Comcast Caps it off

The latest round of news and announcements from Comcast make me glad once more that I left their service last spring. With the announcement of a bandwidth cap of 250Gig per month to kick in on Oct 1, they clinched the deal for me for the foreseeable future. I had to stand up and cheer out loud as I was reading Om Malik’s series of rants on the topic. I agree with Om that one of the biggest philosophical problems is that there is no good way for end users to easily see and track their usage. It is ethically wrong to tell people they will be penalized for over usage of something they can not measure. Comcast, ( and TimeWarner and anyone else considering Metered Internet) if you are going to start billng this way, you need to have an application that I can either log into on the internet ( but don’t charge that against my bandwidth…)or else an application that shows up on a channel on my DVR box so I can sit there and watch the bits and bytes stream by in real time.
I think that Om has the right ideas in this blog entry, but he is dancing around the issue. Let’s just come right out and say it. The only reason cable companies are metering or limiting bandwidth is to limit their competition.
In a household that includes two teenagers and two almost adolescent boys, a household where I work from home and VPN to work, a household where my fiance is often logged into multiple servers at work over night it does not take long for the bandwidth to start piling up. In addition to computers, we have a Roku box, a wii, and a home media server. We have DSs and PSPs that connect to the internet and my next cell phone will almost certainly be chosen to include the ability to broadcast over wifi. Even my HP printer occasionally talks over the internet. I hit a handful of devices that are on OM’s list of devices that can spell trouble for bandwidth, and a few that he forgot to mention. ( I warned you that he went on a bit of a rant, didn’t I- and “Go OM” is all I have to say about that)

The effect of metering bandwidth will be the same as long distance dial-up numbers were back in the days of dial-up networking only. Companies quickly learned that end users were not going to pay long distance charges for the convenience of the internet. It was not until they worked to expand 800 and local numbers that people started jumping on the wire in larger numbers. Once more people were online, the technology began to be seen as a real market, innovation flourished and we got animation, flash, audio, video and real time interactivity. As soon as people start being more careful about where they go and what they download, new projects on the internet will be more carefully considered and maybe even abandoned before they are started. If you had told me back in 1995 that I would be sitting here blogging with TitanAE streaming to my browser in a pop-out window, I would have laughed at you. It is significant that Hulu required a critical mass of people with high speed bandwidth to be able to float the business model. What new and currently unimaginable technologies will never see the light of day because of the competition for bandwidth?

Although the war for your money and attention may be in the entertainment market, it will have impact in other places. What will these bandwidth caps mean for the new MS Online service offering ( how many excel files do I have to read and stream over the internet to pop my cap?), for Google’s push into the enterprise market space, for the newly proposed and marketed “cloud computing” models ( then again, maybe that is a benefit…). Just as businesses and schools start to explore the use of High Performance Computing and “over the wire” CAD and animation tools, Comcast and others are looking to limit the amount of data they can push.

Thinking of online storage services as a business model ( either as a provider or a consumer)? Once your bandwidth gets capped, this will be one of the first services to come crashing down. I have 5 computers I back up regularly. Their weekly backups range from 30-80 gig each. If I were doing this into the cloud, I would be over my cap before two weeks finished.

The list of potential side deaths and inhibitions gets longer every time I think about it, what other businesses or technologies do you see heading for the dead pool when cable broadband users are all capped?

3 thoughts on “Comcast Caps it off

  1. Hi Nan!Yup, everything has it’s limits. But in our case, the 250 gig cap will impact less than 1% of our users.The vast majority of customers will see no appreciable change in their Comcast high speed Internet experience.250 GB is a large amount of data. A typical residential high-speed Internet user doesn’t even come close to using that amount of data. To put it in perspective, currently, the median data usage by our high-speed customers is approximately 2 – 3 GB each month. 250 GB falls more into the excessive use category—going well above and beyond typical Internet usage.To reach 250 GB in a month, for example, a customer would have to do any of the following: * Send 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email) * Download 62,500 4 MB songs (at 4 MB/song) * Download 125 standard-definition movies (at 2 GB/movie) * Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (at 10 MB/photo)Your concerns about how all this may impact the future are valid. I’ve been a cable guy for 27 years and remember when 52 channels felt like an awful lot of television, and when we thought a SLIP connection over a dial-up line to this Internet thing felt like opening a huge door to the world (compared with the walled gardens over at Prodigy America On Line and GEnie).Over the years, Comcast has regularly increased the speed of our flagship high speed Internet product, without raising the price. We’re continuing to invest in our networks and with technologies like channel-bonding and DOCSIS 3.0, the 50 MB speeds you’ve read about us testing in Minnesota will be available universally, with even higher speeds to follow.While I can’t predict the future, my sense is that, as more and more bandwidth intensive applications come our way, and as we continue to improve our network’s capacity, the 250 gig number will also increase. Here’s a link, to coverage of the keynote that our CEO, Brian Roberts, gave at the Consumer Electronics Show, where he articulates Comcast’s strategy surrounding all of this. It’s a pretty exciting picture he paints and it energizes those of us who’s passion is centered on serving you.I’m happy to answer any questions or concerns you our your readers may have.Best regards!Scott WestermanVice PresidentComcastscott.westerman@comcast.net@comcastscott on Twitter / Identi.ca

  2. Nan, did Scott ignore you? Or just paint you into a corner as atypical.I think what he’s saying is that if you and the other tiny percentage of power users want to bolt for other services, they won’t miss you.Maybe I’m reading that wrong.Or maybe this is the first step in cutting into the cloud computing action. Imagine if Comcast graciously stepped up to be your online backup provider, with your info stored on servers at the head end.(store your data with us, and since it never goes to the Net it doesn’t count against your cap, and it technically doesn’t violate Net Neutrality.)Damn, I’m scary sometimes…

  3. Scott, You said ” Yup, everything has it’s limits. But in our case, the 250 gig cap will impact less than 1% of our users.The vast majority of customers will see no appreciable change in their Comcast high speed Internet experience.250 GB is a large amount of data. A typical residential high-speed Internet user doesn’t even come close to using that amount of data. To put it in perspective, currently, the median data usage by our high-speed customers is approximately 2 – 3 GB each month. 250 GB falls more into the excessive use category—going well above and beyond typical Internet usage.” I believe that this is currently true for many users, but feel strongly that this will continue to change over the next year. NBC is offering the season premier of some of their flagship shows a week early on the web. More and more content is available on Hulu, Fox, iTunes and even YouTube as high definition downloads. As more and more people find this out and take advantage of this, they will easily exceed the cap- especially families with more than one computer in the house.What is going to happen in January when all the families that take advantage of the plethora of new, cheap, wifi enabled netbooks they all got for Christmas to while away cold dark days cruising the net and watching High Def videos?Does Comcast have a plan in place to continue monitoring average bandwidth usage and will they shift the cap as average usage increases so that Mary and Johnny America are never impacted?More importantly, since Comcast has tools to monitor user consumption, when are they going to make these easily available to the end users so they can monitor their consumption. If the average user is so far below the bar, it stands to reason that putting this tool on your website and letting users freely check it would ease a significant portion of the anxiety surrounding this change. Bad Bad Bad PR/Planning/Communication. Sadly, this does not seem to be something that is changing about Comcast as a company.Ike- it has been obvious to me since the spring that Comcast sees me and my business as marginally and outside the bounds of normal. That is why we had to part ways. Unfortunately, as more and more IT types get the green light to work from home or telecommute, my behaviors on the net will be less and less unusual and they will continue to lose that market segment.

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