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  #1  
Old 07-13-2011, 09:30 PM
Jason Dunn
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Default Comcast's Two-Strike-And-You're-Dead Policy is Terrifying

<div class='os_post_top_link'><a href='http://kotaku.com/5820450/the-day-comcasts-data-cap-policy-killed-my-internet-for-1-year' target='_blank'>http://kotaku.com/5820450/the-day-c...rnet-for-1-year</a><br /><br /></div><p><em>"Today I came home to find my 15 MB down/3 MB up Comcast broadband service had been shut off due to exceeding their 250 GB/month data cap policy. This had happened the month before, and I called and had a polite but irritated conversation with Comcast's "Customer Security" department (since the regular customer service folks could not help.) According to them I had exceeded their 250 GB monthly cap, and they asked how that might have happened."</em></p><p><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1310508065.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p>Whoa boy. I read this story with a grimace on my face. On the one hand, you have Comcast's completely over-the-top reaction to a customer blowing his data usage cap two months in a row: total account termination. That's just insane. That's the sort of extreme measure you take if your customer was doing something illegal or unethical. Going over a data usage cap? Bill the customer extra, but don't terminate his account. <MORE /></p><p>My current ISP, <a href="http://www.shaw.ca" target="_blank">Shaw</a>, will automatically bump you to the next plan which has a larger data cap if you go over - and that's a lot less expensive than per GB data charges, and it's a reasonable action. Shaw has also greatly bumped the data caps recently; I now have 500 GB of usage, which is plenty in my books. Comcast, on the other hand, still has the <a href="http://getsatisfaction.com/comcast/topics/250gb_bandwidth_limit_with_no_way_to_monitor" target="_blank">same 250 GB data cap they had in 2008</a> (despite speculation by a VP of Comcast that they'd increase it over time).</p><p>Now as much as I dislike the way Comcast treated this guy, I have to admit he's shirking his own responsibility in all this. If you know you have a 250 GB data usage cap, you should be aware of what you can and can't do with it. He says he didn't think uploads counted against the total cap. If my mom said that, I'd believe her - but this guy sounds pretty technical, so I find it hard to believe he was so ignorant. And once he got cut off the first time, why didn't he immediately start using the <a href="http://blog.comcast.com/2009/12/comcast-data-usage-meter-launches.html" target="_blank">Comcast data usage monitoring tool</a> that came out in 2009? Yeah, data caps suck, but being wilfully ignorant and proceeding to do bandwidth intensive things - like upload all your raw photos and lossless music collection - is just dumb. If you don't work the system, the system will work you.</p>
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Old 07-14-2011, 01:44 AM
ptyork
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I consider myself to be extremely technical and I honestly would have assumed that the 250 GB cap would have been download-only, as well. They already cap the upload rate at a 5th or less of the download rate, which entirely removes any real possibility that uploads can CAUSE congestion. Even on the "rings", maxing out my upload bandwidth is unlikely to even make a dent in another user's perceived speed. It is completely bassackwards thinking, IMO. When your internet host quotes you bandwidth limits, those don't include inbound transfers. Only outbound.

Actually I wonder if Amazon will step in here. It was their service that put him over the edge. Google as well. This story could completely kill their "unlimited" storage concept. If not in reality, in perception at least.

What REALLY grinds my gears here is that they receive a government sanctioned monopoly over a vital utility (two or three, actually, counting television and phone) and they are allowed to run rampant over consumers. They need to be regulated in the same way that power, water, and gas are. And local phone service (though this is really not a problem now with wireless competition). Cable companies are simply natural monopolies as the barriers to entry are too high to realistically support multiple, same-footed competitors. Fine, they are monopolies. So regulate them the way you're supposed to. Don't go freaking allowing them to buy an entire television network and then sticking your head in the sand.

And now if they allow AT&T to buy T-Mobile...oh man, I'm gonna go bonkers. It really is as though they've completely forgotten about anti-trust and have given in to the free steak dinners from lobbyists. Uggh!!!
 
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Old 07-14-2011, 05:12 PM
Jason Dunn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptyork View Post
I consider myself to be extremely technical and I honestly would have assumed that the 250 GB cap would have been download-only, as well.
Hrm. Interesting. Maybe I was making an unfair assumption in thinking that most tech-savvy people realize that bandwidth is always used both ways; there's no such thing as "free bandwidth". Whether you're downloading a song or uploading a video, bits are flowing. Every ISP cares about upload usage because of torrents; until Netflix started streaming, that was the #1 usage of bandwidth (and is probably still the #1 use of upstream bandwidth).

Still, if you were warned you'd used up your bandwidth, you wouldn't think to check your upload usage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ptyork View Post
When your internet host quotes you bandwidth limits, those don't include inbound transfers. Only outbound.
This server is with The Planet (now SoftLayer) and I have 2500 GB of bandwidth per month total...they track outward AND inbound data transfers. I've never seen it any other way - I'd guess that the smaller shared hosts only mention outbound data transfers as being part of your plan, but I guarantee they're tracking inbound as well. If you had a Web site where people were uploading HD videos for instance, you'd most definitely hear from the host if you used up your bandwidth allocation. ISPs pay for their bandwidth both ways, unless it's intra-network traffic.

