The GigaOM 250 GB Challenge & 5 Tools To Monitor Your Bandwidth Consumption


With Comcast announcing a 250 GB cap on its broadband service and Time Warner trialling a tiered service with limits that range from 5 GB to 40 GB, we’ve decided to challenge people to break those caps. Obviously we can’t verify if someone actually downloads everything they claim to, but we’re looking for real examples of how a heavy bandwidth user could breach either the 40 GB or 250 GB limit. Leave your attempts in the comments. [digg=]

Unless you have a large family that consists of early adopters (and teenagers), or you want to step up your seeding for BitTorrent files, most people should try for the more easily attainable Time Warner caps. And since you’re going to need some software to measure your current consumption, below is a list of free and cheap programs. Now grab your Roku box, hook up the kids with Hulu and see about buying some HD video conferencing software. Do it now, because soon this stuff won’t be free.

  • Rackeys: For $9.95 you can download this broadband usage software for Windows machines.
  • Net Meter: This software from Hootech can be tried for 30 days for free; after that it costs $19.95. Measures usage, broadband speeds and allows you to save the data. Only for Windows machines.
  • Broadband Check: Free software from the UK, but your stats will be uploaded to the site.
  • iStatMenus: Free broadband usage tool for Macs.
  • Surplus Meter: Free broadband usage meter for Macs and PCs



Another one for vnstat. I’ve been using it with comcast for months:

eth1 / monthly

month rx | tx | total
Apr '08 151.17 GB | 35.39 GB | 186.57 GB %%%%%%%::
May '08 403.16 GB | 37.81 GB | 440.97 GB %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%::
Jun '08 253.29 GB | 16.11 GB | 269.40 GB %%%%%%%%%%%%:
Jul '08 43.61 GB | 22.03 GB | 65.64 GB %%:
Aug '08 367.44 GB | 44.31 GB | 411.75 GB %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%::
estimated 377.07 GB | 45.46 GB | 422.54 GB


Does anyone know of a bandwidth monitoring tool, that shows you how much you have downloaded at certain times of the day. Because I have a on-peak/off-peak plan (on-peak-6am-12.59am, off-peak-1am-5.59am, and the ability to monitor my downloads would be really handy.




It has nothing to do with “greed”, what a pointless and inflammatory statement!

Bandwidth is not a physical consumable. If at midnight tonight only 50% of your ISPs bandwidth is in use then at midnight plus one second they don’t have 150% of that bandwidth available. Bandwidth isn’t stockpiled for us, it’s either lit or dark at a specific point in time. Caps simply do not ease peak usage bottlenecks, do you notice a SLA for sustained speeds and quality accompanying these restrictions or are we just being restricted further with zero actual compensation?

Again. This is nothing more than a means to leverage additional revenue off the back of internet services. I believe another good example of the ludicrousness of caps was comparing them to a Cable TV service which you paid for but then were only allowed to actually watch 4 hours of TV on each day.

Sensate Mass

I think a 250Gb cap is fairly reasonable – most people won’t get that high – but that isn’t the point. The real reasoning behind this is that people won’t open their access points if they know their service is capped.


All these comments prove just how greedy you Americans are. I’m an Australian, I basically live on the Internet, and I do just fine on 20gb/month.

When we go over our caps our internet isn’t disabled, it’s just slowed. I couldn’t see the situation being any different there. If you don’t like it then stop downloading so much. Simple.


I got my service terminated by Comcast for downloading 860gb in one month (according to my bw monitor) about 2 years ago. After they canceled my service they left a voice mail on the house phone with a phone number for a department that no one else in customer service or technical support knows anything about. when you call the number they give you there is only a voice mail box where you can leave a message… after 2 weeks they finally called back to let me know I had downloaded “300 times the national average” and that was why my service was canceled. so be careful how much you download, they’ll kick you off if you go too far


“we’re looking for real examples of how a heavy bandwidth user could breach either the 40 GB or 250 GB limit.”

