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Comcast Pays Florida $150K For Misleading Consumers
Case indicates company was booting the top 1,000 customers....
by Karl Bode 02:24PM Friday Sep 05 2008 Tipped by JTRockville See Profile
We've always known that Comcast has long had an invisible usage limit, because our users have been complaining about it for the better part of a decade. While Comcast says they're now simply clarifying this previously existing cap (by capping users at 250GB starting October 1) a Florida court case would seem to suggest otherwise. After being investigated by the State of Florida for booting users without making service limits clear, Comcast divulged that the company has actually been booting the top 1,000 users without regard to consumption total.
According to the settlement, "Pursuant to the AUP, as currently applied, each month the top 1,000 bandwidth users out of Comcast’s entire customer base of approximately 14.4 million subscribers (i.e., approximately .007% of subscribers) receive a direct, personal notification from Comcast by telephone that they are violating Comcast’s Acceptable Use Policy, because of their excessive use of bandwidth."
Florida AG Bill McCollum apparently didn't like that Comcast was booting their top 1,000 heaviest users without mentioning hard limits in their acceptable use policy, and without ever actually telling impacted customers precisely what constituted excessive use. After a lengthy investigation, last week Comcast was forced to come clean with customers and pay $150,000. They're also no longer able to advertise the product as unlimited, though they stopped doing so a few years back (see ad).

Why does this Florida case matter? Well, the FCC has been seen as the primary motivator for Comcast's sudden shift toward clarity, despite a clear record of being anything but consumer advocates. In reality, it was the Florida Attorney General who was busy lighting a fire under Comcast's digital derriere. You can also thank tough Florida consumer protection laws. Martin may have simply used the situation for political gain.

The Florida documentation also would seem to indicate that Comcast isn't being entirely honest about the new 250GB cap simply being a transparent version of an existing cap. Instead, the settlement shows there was no locked hard cap at all -- simply the targeting of the top 1,000 hungriest (.007%) of Comcast's 14.4 million subscribers. That would explain why some of our users were able to consume in excess of 400GB per month before getting in trouble. It also indicates that the new 250GB cap, while clear, may impact considerably more users than the old system.

The full settlement is here, and may make for interesting reading for those of you who've been tracking this story closely since we first started covering it back in 2003, when the first bandwidth glutton letters started appearing.

119 comments .. click to read

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Yarmouth Port, MA

2 recommendations

reply to FFH5

Re: Yep... business as usual

said by FFH5:

said by Karl Bode:

Yes Tom, it's consumers who demand clarity and accountability that are the problem. Clearly.
It wasn't the average consumer demanding it. They weren't affected and were not aware of any problem. It was the well above average abusers demanding the clarification and a hard cap. Well now they get to pay for what they wanted and got.
Dave Winer was an abuser? How so?

There's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that anyone who has been kicked off of the service abused it.

It was the top 1,000 users of bandwidth. This list was from across the system, not just from nodes with trouble reports, or highly-congested segments, or from observed complaints from other systems to the abuse@comcast desk! The only thing that kind of system protects is Comcast's loss from such a consumer -- and that's perfectly fine, but it has to be disclosed.

There was nothing in the TOS that covered kicking off users for being one of the top 1,000 users of bandwidth. Comcast didn't even check if they interfered with or impacted anybody == so they can't use that excuse.
Robb Topolski -= funchords.com =- Hillsboro, Oregon
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Data Ho
Rockville, MD

2 recommendations

reply to FFH5
No one I've seen ever demanded a cap. The plea was, that IF there is a cap, it shouldn't be super-secret.

Tavistock NJ

1 edit

3 recommendations

reply to Matt3
said by Matt3:

This is not surprising at all and exactly what most people thought was going on.
And the "WE THE PEOPLE" crowd are now getting what they demanded - an announced & marketed hard cap. And instead of 1,000/mo of the very worst abusers getting booted, Comcast gets to boot many many more within a couple months of Oct 1(new rules give an extra 30 days beyond 1st month before termination). So say around Dec 1 or thereabouts, we can start reading all the woeful stories about how "I was not an abuser, but just an advanced user backing up my terabytes of disk storage".

Moral of story: "Beware of what you wish for - you may get it."
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Sith HMP
I Did What?
Bloomington, IL

2 recommendations


I get it now. If they can afford to just throw away 1000 customers every month with out blinking an eye, I now understand why they could care less about fixing any of my service issues. Thanks a lot Insight for handing me over to these tools.