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Summary:

[qi:004] Comcast is out defending its bandwidth caps and how they are not bad. And how 250 GB transfer is plenty and enough to do whatever we want to do. Of course, in today’s terms that is more than enough, but what happens in the future? […]

[qi:004] Comcast is out defending its bandwidth caps and how they are not bad. And how 250 GB transfer is plenty and enough to do whatever we want to do. Of course, in today’s terms that is more than enough, but what happens in the future? Nevertheless, if they are going to put caps, then they need to give us what I think is an acceptable expectation: a meter.

Metered billing needs a meter we can see, use and monitor any time we desire to do so. Water and electric utilities provide that meter (regardless of whether we use it or not), so why not Comcast?

If a customer surpasses 250 GB and is one of the top users of the service for a second time within a six-month timeframe, his or her service will be subject to termination for one year. After the one year period expires, the customer may resume service by subscribing to a service plan appropriate to his or her needs.

Figure out a way to tell us what our monthly usage is, and let us know if we are running up against a 250 GB cap, so that we know when to stop and not pay overage. I want to know at every single minute how much bandwidth I have used.

After all, if someone crosses the 250 GB twice in six months, they are going to get tossed out. The burden of proof lies with Comcast to prove, measure and meter to the most accurate byte of data transferred.

Another Question For Comcast: If you’re going to meter, then please let us know how you are factoring in the overhead associated with TCP/IP. Will this be included or excluded in the cap? After all, overhead includes control messages (session control, packet headers) and this can be as high as 40 percent.

This is where FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has to step up and do something. If he is going to allow Comcast to put caps in place, then the FCC needs a firm bond from Comcast saying that they wouldn’t lower the caps to, say, 150 GB or 100 GB using the same lame excuse of 1 percent people degrading the network.

You want to know why I think they are going to obfuscate the issue and fudge the numbers sooner or later using some Enron math? Just go to the FAQ page that explains their 250 GB cap decision. You will consume 250 GB in a month if you do any of the following:

* Sending 20,000 high-resolution photos,
* Sending 40 million emails;
* Downloading 50,000 songs; or
* Viewing 8,000 movie trailers.

…but then lower down on the same page, they say:

* Send 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email)
* Download 62,500 4 MB 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)

What is it with you guys? Can’t do the math? Forget that…how about answering a simple question: How many HD movies can you download with 250 GB cap? That’s the only answer I need.

PS: If you believe the 0.05 kb/email then you also believe in the Tooth Fairy.

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  1. Very true Om. If they meter, we want the meter which is metering us. Its a fair expectation. They just cannot call up and say ‘you are being kicked due to overage’. Consumers have the right to know their consumption all along.
    On the HD movie note, it seems that everyone’s problem against Comcast caps is the same ;-)

  2. Dameon Welch-Abernathy Friday, August 29, 2008

    The more I think about it, Om, the more I think broadband caps are anti-competitive. Basically, once everything switches to high-def and people start watching content over the Internet en-masse, the more I see Comcast clamping down. While it’s “fair” that they are finally saying what the limits are, metered bandwidth by definition discriminates against content that competes with their less than stellar television offerings.

  3. You missed the best part of the FAQ:

    “How does Comcast help its customers track their usage so they can avoide exceeding the limit?”

    “There are many online tools customers can download and use to measure their consumption. Customers can find such tools by simply doing a Web search – for example, a search for “bandwidth meter” will provide some options. Customers using multiple PCs should just be aware that they will need to measure and combine their total monthly usage in order to identify the data usage for their entire account.”

    Translation: we don’t! And given the many different ways that one could “count bandwidth”, users have no idea where they stand.

  4. Varun Mahajan Friday, August 29, 2008

    You made me smile:)

  5. I checked SNMP stats on my router, and I consume approximately 100GB per month on my poky DSL line in San Francisco (AT&T DSL, but actual Internet transit provided by a decent ISP, Raw Bandwidth).

    The thing is, I don’t download movies, HD or otherwise, nor do I run P2P (I listen mostly to Classical music, which is not well represented, and only care about lossless formats, not nasty MP3s). I run my mail server on my home machine, as well as my RSS aggregator and some ancillary services for myself that are not used by the Internet at large (well, apart from my secondary DNS server, that is).

    Comcast’s so-called arguments are a thinly veiled way to milk its duopoly. If ISPs in Japan, South Korea or Europe can offer unlimited service at true high speeds, even though their salary costs are higher than in the US and their cost of Internet transit also usually 50-100% more expensive, Comcast can afford to do so as well.

  6. Could one use the information (bytes sent/bytes received) in the Windows network properties to get a rough estimate of bandwidth usage? Granted, as you mention, it’s unclear whether or not TCP/IP packet overhead is included or not.

    For example, I’ve had a wifi connection at home for 3.5 days, and I’ve received about 3 gigs of data, so I could extrapolate somewhere between 25-30GB per month. If you think about the 250GB limit, it’s pretty sneaky, because at 50GB for a Blu-Ray HD DVD, it means you could only download maybe 4 HD movies per month (whether legally — through someone like Netflix or iTunes, or illegally — through, say bit torrent) — until you presumably had to pay Comcast more money. A nifty little workaround to net neutrality, eh?

    (duplicate content note: I made a similar comment on a friend’s personal blog who also wrote about Comcast’s bandwidth’s limit)

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  8. As long as the meter doesn’t require Comcast software being installed on your computer, I think it’s an excellent idea.

    Particularly in a world of bandwidth caps, I don’t want/need any vendor software installed on my machine. Verizon FIOS doesn’t even offer a (non-hack) way to view your user account and billing information without installing their crapware.

  9. The Dirty Little Secret Behind Bandwidth Caps | NetManiac.com Friday, August 29, 2008

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  10. I’m just waiting for spam offering botnets to knock someone off from the Internet for a year. It should only take about 5 days of continuous beating on a port to send someone over the limit. Make it harder to detect, spread the attack over 30 days and assume the user is using some of their bandwidth too.

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