Comcast Trials Broadband Meter in Portland

Comcast (s cmsca) today kicked off a trial of a broadband meter that will measure how much data a household consumes over its cable modem, something we’ve been asking for ever since Comcast announced it would implement a 250 GB-per-month cap on data downloads. Comcast had originally said It was rumored that the meter would be available in January 2009, but Comcast was unable to meet that timeline.

Customers in Portland, Ore., will start receiving emails today and throughout the next few weeks telling them they can check out the meter as part of the trial program. Charlie Douglas, a Comcast spokesman, says that he doesn’t know how long the trial period will last, nor when the ISP will be able to roll it out nationwide basis. In the meantime, here are the details:

  • It’s software that‘s pushed to the cable modem sits at the cable plant and sends the data to a database that is accessed via the web
  • Customers don’t have to pay anything for the meter
  • To see the consumption, users just log into their Comcast Center portal
  • The meter measures consumption by the calendar month, rather than based on the monthly billing cycle
  • It also measures consumption at the modem so the meter can track usage by all devices using the home network, which is key for folks running Roku boxes and other WiFi-enabled devices
  • Comcast certified the accuracy of the meter through a firm called NetForecast, which has published a report with all the technical details.

I have to say that while I’m not excited about the cap in place here, Comcast’s efforts to deliver a meter that has been certified by an independent company are a step in the right direction, as is its transparency around the report issued by NetForecast. Plus, it’s also managed to finally get a consumer-facing meter out in the market, which at least gives consumers a way to see how close they may be to hitting that cap.