A simple bash script should do the trick…

while [ ! -f $FILE ]; do
wget -nd –delete-after $FILE
COUNT=`expr $COUNT + 1`
clear && echo “Download number $COUNT”
if [ $COUNT -gt 368 ]; then
echo “U have downloaded over 250GB and pwned ur intarwebs”


I can easily do 250gb in a matter of a week. I have 3 roomates were all heavy downloaders, currently have a 16Mbps comcast line. I’m dreading this cap. I’m hoping they dont cap us higher tier users so much. I’d hate to be picky with what i download.


My father broke the bandwidth cap last month by downloading chess endgame databases.


We got lucky here in southern texas, with sudden link we get 10/2mbps (down/up) but its actually around 9000-9500 and the upload is wayy under 2 at about 750 kbps. it is a dsl account so my neighbors are probably slowing it down. last month, including my online file sharing account i did 1.1 terabytes of software, movies, tv , games and other things as well. we pay about 120 a month for internet and HD tv, so were doing pretty good. hopefully hurricane gustav wont mess up my d’ls


Well, if they are going to cap me at 250GB/mo, then I expect my overpriced HD cable channels to be UNCOMPRESSED!! They look like absolute crap because they compress the heck out of non-premium channels. HBO and Skinemax look bearable, but heaven forbid I wanted to watch the Olympics without wanting to vomit over the pixelization of the picture. If you are going to take something away, Comcast, make sure you make up for it on the other end. They have always said that the compression of HD channels were necessary due to bandwidth. Well, if everyone is capped, then obviously the bandwidth issue will be solved, right?


Linux machines have a free alternative for monitoring their usage. VNSTAT is a console based tool that allows users to query on hourly/daily/weekly/monthly usage, gives both inbound and outbound numbers as well as totals.


Sorry guys. I already break the 250 GB a month barrier and I’m doing it on what comcast calls horribly slow 1.5 Mbps DSL. I cant release too many details but work from home analyzing satellite imagery for an oil company and my monthly bandwidth normally hits about 300 GB a month.


Software is great, but you have to install it on every computer in the house…

I am using DD-WRT 24SP1 on a Linksys WRT-54GL, which has a WAN bandwidth monitor, so it catches ALL traffic that goes in/out of my internet connection.

In the last 15 days, I have used:
Incoming: 17364 MB / Outgoing: 2701 MB


This months usage is at about 65GB. Most of which originated from my TV Tuner downloading olympic events. However I seen this number greatly increasing in the next year or 2. I’ll be adding an VOIP system, possibly a apple TV/Netflix box, and popping out 3 kids would definitely kill me on the internet usage I’m sure.

You include automatic backups to a secure online location, and synchronization to multiple devices/PCs and I can probably top out 250GB with ease.

I think 500GB is a more reasonable cap that I wouldn’t hit. I’m talking the future here though another year or 2 tops.


Well I have 2 computers on my network and I’m on Optimum Online (cable) they also have a cap but I think its so I high I have never broken it. I think 250GB is nothing with streaming and me playing Xbox.


The point is far from whether you can hit the cap now but more that consumers are used to its existence. Once everyone blindly accepts that caps are good for them (yeah right) we can look forward to excuses on why the cost increases or the caps decrease until the point where we’re paying for ISPs, Data Plans and then for the actual media we want.

Caps should be outlawed, they stifle innovation (business and personal) on the internet, place control firmly in the hands of ISPs on what content we can afford to access and offer absolutely no improvement to customer quality of service.

Put it this way, even with a 1gig cap a month if everyone is online at peak times, servers and bandwidth are still stretched and service deteriorates. ISPs have been attempting to push their twisted logic to lock in revenue for many years now and blogs and media companies should be working hard to expose this for what it is, yet another “Net Neutrality” battle to take over the internet and increase revenue.


I have don 277 GB in 17 days. 250 a month isn’t much for a month.

Greg W

Breaking the 250GB challenge?! Easy. I’ve got Charter’s 10Mb/s down and ~930kb/s up cable connection. I run a TOR exit node and between TOR and my usage in the last 10 days 17 hours and 20 minutes I’ve been monitoring I’ve used 164.8GB. By the end of 30 days I should be over 300GB of data.

