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Comcast Emails Subscribers About Bandwidth Caps

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Updated: Comcast, the largest cable company in the world, has started to send emails to its subscribers letting them know about bandwidth limits the company is going to impose, starting Oct. 1, 2008. As it was reported earlier, the company had said that if people go over the 250 GB/month limit, they WILL be thrown off the Comcast network. Update: Comcast has taken issue with this assertion, however, and in addition to directing us to their FAQ page, offers up the following clarification:

Rather, we said that if a customer exceeds that limit, then we reserve the right to contact them and ask them to moderate their usage, which the vast majority of customers do voluntarily. We will also explain that if they choose not to moderate their usage and they remain among our heaviest users again in a six month period of time, then we reserve the right to suspend their account for a year.

The company’s email is using metrics to make a case that the 250 GB limit is very generous, but we know it that’s a bit bogus. When we asked our readers what kind of bandwidth they were consuming, even average folks had numbers that didn’t match up with the “2 to 3 GB median residential customer usage” metric used by Comcast. (Full text of the email below the fold.)

“To put it in perspective, to reach 250 GB of data usage in one month a customer would have to do any one of the following – Send more than 50 million plain text emails (at 5 KB/email); Download 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song); or Download 125 standard definition movies (at 2 GB/movie),” Comcast wrote in an email to its customers (some of whom forwarded it along to us). Of course, you wonder why Comcast isn’t talking about downloading HD movies and videos, which Apple just started selling on its iTunes store. Comcast has so far failed to announce a meter for metering the broadband.

Just to give some perspective of our own, we have pointed out 5 devices that could consume that Comcast bandwidth cap pretty easily. Stacey also put together a list of 10 things that you should know and hate about metered broadband.


Dear Comcast High-Speed Internet Customer,

We appreciate your business and strive to provide you with the best online experience possible. One of the ways we do this is through our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). The AUP outlines acceptable use of our service as well as steps we take to protect our customers from things that can negatively impact their experience online. This policy has been in place for many years and we update it periodically to keep it current with our customers’ use of our service.

On October 1, 2008, we will post an updated AUP that will go into effect at that time.

In the updated AUP, we clarify that monthly data (or bandwidth) usage of more than 250 Gigabytes (GB) is the specific threshold that defines excessive use of our service. We have an excessive use policy because a fraction of one percent of our customers use such a disproportionate amount of bandwidth every month that they may degrade the online experience of other customers.

250 GB/month is an extremely large amount of bandwidth and it’s very likely that your monthly data usage doesn’t even come close to that amount. In fact, the threshold is approximately 100 times greater than the typical or median residential customer usage, which is 2 to 3 GB/month. To put it in perspective, to reach 250 GB of data usage in one month a customer would have to do any one of the following:

* Send more than 50 million plain text emails (at 5 KB/email);
* Download 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song); or
* Download 125 standard definition movies (at 2 GB/movie).

And online gamers should know that even the heaviest multi- or single-player gaming activity would not typically come close to this threshold over the course of a month.

7 Responses to “Comcast Emails Subscribers About Bandwidth Caps”

  1. Bob Van Ess

    Comcast just talked me into purchasing the super high speed over my cable for $10/month more than i currently pay. Supposedly it’s 2X faster than the regular high speed they offer. I’ll try it out and see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be. But then I’ll be approaching the limit faster! They wont mind since I’m paying the extra I would imagine.

  2. I agree with Om’s other posts that the problems are (1) Comcast does not give you a way to monitor your usage (2) there is little or no recourse if you violate the limit. All Comcast needs to do is provide a use meter on their website and specify the overage charges. Meantime, for now, 250GB per month seems very reasonable. I installed Tomato firmware for both home and my office, and despite ‘heavy’ internet use (streaming HD, multiple system patches, Skype, Netmeeting, etc. etc.) we are nowhere near half of the 250GB per month limit. However, it *is* annoying that I had to configure a router to measure the bandwidth usage because Comcast does not.

  3. An opportunity to press for alternative providers on the infrastructure. And before Comcast flacks start whining, let us remind them that most of their infrastructure was built-out with subsidies from federal, state and local government. Years ago. They’ve taken the tax breaks a long time ago, too.

    DSL available to me has sucking speeds – courtesy of the in-built limits going back to Mountain Bell; but, there are several broadband providers ready to compete for my business over the existing copper.

    There are NO competitors available for the existing fibre-optic lines – and places where there are, it’s only via prohibitive agreements at Comcast’ behest.

    Let Comcast put their cap on top! But, let other firms offer me service over the same glass.

  4. Who Cares?

    Who cares? It’s a private business and they can charge what they want, and limit access whenever they want. If you don’t like it, switch providers. No other providers? SOL. Live without HD downloads, and watch streaming feeds from all the major networks.