Comcast tips its cap

In the process of trying to avoid any more federal meddling (see “FCC to Comcast: Go forth and sin no more“), Comcast has taken another step toward implementing network traffic management in a more transparent and even-handed way. Starting Oct. 1, the company will impose a 250 GB monthly usage cap (combined download and upload) on its Net access customers, codifying what had been a de facto, but unspecified, threshold. Topping the limit will get you a call from Comcast gently encouraging you to scale back a bit. Repeated offenses could result in suspension of service for a year.

Comcast said it picked 250 GB after listening to customer feedback on what would constitute a reasonable ceiling, and indeed, as DSL Reports notes, that’s substantially higher than the 5-40 GB monthly caps being considered by some other providers. Comcast says that of its 14 million or so Net customers, far less than 1 percent are likely to bump up against the limits. The median monthly data usage of residential customers is about 2-3 GB a month, said the company, and to reach the ceiling, a user would have to be doing something like downloading more than 62,000 tunes or 125 standard-def movies a month, or uploading 25,000 high-res digital pictures.

Limits of any kind are never going to be popular, if only on principle, but this move, along with the plan to manage excessive use on the fly by temporarily reducing offenders’ access speeds (see “Comcast to throttle users instead of apps“), at least tackles the network management issues in a way that targets the bandwidth hogs directly while letting the rest of its customers make an informed choice to stay or go based on clear terms of use.


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  • M Davis

    Of course now I have to wonder what Mozy, Jungle Disk, and many other of those on-line backup disk sites think of these caps. One may not backup a full 250GB disk in one month, but a lot of data does go over the net with these services for keeping backups in sync. You then add on streaming a couple of movies, or the fact that there is more than one computer in a household being used and you might hit this cap doing something reasonable.

    At my house with 4 teenagers/College students, who are very active on the Net, especially with YouTube; a wife who needs to upload pictures of Jewelry she makes to her web site (as well as maintain it), the amount of offsite work I do through VNC’s and needing to FTP files to other locations (not to mention that I run Mozy on one computer and have been considering it for others), I wonder if I am even get close to that cap in one month. I guess I will put off using Mozy on any of the other computers I have at home now.

    I will admit though, that it is better than a cap of 40GB.

  • Walter Allen

    250 GB “sounds” reasonable, although I truly feel that this is a regressive move. And how does e-mail fit into this equation? Between increasing traffic and larger messages, I wouldn’t be surprised if this portion of my usage is growing exponentially.

  • phil

    maybe these mega ISP’s should spend a bit more on fiber and routers and a little less on jerks that want to put limits on usage.

  • Tim

    what happens with unwanted traffic. what If I sent someone on comcast a giant 250g file by udp, there router rejects all the traffic as unrequested and the user never sees it but comcast still records its usage and now those people are done for the month, even worse when they start charging money for data over the cap, now I can bankrupt people for fun sending out 500g or so.

    This is such a backwards move and I hope it causes them nothing but problems till they revert it

  • greg

    What about those new “cloud”-based backups, like Mozy or SugarSync? How are you supposed to backup to them if you’re bandwidth restricted? This also brings up another issue – upload speeds need to go up as these kinds of services gain traction.

  • John

    This cap will kill “cloud computing” for anyone one said cap’d service. As more and more devices go online (sling box, tivo, gaming devices, online legitimate digital content purchases) the 250GB limit will become more of a problem. 250GB isn’t bad today, 5 years from now though it may stiffle new services.

    Plus, Comcast’s VOIP doesn’t take away from your cap, but using Vonage does. Sounds like their using their network as an anti-competitive strategy. That will likely where we’ll hear people complain next (as well we should).