Does your ISP have a data usage tool? Does it only show you downloads, not uploads?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ptyork View Post
What REALLY grinds my gears here is that they receive a government sanctioned monopoly over a vital utility (two or three, actually, counting television and phone) and they are allowed to run rampant over consumers. They need to be regulated in the same way that power, water, and gas are.
No arguments from me there. It needs to be regulated because, as you said, someone can't just step in and build out a coax network and start competing with the cable companies.
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Old 07-14-2011, 06:37 PM
ptyork
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Dunn View Post
Still, if you were warned you'd used up your bandwidth, you wouldn't think to check your upload usage?
Well, probably yes. Though given his setup (a questionably intelligent "open" access point for guests), that would've been my first thought--close that down and see what happens. Of course now I'd know to look at uploads too, but given Comcast's complete inability to publicize their policies (only in a hard to find FAQ page), to provide ANY form of proactive monitoring or warnings, or to even tell the poor fellow WHAT kind of traffic had caused him to go over his limit, I think I'd have been in exactly the same position. The evil here is not bandwidth caps, per se, it is Comcast's implementation of bandwidth caps and their draconian two strike policy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Dunn View Post
Does your ISP have a data usage tool? Does it only show you downloads, not uploads?
No they don't, though I've consciously avoided switching to Comcast for this one reason. My Cable/Internet provider is slower and generally inferior technically to Comcast, but they aren't evil. Comcast does at least offer a "Usage Meter" that is accessible with enough effort at finding it. But it takes quite a bit of effort. Would it not be easy to email someone if their current usage patterns will likely cause them to hit the cap? You know, BEFORE they hit it? How hard is it to tell them that x% of your bandwidth is coming from YouTube or Netflix or going to a backup provider? Short of this, perhaps even on the first strike, Comcast might have followed their written policy (http://customer.comcast.com/Pages/FA...3-70abe3b295e6) and helped the guy figure out the culprit.

The bottom line is that this kind of thing affected a pretty "average" user. I.e., one who has a pretty decent sized media collection (> 250GB is EASY to attain in the digital photo and personal HD video era) and just wants to leverage a well established cloud service to provide backup and perhaps a few other services. That person is not necessarily network savvy. They're just using a service that they pay for. And now they're cut off for a year. My anger here is that we've now reached the point that this policy is affecting Joe User and is not changing to reflect the realities of the Internet today. And there is not competitive or government pressure to affect such change.

We can look at this particular person and question whether he did all he should and/or could have to avoid the problem. But it WILL affect more and more people without his level of technical skills. And I just don't think being an apologist is justified. It's like defending T-Mobile when they bill the unsuspecting Haiti relief worker $35,000 for data roaming. "Sure they had offered free international roaming, but the stupid chick didn't check the fine print to see that text messages and data was not included so shame on her." Only expect it to become a mainstream occurrence very soon.

Maybe I'm being alarmist or overreacting, but it really, really bugs me. Could you tell?
 
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Old 07-21-2011, 09:57 PM
Jason Dunn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptyork View Post
...but given Comcast's complete inability to publicize their policies (only in a hard to find FAQ page), to provide ANY form of proactive monitoring or warnings, or to even tell the poor fellow WHAT kind of traffic had caused him to go over his limit, I think I'd have been in exactly the same position. The evil here is not bandwidth caps, per se, it is Comcast's implementation of bandwidth caps and their draconian two strike policy.
I found this as the #3 result in Google, so I don't think it's impossible to find, but I do think they should have some sort of pro-active way of alerting a customer when they're getting close to going over their cap. The unforgivable part is how they terminated his account without giving him an option to simply pay more for his usage. That's the part that makes no sense to me. Why give up thousands of dollars over the life of a customer? It's idiotic to lose a customer when they could have instead charged him a few bucks for the overage. It seems like they don't have a higher data cap though, and that's another problem. With my ISP, if I use up my data cap, they bump me to the next tier and charge me for that usage (another $10 or so). It's a fair system.

There's no need to call me an apologist though - I'm not defending Comcast, I'm asserting that in our modern age of data caps, people can't afford to wallow in ignorance about their data usage if they're doing data-intensive activities. My mom and dad don't have a clue about data usage, but they don't do anything data intensive. This guy was using an online backup service and is savvy enough to shoot in raw and rip to lossless audio files. He's not an average consumer, so I don't have much pity for him. He should have educated himself after Comcast got on his case the first time.

I'm with you on the cell phone overages and roaming fees though; it's completely unethical that they don't contact he customer or even suspend service once the bill gets to a certain point (say, 4x above the average monthly charge for that customer).
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