Qwest's 1st Rule of Bandwidth Caps: Don't Talk About The Caps

qwestlogo-winceUpdated: Qwest (s Q) has become the latest ISP to be accused of having an undisclosed bandwidth cap. The Consumerist quotes a user who thinks a friend’s Qwest connection was throttled while watching YouTube videos. The user was reportedly told by a representative of the third-largest phone company in the U.S that it throttles customers after they have violated Qwest’s excessive use policy. Later, the Qwest representative apparently called the user back to deny that the ISP throttles traffic at all.

I emailed Qwest spokesman Mark Molzen about the story, and he said Qwest does not block users’ packets, but I’m still waiting to hear if it throttles them.Update: and that Qwest does not slow or throttle users’ packets. Molzen said Qwest does monitor and contact customers who violate the ISP’s excessive use policy. Instead of a disclosed cap, such as the 250 GB per month cap that Comcast eventually implemented after being fined for having an undisclosed one, Qwest lists things that a user might do that would lead it to call a customer up and offer her “commercial-grade service.” On a monthly basis, those include:

  • 300,000-500,000 photo downloads
  • 40,000-80,000 typically sized MP3 music downloads
  • 15+ million unique e-mails
  • online TV video streaming of 1,000-3,000 30-minute shows
  • 2-5 million web page visits (which works out to roughly one every second, 24 hours per day)

Molzen confirmed that normal Qwest users tend to download between 1 GB and 3 GB per month, which is the median rather than average monthly data consumption for customers. However, he stressed that gigabytes downloaded didn’t necessarily translate into getting dinged for excessive use, and offered again the stated user scenarios which would indicate that a consumer is using their bandwidth for a business.

Molzen says less then .002 percent of Qwest’s customers are ever notified about excessive use, which given Qwest’s 2.8 million customers, works out to less than 56 people. When Qwest notifies these customers, Molzen says the firm tells them how they can reduce their bandwidth (but not a specific cap to stay under) or offers them “a plan specific to their needs.”