John H

Stacey — I am sure this was meant to be fun, but this will play directly into Comcast marketing. The issue isn’t that that it is 250GB — the issue is that it is there at all. Plain and simple. The service has been billed as unlimited, but now that usage is beginning to climb in areas that Comcast wants to explicitly control (namely video on demand) — here comes a stated cap.

Companies like Google, hulu, online gaming, every video sharing site, Apple, Netflix, et. al. should group together and sue Comcast for this practice as it directly will affect their future revenue streams.


@ anon

Going over 250gb is completely possible without downloading anything illegally. Don’t assume that just because all you do is check your e-mail that other people don’t use their systems for significantly more than you do.

I could easily break 250gb/month with legitimate traffic, and it has nothing to do with “decency and common sense”.

You fail to realize that there is more to do with a computer than write to your family and check the weather network.


except that what people are talking about here is breaking the 40/250gig cap without resorting to grey area content. like online file storage, online gaming( steam ) and youtube. imagine if someone put a limit on how many books you could read at the library?


We have caps in Australia, though with most ISPs only downloads are counted (ergo uploads are free and uncounted).

We have three people living in the house — two techies and one non-techie. Our plan gives us 40 GB during “peak” hours (7 am – 1 am, local time) and 110 GB during “off-peak” hours (1 am – 7 am).

We occasionally hit the 40 GB peak cap, but are generally careful enough not to. We always get pretty close though — it’s never been under 38 GB.

Our off-peak usage varies, usually depending on BitTorrent traffic. We’ve only hit the 110 GB off-peak cap once, and that was not due to BitTorrent traffic. We usually get somewhere between 50 GB and 80 GB off-peak. I repeat: this figure represents downloads only — uploads are not counted. We generally average a share ratio of between 1 and 3 on torrents, so our uploads are likely to be significantly higher.

Do we really _need_ this much data? Absolutely not. But such high allowances, coupled with incredibly cheap hard disks, means we’re able to download first and ask questions later. We also have no qualms about streaming video. We have the fastest residential broadband currently available in Australia – ADSL2+, and we’re less than one kilometre from our local exchange. This gives us a downlink of 21 Mbps, and an uplink of 1 Mbps.

On our previous connection (Cable modem, at around 2 Mbps), I imagine we would have struggled to reach the kind of caps we have now. But then, on that plan we were limited to 5 GB per month, and they counted uploads.


Well, since I’ve been running dd-wrt for a while, I know EXACTLY how much bandwidth I’ve used over the past few months.

(inbound, outbound is usually 1/10th of these numbers):

august: 35 gig
july: 67 gig
june: 30 gig
may (incomplete data): 75 gig

that’s as far back as my stats go. I download a 50-50 mix of sd and hd content. And, obviously, my use has a lot of pendulumn effect going on. My giganews account occasionally will go over 100 gigs/month, but on the low side hovers around 30 gigs just for GN itself.


I work for a large networking company in the Voice Technology Group and all I am going to say is any users with their primary or even secondary phone line as VOIP will certainly break Time Warner’s cap and quite possiblly/probably break Comcast’s…


Regarding limits: I get DSL through Frontier Communications. Frontier’s AUP, a masterpiece of the genre, contains the following droll little comment: “Frontier may suspend, terminate or apply additional charges to the Service if such usage exceeds a reasonable amount of usage. A reasonable amount of usage is defined as 5GB combined upload and download consumption during the course of a 30-day billing period. The Company has made no decision about potential charges for monthly usage in excess of 5GB.” (source)

One phone line with voice and DSL on it from Frontier runs me about ninety five dollars a month. I do not make any billable long-distance phone calls. Ninety five bucks a month is the base price. This isn’t even excitingly fast DSL — they only sell the one kind. I think this is kind of pricey, but it’s the only game in town so I pay it and I take my DSL.

Five gigs a month is a “reasonable” amount of usage, they tell me.

My ass.

I called to complain about this and the customer service person at Frontier said that since there were no penalties for overage, that it didn’t matter and that I shouldn’t worry about it.

My ass, I say.

Not that it takes much effort for me to exceed this laughably low cap, but I did manage it this week. I downloaded and watched the first season of Mad Men, 4.4GB download, seeded to about .935 before I shut it off, so there ya go.

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