simple counters. ‌
                They are unhackable as they are on the CO side, available
                to plant techs or specific, whitelisted proprietary consoles.
                Worms and most any internet malware on your own computers
                and devices would certainly waste your bandwidth but are
                less likely to affect the proprietary equipment of an ISP.

                That's another good feature of bridging through your own
                gateway. ‌ Such malware can't waste much of your bandwidth
                without you being able to detect it.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2017 @ 7:24am

                  Re:

                  "applying a DMZ over your whole home network "

                  No - the host(s) you are protecting do not go in the dmz, as that sorta defeats the whole purpose of the dmz.

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

                  • icon
                    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 3 Oct 2017 @ 1:44pm

                    Actually your whole LAN becomes a DMZ because there is no
                    NAT in effect even though you are also protecting everything
                    transparently with more powerful firewalling through your PC.

                    Think of as getting the best of both situations, much higher
                    performance by getting a weak router out of the way and
                    improved protection of more powerful firewall software.

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

                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 6:58am

                      Re:

                      I do not think what you describe is a dmz

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

                      • icon
                        Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 7:01pm

                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMZ_%28computing%29

                        There are more than one type. ‌ This simply moves the LAN
                        from the inside, NAT zone to the DMZ which is still firewalled
                        but has full internet access with public addresses. ‌ It is very
                        useful when everyone uses P2P or has a lot of traffic.

                        That makes it a simplified type of single-firewall DMZ with
                        the whole LAN included and your PC is both gateway/router
                        and firewall. ‌ It also is much easier to manage, being a
                        single zone. ‌‌

                        If you want to add a zone of users behind NAT you can add
                        another router and plug it's WAN port into the hub you
                        built your DMZ around, resulting in a single-firewall DMZ
                        with two zones. ‌ By activating the second router's firewall
                        you get a typical double-firewall DMZ. ‌‌ I would use the
                        second zone only for light users and simple devices because
                        such routers can't handle heavy traffic

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 7:12am

    waaaaaaa

    Every week the same thing: 'big bad ISP/Telco's are unfair with their stupid data caps and non-competition...waaaaaa'

    We consumers get what we settle for. Instead of biting each other's ankles like crabs in a bucket, we could unite and demand that one ISP at a time stop stealing from us, but NOOOOO. "That's too hard, that's impossible, that's unrealistic." So we settle, and pay increasingly higher ISP bills, while the ISPs sell our personal data (browsing and purchasing stats).

    -Make 1 website: ComcastSucks.com
    -Have a petition on the site demanding an end to data caps
    -Threaten to boycott Christmas shopping online this year
    -Boycott every Monday (don't use Comcast at home every Monday) until the data caps are removed.

    boycott or bend over

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 9:02am

      Re: waaaaaaa

      Hey - it's Blame the Victim Guy !

      Those are some really good suggestions you have there - have you done any of those things yourself? That will certainly put an end to all their nefarious activities won't it? I'm sure they are quaking in their boots right now.

      Your exuberant use of the word "we" is quite entertaining.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 11:06am

        Re: Re: waaaaaaa

        Hey - you! 1st crab of the day. Just like always: full-o-salt, but not one better suggestion for making positive change. Ouch--my ankle!

        Thanks for your support.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 11:12am

          Re: Re: Re: waaaaaaa

          " but not one better suggestion"

          My suggestion (you missed it apparently) is to stop blaming the victims.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 11:32am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: waaaaaaa

            the victims should stop playing the 'victim card' and stand united. You chose to be a victim because you chose to keep paying.

            so you'd rather shoot (or bite) the revolutionary, than stand for change--AND--you have no suggestions to end the arbitrarily higher ISP billing rates. You, sir, are 0 for 2.

            kiss your knees while you're bent over

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 12:12pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: waaaaaaa

              Victim card - lol


              "You chose to be a victim"

              No I didn't, perhaps you could explain how that works

              Same old tripe huh. you must be the life of the party

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 12:07pm

      Re: waaaaaaa

      -Make 1 website: ComcastSucks.com -Have a petition on the site demanding an end to data caps -Threaten to boycott Christmas shopping online this year -Boycott every Monday (don't use Comcast at home every Monday) until the data caps are removed.

      Go ahead. Oh, wait, you just like to tell other people what to do, eh Chip?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 1:34pm

        Re: Re: waaaaaaa

        crabs be like waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2017 @ 7:50am

          Re: Re: Re: waaaaaaa

          I guess he is right then - you wag your finger at others telling them what they need to be doing while you sit back in your barcalounger sipping a cheap beer.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.