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Comcast Invisi-Caps Rediscovered
Digg, Slashdot say hello to 2003...
by Karl Bode 01:23PM Monday Aug 27 2007
With the recent scuff-up over Comcast's alleged efforts to derail BitTorrent seeding, the company's long-standing practice of booting customers for using too much bandwidth has received renewed attention years after we started talking about it back in 2003.

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The operator has a not-so-secret bandwidth consumption limit that varies from market to market. Should you consistently pass this secret limit, you'll receive this letter telling you you should cut down on your usage.

Neither the letter nor Comcast's AUP specify how much usage is too much, in part because it varies depending on local network congestion. User forum complaints suggest it ranges from as low as 35GB to as high as 500GB per month.

This was a much bigger deal back when Comcast still advertised their service as unlimited (see insert), but it's still a popular gripe among forum posters and news reporters every time someone new realizes the limit exists. The company insists this cap only impacts "one-hundredth of one percent" of their users.

105 comments .. click to read

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Yes Sorto, I'll take my Prozac

Niagara Falls, NY

3 recommendations

reply to Rick

Re: I have never in my life

If Comcast (or any provider for that matter) cannot support the bandwidth allocations that they sell, they need to revisit what exactly it is they are selling.

Telling people they have an 8Mb pipe is ludicrous if they cannot use it.

You pontificate that 300GB/month is excessive. Let's do some math.

An 8Mb pipe transfers roughly 1MB of data each second. So, to reach 300GB, it will take 307,200 seconds at full transfer rate, about 3.5 days.

Taking a month of 30 days, that's 720 hours, 43,200 minutes, or 2,592,000 seconds.

That says that if you fully used that 8Mb pipe for 11.85% of the time available to you, you'd pull 300GB of data.

Can Comcast users then only pay 11.85% of their bill? I doubt it.

Residential ISPs historically oversell bandwidth on the assumption that not everyone is using it at a given time. Dial-up ISPs have ranged from 16-1 to 8-1 , depending on the company and when you looked. I don't know what our number was in the Adelphia days, but I'm pretty sure it was less than 8-1.

Comcast had two choices. They could have lowered their maximum per connection speed down from 8Mb to a level more consistent with the engineered capabilities of their network. This would have precluded the need for these arbitrary transfer limits. The other choice was advertise this wonderful 8Mb service, and give people shit about it if they happened to be in the minority of customers who tried to use what they are paying for.

They chose the latter.

I won't dispute that $50 for a home residential pipe is a good deal. When breaking it out on a per Mb basis, I pay significantly more on any of my OC's or DS3s. I also don't question Comcast's right to put controls in place to prevent users from becoming a detriment to other subscribers. (Although I strongly disagree with their flat out blocking of Bittorrent on the false assumption that all BT traffic is illegal P2P.)

However, Comcast is irresponsible by advertising and signing up people for a service that has restrictions which are not disclosed until after someone is a customer, and by not clearly defining those restrictions at any point.

This is no different than a dealer putting restrictions on a vehicle after the contracts have been signed, or speed limit signs with question marks on your local highways.

Their non-specific , non-disclosed transfer limits will never stand up in court if they are ever challenged, since a consumer cannot be held responsible for terms of usage that aren't defined. (IE, you can't break a law if the law isn't spelled out.)

Your assertion that 300GB a month is more than one would use 'in a lifetime' is absurd. The internet is content; spend a couple of hours with a college kid spending time on Facebook and Youtube, and see how much data gets moved. It adds up faster than you think.

Yo Soy Col. "Bat" Guano
Philly burbs

2 recommendations

reply to Cabal
Yes, I really do exist. I also venture a guess I've done more for society in the past 10 years than you have, but I don't know you, so I won't sling arrows your way.

Like I'm actually sitting in a restaurant someplace eating for 5 hours. I believe this is the point of the discussion where I slap my forehead and say DUH.

I stand by my statement that his analogy was a bad one. He compares chaining a pickup truck to a buffet and dragging it off, to abusing your broadband internet connection.

One is a blatant, overt theft (The chain and truck thing). The other is a matter of semantics and judgement that changes from system to system.

Look, I'm not bashing Comcast. I'm not a heavy user of my internet connection, and if I download 2 songs from iTunes a month, that was a heavy month for me.

But, everyone knows it's illegal to drag a buffet away with a chain and a truck. Everyone KNOWS it's theft. Comcast doesn't tell you what the cap is, so until you violate it, you don't know.

Now if Comcast set a limit, told you not to cross it, and you repeatedly did, well then shame on you. You were forewarned and you did as you shouldn't.

Comcast has every right to regulate the use of their private network and to be sure a select few individuals aren't ruining the experience for everyone else.

But, you can't punish people for breaking rules you don't lay down. The cops can't write you a speeding ticket where the limit isn't clearly posted (in PA at least). If it's not in the contract, they can't hold you to it.'

Clearly spell it out, and put it in the contract. Then come down like a sack of rocks on the ones that don't do as they are told.

It's as easy as that...
Petty people are disproportionably corrupted by petty power…

Valencia, CA
·Time Warner Cable

2 recommendations

reply to Rick
I think very few people really have an issue with Comcast clamping on 300GB/month usage. The problem is the limit isn't specified anywhere, so what really constitutes abuse? 10GB? 100GB? 1000GB?

That said, I'm not really a fan of the hard caps that people seem to be clamoring for. When they do get set, they're usually ridiculously low (see Cox for example and their 40GB limit).

That's why I much prefer automated FAP/traffic shaping systems to control bandwidth consumption if it's necessary. Then users can't walk out with the whole buffet, yet the end user doesn't need to worry about getting natsy phone calls.

Waterbury, CT

4 recommendations

seen anyone complain of being booted for downloading only 35gigs in a month.

300 gigs..that's a different story.

Isn't someone who downloads that much and expects Comcast to give it to them for 43 bucks a month similar to someone who visits an "all you can eat" chinese buffet for lunch..and proceeds to attach a chain to the back of their pickup..and the restaurants buffet table..and proceeds to drag the whole counter home with them?

But then, they come back and say.."but you told me it was all I could eat."

Seriously, can we get real here? 300 a month.

No isp owes that to anyone for these kinds of prices and comcasts tos clearly says that if you affect their network to the detriment of other users..they can cut you off.

And, I'm glad they do that..for the benefit of those of us who don't abuse the network like that.

Many people have other options. Get cable and a backup DSL line. Use both if you think you're going to come close to these limits.

Or, pay for a T1 line. Cough up the few hundred a month and pay for what it is you're asking for.

I seriously think that BBR should put an end to this continual nonsense about this issue. And recognize that for 43.00 a isp has an obligation to give someone that much usage.

300 gigs a month. Many of us won't use that in our entire LIFETIMES.

Much less in one month.

Can we get real?

The Coyote captured the RR! Roadrunner Rick is now Comcastic!

Free range slave
Smithfield, NC

2 recommendations