Karl Bode over on DSL Reports reports that Comcast will institute a 250 GB cap on its broadband connections starting Oct. 1. Expect other carriers to follow suit and make tiered broadband a reality. Much as I would like to think otherwise, this is the end […]

Karl Bode over on DSL Reports reports that Comcast will institute a 250 GB cap on its broadband connections starting Oct. 1. Expect other carriers to follow suit and make tiered broadband a reality. Much as I would like to think otherwise, this is the end of the Internet as we know it.

The caps are a move to ensure that the gouging scheme put in place by Comcast and other cable providers stays intact and they can continue to sell their video-on-demand services. It was a point I made when I wrote, Why Tiered Broadband Is The Enemy of Innovation. I will say this again: this is to stymie services like Hulu, NetFlix and Amazon On-Demand.

In yet another post, I thought of this as a nicer way of getting around net neutrality issues. I just don’t buy Comcast’s arguments, which smell like urine on a hot summer day.

Comcast’s arguments about infrastructure and bandwidth costs and so on are sort of hollow as some of the experts in our comments had indicated. On its network management web site, Comcast uses examples of some services and what you can do with the 250 GB limit.

250 GB per month is an extremely large amount of data, much more than a typical residential customer uses on a monthly basis. Currently, the median monthly data usage by our residential customers is approximately 2 – 3 GB. To put 250 GB of monthly usage in perspective, a customer would have to do any one of the following:

* Send 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email)
* Download 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song)
* Download 125 standard-definition movies (at 2 GB/movie)
* Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (at 10 MB/photo)

Now, if you put it in terms of HD video, 250 GB doesn’t really add up to much. I did the math in an earlier post.

… we’re moving towards HD downloads. With HD, each roughly two-hour-long movie is going to consume about 8 GB, while live sports events, etc., when watched in higher quality can take up some 13 GB. Remember, we share our Internet connections with multiple people in a household. So, before you know it, that 250 GB isn’t enough.

If the company essentially thinks that 250 GB is a lot of bandwidth, then why impose a cap at all? After all, their CTO claimed in an interview with Stacey that an average consumer takes up about 2 GB of data transfer every month. I think they are being typical Comcast — indulging in selective truths.

Question: How will you use the 250 GB bandwidth cap? What are your typical activities on the Internet.

  1. Thanks for the heads up Om, I will be canceling my service with Comcast and finding someone who does not impose ridiculous caps. I want to watch video on Hulu and they obviously want to stop me.

    I wonder if AT&T is going to impose caps? They just sent me a mailer with a sign-up special.

  2. Paul Waldschmidt Thursday, August 28, 2008

    I dislike Comcast for many reasons, but this is not one of them.

    Assuming consumers have other options in the broadband market (which they almost always have), Comcast should be allowed to impose whatever limits they want as long as their marketing materials and Terms of Service make that clear.

    If they impose limits without notifying customers, or through obfuscated notifications, then they should be liable.

    But if Comcast is clear to the world about their intentions, they only stand to hurt themselves. Dissatisfied consumers will shop elsewhere, Comcast’s market will shrink and then they’ll either remove the caps or learn to live with a smaller market share.

    Comcast spends billions of dollars on infrastructure every year. Like it or not, it is THEIR product to offer and support and price as they see fit. Aside from bait-and-switch advertising or anti-trust issues, they have every right to do this.

  3. Hm. I guess Comcast spent all their money on those silly commercials where people rub “fast” on themselves and then turn into The Flash. No more money left for servers to actually deliver on the fancy marketing promise. Comcast should be very, very ashamed.

    I’ll definitely be doing some comparison shopping during the month of September.

  4. The bandwidth cap doesn’t worry me nearly as much as what happens if you go over the cap. At $0.20 a Gig, I’m fine with the cap. At $2 a Gig, it becomes the horror that is cellphone pricing.

    Anyway, my consumption is probably 60GB per month right now. I don’t have a TV and probably watch 40-60 hours of video a month (mix of Hulu, iTunes and Unbox). Given my usage habits, I would need more than my 6 Mbps connection to really worry about breaking 250GB.

    1. Ryan you need to get a TV dude, JMHO

  5. Is it only for Residential service or is it also for Business Accounts? I hope they don’t put the cap for business customers as one can expect a large bandwidth if they have a large traffic on their web site.

  6. [...] is the end of the Internet as we know it,” writes blogger Om Malik or GigaOM. That may seem to be an overreaction right now, but if other providers follow suit (which I think [...]

  7. Also they should provide role over Gigs if they do not use it within that month. They got to be fair as they are cashing on the customers who don’t even use 1 GB a month.

  8. This is what causes shifts in mindsets.

    Comcast thinks there BWI g smart with this approach to growth but I say this will eventually hurt them.

    The Internet is in a transition now so applying a “metered” pricing approach now will only piss off customers. It only takes one good offer from FIOS to steer new users toward its service.
    Comcast is starting to act like an oil company.

  9. So if Comcast is metering everyone’s downloads, should they not provide a webpage where you can gain access to that meter for your account, so you can actually see what your consumption amount is?

    1. That’s a great Idea. It’ll help us monitor our consumption.

  10. Raghu Kulkarni Thursday, August 28, 2008

    This may also have an impact on online backup services. With many offering unlimited(Carbonite and mozy) or very large limits (IDrive with 150GB), the cost of online backup to the consumer will go up from ISP fees point of view at least for the initial backup.

    ISPs may subsidize bandwidth costs if consumers use the ISP’s preferred online backup. This may also apply to HD and other BW intensive services.

    I think the end game these ISPs are seeking is basically a piece of the direct revenues for all these high BW applications, not just the additional BW fees.


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