dslreports logo

story category
Bumping Into Qwest's Invisible Cap
The same kind of cap that resulted in a Comcast fine...
by Karl Bode 10:08AM Tuesday May 05 2009
Back in 2007, our resident Qwest users noticed that the telco had changed its "excessive use policy," or "EUP". Like many operators, Qwest will boot any user who consistently consumes more than their "fair share" of bandwidth for a residential connection. So what's a fair share according to Qwest? The company's (EUP) points customers to this pdf, which gives a generic representation of how much is too much:
What is considered “excessive” or “high volume” use?
A very small percentage of Qwest Broadband customers fall into the “excessive” or “high volume” use category. Examples of “excessive” or “high volume” use are as follows:
• 300,000-500,000 photo downloads in one month
• 40,000 to 80,000 typically sized MP3 music downloads in one month
• 15+ million unique e-mails each month
• Online TV video streaming of 1,000-3,000 30-minute shows each month
• 2-5 million Web page visits (approximately one every second, 24 hours per day)
Qwest goes on to insist that most customers consume "1-3 Gigabytes per month," a number that is "slightly higher for business customers." Nowhere does Qwest explicitly state how much consumption is too much. Section 7(a) of the Qwest service agreement covers "exessive" bandwidth consumption, and gives Qwest the right to suspend, terminate, or limit your broadband service should you gobble up an unspecified amount of bandwidth.

A lack of clear limits confuses customers, as this Consumerist user attests. The user called in to see if Qwest was intentionally throttling YouTube videos (unlikely, though there's clearly some kind of Qwest/YouTube network issue judging from our forum posts). In trying to get answers, the user gets directed to Qwest's mystery cap and the somewhat ambiguous terms of service -- confusing an already confused customer further.

Comcast spent the better part of the last decade yelling at users for excessive consumption without defining the actual limit, in part because the limit would fluctuate based on regional congestion. In 2008 Florida's Attorney General fined Comcast $150,000 for not being clear with its customers. Comcast ultimately instituted a 250GB monthly limit for all users, which is high enough to only impact about .01% of the company's userbase.

93 comments .. click to read