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October 03, 2008

Comcast's new Data Usage Guessing Game is the last straw

On October 1, 2008, Comcast's new Acceptable Use Policy placed a 250 GB monthly transfer cap on their internet service. If you should exceed this limit your service could be disconnected.

Comcast doesn't provide (and reportedly has no plans to offer) any tools or meter to give you an accounting of how much data you've used. You can't even call Comcast customer service to find out....they reportedly won't tell you because customer service don't know themselves. You'll only be advised when it's too late and you've been disconnected!

This guessing game if you're approaching the limit, or have gone over the limit, without being warned that you're approaching it, should make it illegal!!

I don't play any online games. I don't download or upload any movies, music, or software. I don't use bittorrent. I hardly even listen to or watch more than a few YouTube videos a month, or listen to or watch any live streams for more than a few minutes at a time but I do download and listen to about two dozen podcasts, some of which are video, and often download videos and movies to my TiVo that I purchased or rented from Amazon.com.

I also backup two computers to an online backup service called Mozy and I believe this is my largest data usage. On a typical month I guess about 40-80 GB is uploaded to Mozy. So I should be fine and fall well under this limit each month but since no meter or accounting of how much data I'm using is provided I'm left to guess and worry that I am about to go over the limit.

Coincidentally, Wednesday when the new AUP went into affect, I had to move a folder that contained all my wildlife, nature, and vermont landscape photographs to a new Drobo drive, since my hard drive on my iMac was nearly full. The Mozy client decided that it's going to re-upload everything in this folder...over 150 GBs!

I fear, combined with my normal monthly usage, that this could theoretically put me over the 250 GB limit this month. But I have no way of knowing for sure!! I'm left to guess and worry about it. No joking, I lost sleep last night because of this!

So now I'm being forced to unsubscribe from a lot of podcasts, not renting any movies this month and being forced to consider not allowing Mozy to backup all this data. I guess I could spread the upload over several months by only allowing it to upload a few folders at a time. But that would mean all these pictures won't be backed up offsite and I have to worry about that too!

This is ridiculous. I'm paying over $155 to Comcast each month and meanwhile I have to worry about them dropping me without warning! Comcast should at least be providing me with a tool or meter that gives me an accurate accounting of how much data I've used, and until doing so shouldn't have any limit in place.

I will be contacting the Vermont Department of Public Service to discuss the cap and find out the procedure to file a formal complaint or petition the prohibition of this limit since you're not told how much data you used. I also will be writing my Congressman Peter Welch, Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, and Governor Jim Douglas about it. You should do the same!

UPDATE:

  • Oct 03, 2008 11:27PM EDT (UTC-5): Comcastcares twittered me in response to this post, "We shared that feedback and that is why [a meter] is coming!! And I am pushing it to be faster if possible"

Here's the email Comcast sent their customer's about the limit:

Dear Comcast High-Speed Internet Customer,

We appreciate your business and strive to provide you with the best online experience possible. One of the ways we do this is through our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). The AUP outlines acceptable use of our service as well as steps we take to protect our customers from things that can negatively impact their experience online. This policy has been in place for many years and we update it periodically to keep it current with our customers' use of our service.

On October 1, 2008, we will post an updated AUP that will go into effect at that time.

In the updated AUP, we clarify that monthly data (or bandwidth) usage of more than 250 Gigabytes (GB) is the specific threshold that defines excessive use of our service. We have an excessive use policy because a fraction of one percent of our customers use such a disproportionate amount of bandwidth every month that they may degrade the online experience of other customers.

250 GB/month is an extremely large amount of bandwidth and it's very likely that your monthly data usage doesn't even come close to that amount. In fact, the threshold is approximately 100 times greater than the typical or median residential customer usage, which is 2 to 3 GB/month. To put it in perspective, to reach 250 GB of data usage in one month a customer would have to do any one of the following:

* Send more than 50 million plain text emails (at 5 KB/email);
* Download 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song); or
* Download 125 standard definition movies (at 2 GB/movie).

And online gamers should know that even the heaviest multi- or single-player gaming activity would not typically come close to this threshold over the course of a month.

In addition to modifying the excessive use policy, the updated AUP contains other clarifications of terms concerning reporting violations, newsgroups, and network management. To read some helpful FAQs, please visit http://help.comcast.net/content/faq/Frequently-Asked-Questions-about-Excessive-Use.

Thank you again for choosing Comcast as your high-speed Internet provider.

Posted in Computing & Tech News , Politics & Law , Politics & Law by usrbingeek at 2008-10-03 23:00 ET (GMT-5) | 0 Comments | Permalink



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