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Comcast sets monthly bandwidth cap for subscribers

Fri, 08/29/2008 - 8:25am
Mike Robuck

Comcast said yesterday that it will cap the bandwidth usage of its customers to 250 Gigabytes a month starting Oct. 1.

Comcast outlined the bandwidth limit for residential users in its terms of acceptable use policy on the company’s Web site. The new threshold of 250 GB is the equivalent of downloading 62,500 digital songs and is “much more than a typical customer uses on a monthly basis,” Comcast said on its Website. The new cap doesn’t apply to businesses service tiers provided by Comcast.

Comcast also said the current median monthly data usage by its customers was to 2 to 3 GB per month.

“In the past there have been customers with no limit and they’ve asked for one,” said Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas. “We’ve listened to their feedback and now we’re providing a limit. It’s important to remember that this (bandwidth cap) isn’t relevant for over 99 percent of our customers because they don’t use 250 Gigabytes a month.”

The nation’s largest cable operator said that subscribers who exceed the new cap will be contacted by Comcast and notified of their excessive use.

“At that time, we'll tell them exactly how much data per month they had used. We know from experience the vast majority of customers we ask to curb usage do so voluntarily,” according to the Comcast Website.

Douglas said customers will be notified when they exceed the cap and will be asked to moderate their usage voluntarily. Those who receive a second notice in a six-month period could see their service cut off by Comcast.

Douglas also said the new policy is about excessive use by subscribers, but Comcast, like many other cable operators, is also looking at a consumption-based billing approach.

Currently, Time Warner Cable is testing consumption-based billing in Beaumont, Texas, with bandwidth tiers that range from a 5 GB tier to a 40 GB tier. 

Earlier this year, Rogers started a program that placed caps on the amount of Internet usage by subscribers, and charges extra for those who go over their limit. Rogers set up a page on its Web portal that allows subscribers to check where their usage stands.

Comcast has come under fire for blocking peer-to-peer (P2P) applications, but has responded by saying the company owes a good Internet experience to all of its subscribers. The Federal Communications Commission has given Comcast until Sept. 19 to show how it has been blocking P2P applications and provide details on how it plans to avoid the use of blocking by the end of this year.  See story here.

Comcast has said it’s working on a protocol agnostic approach to managing Internet traffic, which it hopes to have in place by the end of this year. See story here.

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