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It's official: Comcast starts 250GB bandwidth caps October 1st

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« on: August 29, 2008, 12:54:23 pm »

It's official: Comcast starts 250GB bandwidth caps October 1st

By Jacqui Cheng | Published: August 28, 2008 - 04:16PM CT

 Comcast has announced that it will in fact be introducing bandwidth caps to all residential customers. The cap, which will go into effect as of October 1, will be 250GB per month. Comcast justifies the decision by saying that it's "an extremely large amount of data," and that a very large majority of customers will never cross it.
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In fact, according to Comcast, this is actually the same policy that is already in place, except with more explicit numbers as to what is allowed and what isn't. "As part of our preexisting policy, we will continue to contact the top users of our high-speed Internet service and ask them to curb their usage," the company said in a statement sent to Ars. "If a customer uses more than 250GB and is one of the top users of our service, he or she may be contacted by Comcast to notify them of excessive use."

This announcement has been widely expected since at least May of this year, after the whole brouhaha went down with P2P throttling and the FCC fallout. Comcast had originally argued that that the FCC had no authority to block Comcast's process, but ultimately decided on its own to stop interfering with P2P traffic. The company also joined in with other ISPs in trying to devise a P2P user's bill of rights and contemplated the use of P4P software.

Comcast customers that make heavy use of their Internet connections—myself included—are sure to find themselves somewhat alarmed at the prospect of being capped. After all, perfectly legal things like movies from iTunes and Netflix, online music stores, massive software updates, and other media-heavy applications do suck up a lot of bandwidth. Comcast insists that the 250GB cap is enough to send some 50 million e-mails, download 62,500 songs, or download 125 standard-definition movies. Okay, so if a cap is going to be enforced, 250GB isn't that bad. It beats the 60GB caps and lower caps seen elsewhere in North America and it's a nice change from the company's previous etherial and mysterious caps. Still, investing in the infrastructure necessary to alleviate the need for caps is a better option for everyone involved.

In a statement e-mailed to Ars, Free Press called the caps "relatively high," but said they were also an indictment of current US broadband policy. "If the United States had genuine broadband competition, Internet providers would not be able to profit from artificial scarcity‚ they would invest in their networks to keep pace with consumer demand," said Free Press research director S. Derek Turner. "Unfortunately, Americans will continue to face the consequences of this lack of competition until policymakers get serious about policies that deliver the world-class networks consumers deserve."

In May when the cap was first rumored, there was also buzz that Comcast might try to charge customers $15 for every 10GB they went over the limit. As far as we can tell from Comcast's announcement and the accompanying FAQ page, that is not the case... yet, anyway. Even so, Comcast's honesty with the 250GB cap will probably only go so far, and customers with the option to do so may end up turning to an ISP such as AT&T, Verizon, or Qwest that has the infrastructure available to offer broadband without bandwidth limits.
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