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5 Questions About Comcast's New Bandwidth Throttling Plan

After the FCC last week told Comcast it had 30 days to file its new network management plan that involves cutting back speeds for users who are using too much bandwidth, the mainstream media is learning more about the slowdown plan Comcast CTO Tony Werner explained to Om back in March. Last week we heard that Comcast plans to throttle people back to DSL-like speeds for 10 to 20 minutes if they use too much bandwidth.

Here are the things we don’t know that could have far more impact on subscribers:

  • How much is too much bandwidth? With Comcast telling me that the average user only downloads 2GB per month (presumably not in one intensive downloading burst) then I have to worry that as a streaming media fan and early adopter, I might be considered a heavy user (my home consumes at least 4 times the average user’s, and it’s not just on email).
  • Will that be a set amount across the Comcast subscriber base or a relative amount in each community? Again, if Comcast’s average subscriber consumes so little online, any arrangement that measures heavy use based on the average subscriber across all communities risks alienating streaming media users like myself. In that case, Comcast would become less competitive in college towns or any area where there’s a high proportion of early adopters.
  • Will the throttling depend on the amount of information consumed in a set period of time or will it depend on how congested the network is? The Free Press discussed this type of limitation pricing in a recent report, where during peak times, an ISP could slow down traffic, while at less packed times bandwidth hogs could pig out.
  • Will the bandwidth use be measured based on uploads only? If Comcast tries to slow people who download a lot of stuff at once, they will alienate more of their user base, but they also won’t deal with the real congestion coming from people uploading files. Since cable providers have less room for uploads on their networks, that’s where bottlenecks are likely.
  • What company will provide the equipment for network management? DSL Reports expects that it’s Sandvine, which also provided the deep packet inspection tools that helped Comcast throttle P2P the first time around.

Comcast says it’s still operating its trials in five communities to determine the best ways of creating an appropriately neutral network-management technique and declined to answer these questions. But thanks to the FCC order we should know by September 19.

image courtesy of Sandvine

14 Responses to “5 Questions About Comcast's New Bandwidth Throttling Plan”


    When people come to the door and ask questions and get answers that they are not happy with and still asking for more and still dont stop shount they just stop or do they want people to call the cops? THEY NEED TO LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE WHEN ASKED TO DO SO THE FIRST TIME OR ILL DO WHAT IDID THE FIRST TIME IS SHUT THE DOOR IN THE FACE . Thank you

  2. C James

    Ah…Comcast is a dinosaur and can’t keep up. Just another way to “gouge” the public with it’s hgh prices and broken promises. They are two faced too-like making it look like you can have unlimited wonderful internet and then not delivering. Can’t wait for it to start charging tiers for bandwidth usage like they do with internet speed. Went to a interview for job once and manager admitted fios was beating the pants off them but they had their customers (who could not get fios) by the “private Parts.”

  3. Comcast/Sandvine is currently “throttling” me to <50k whenever I do a large, legitimate download – i.e. updates to OpenOffice, iTunes, etc.

    I hope everyone reading this has installed the “download statusbar” or, a similar extension, for Firefox – your stats will display on the bottom of the window.

  4. I have settled for DSL speed because Comcast customer service is awful! They hounded me for days for equipment I turned in despite having a clear invoice stating that I didn’t have it anymore. The people on the phone were morons–impolite and apathetic. I will never use Comcast ever again.


  5. Stacey, great article as always!

    Whether or not Fair Share comes from Sandvine is beside the point, Comcast is soley responsible for the decision and the results.

    I also suggest that Comcast is not conducting a “trial” in those communities, but they are conducting a “experiment”. If this were a public trial, then we’d already know the answers to your 5 questions and it would be useful for consumers and network companies to use to test their products.

    I’m concerned as well. Comcast is one of the biggest ISPs, and the choice is this — will their customer’s get “the Internet” or Comcast’s twisted throttle-tastic version of it?

    Robb Topolski

    Robb Topolski

  6. Stacey Higginbotham

    Kevin, sorry, I pulled that from a DSL Reports headline and thought it was too funny to resist. I should have indicated my sarcasm somewhere… anywhere in the post, though.

  7. 2GB per month? I don’t believe it. On a bad day, I’ll download 5 gigs. One day. I upload a bunch of photos, and that’s 1 gig. I’ve got 17 gigs of videos that I need to go through and edit. Granted, I’m not going to uploading all of it, but if I use half of it, that’ 8 gigs uploading. You’re not going to even be able to think about online backup at such ridiculous caps.

    I don’t want to think what would happen if my wife couldn’t stream her shows to her computer when she’s home. I would estimate that to be close to 2 gigs a day there, online backup of her work laptop is easily another gig if not more.

    I guarantee you that Comcast will be bankrupt with just one person unable to use VOIP to call 911 and can’t get through because they don’t have enough bandwidth to make a call.

    There are too many things that don’t make sense to me (average use of 2GB per month is the most striking). Four months ago they decided to up my uploading speed by 4x. While that’s nice, it sounds like they intend to punish me if I’m actually using it.

  8. 2G, that’s funny. Comcast used to offer 5G a month of newsgroup access via GigaNews. They’ve cut it back to 2G, but even so, that’s my whole monthly allotment…

    Then again, consider the source. Comcast has lied from the start about whether they managed traffic *at all*. Then they tried to manipulate the FCC hearings by padding the audience. Who in their right mind would expect honesty from them now?

  9. “…throttle people back to DSL-like speeds…”? You’re kidding, right? This line sounds like it was handed to you by the Comcast marketing team but, surely, you wouldn’t allow that would you?