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The Internet Businesses

Broadband Providers' Hidden Bandwidth Limits 443

Posted by kdawson
from the play-nicely-and-share dept.
An anonymous reader sends us to the Boston Globe for a story that will come as a surprise to few here: broadband suppliers will cut you off if you download too many bits. It tells the stories of several Comcast users who were warned — without specifics — that they were using "too much" bandwidth, then had their accounts summarily cancelled. Looking into the future: "...even if only a tiny fraction of customers are downloading enough to trigger the policy, that will probably change as more entertainment moves to the Internet."
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Broadband Providers' Hidden Bandwidth Limits

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  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:07PM (#18326985)
    Lemee see. Downloading the max a line will allow is OK. They understood the contract as "unlimited".

    Seems to me that they're way overselling their lines. SBC DSL doesnt care how much you use, nor should they. (We had them for 2 years and kept 60% up and down utilized on average).

    These cable bastards need to be raked over the coals for this. Or at leat, lose a bunch of profits.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:52PM (#18327445)

      We had them for 2 years and kept 60% up and down utilized on average

      Can I leech your porn collection? Please?

    • by Mistlefoot (636417) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:11AM (#18327619)
      This isn't a cable/DSL issue. This is a "we don't tell you how much but we cut you off anyhow" issue. In Canada we are generally advised our bandwidth limits.

      Shaw (Cable) clearly advise how much bandwidth is permitted with each connection type - High Speed light - 10 GB/month data transfer
      - High Speed - 60 GB/month data transfer
      - High Speed Extreme - 100 GB/month data transfer
      - High Speed Nitro - 150 GB/month data transfer25 Mb download speed
      http://www.shaw.ca/en-ca/ProductsServices/Internet /

      Telus (DSL) offer you 10GB, 30GB, 60GB and 60GB for their 4 different speed packages.
      http://www.mytelus.com/internet/highspeed/prices.d o

      Note that Cable offers higher speed and an equal or greater bandwidth in all cases.
      • by JoGlo (1000705) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:48AM (#18327955)
        And this is one area that here in Oz we are sucking the hind teat.

        Plans start at 300 meg / month (yes meg a month) with a charge of $150 per MEG if you go over. That's one of the REALLY stupid ones from Telstra.

        Then we have various 1, 5, 10, 20, maybe 50 GB plans, each of which will be "shaped" back to 64kb, and because you aren't actually charged for what you can suck out of 64 k, they have the cheek to call "unlimited".

        Some people have access to ADSL2, but most of us are limited to 1500/256, or if we're REALLY lucky, 8000/512!

        AFAIK, there is no such thing as a truly unlimited plan, and the few that go close have a caveat that if you're in the top 3% of downloaders, you'll be shaped.

        Cable, where available, has similar limits, BTW.

        • Isolated Aussies (Score:4, Insightful)

          by RallyDriver (49641) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @02:08AM (#18328457) Homepage
          <devilsadvocate>
          Given the relatively limited bandwidth going in and out of Australia, and that 99% of the world's websites are at the wrong end of that, there is arguably some justification for this. Still inconvenient though.
          </devilsadvocate>
          • Re:Isolated Aussies (Score:4, Informative)

            by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:57AM (#18329505)
            No, not really, most of it is dark fiber. It is corporate greed. This becomes far more apparent if you travel to Asia (Just a couple of hours flight time away) Without wanting to sound like I'm dissing my own country, Australians are drip fed technology by a small number of corporate players.

            GSM is a good example - SS7 being a rather essential component, SMS happens to be part of the payload running over that beast. Given the cost of phone calls and monthly rental charges, the rate to send 1 text is a very tiny fraction of a cent. How much do they charge? When I left Australia it was somewhere around 25 cents per message. No idea what it is now. Here in Asia for about $5AUD I can send an unlimited number of messages per month.

            I sometimes wonder if it is simply because the masses have no idea how the technology really works, or they are *ahem* to apathetic to care.

            The fiber running between
        • by SQL Error (16383) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:08AM (#18329183)

          Plans start at 300 meg / month (yes meg a month) with a charge of $150 per MEG if you go over. That's one of the REALLY stupid ones from Telstra.
          $150 per GIG. $0.15 per MB. Yes, it's still theft. But it's 2007, and anyone who's still with Telstra deserves what they get.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ardiesr (861538)
        You are missing a very slight difference:

        While Shaw has higher limits in their advertising, they enforce them as soon as you go over: I had phone calls, disconnections, etc.
        Meanwhile Telus advertises a limit of 30 GB on regular high speed, and i have download well over 150 without incident.

        Shaw employee i'd guess? Because if you've used both, you'd realize who has the higher enforced limit
    • by bconway (63464) *
      As pointed out regularly in such discussionson BBR, Comcast hasn't advertised unlimited bandwidth in ~7 years.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        Nor do they advertise any limitation. How would you know if you're running afoul of their policy when they don't have one? I'm not a very heavy user, but I have telephone only through Vonage so it would be a pain to get cut off arbitrarily.
    • by Namarrgon (105036) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:48AM (#18327951) Homepage

      Here in Australia, all broadband is limited by a quota. The same is true of much of the rest of the world, outside the US.

      A big reason for this (as it was explained to me) is that apparently the US (or US networks) charges other countries for data transmitted from the US (though that didn't stop local AU providers from charging us equally for Australian content, or even content cached locally by the ISP). I'd be interested to hear someone confirm or deny this theory.

      As for limiting a cable user's volume, remember that unlike other transmission methods, their bandwidth is shared with other cable users on the local loop, so they *can't* all get full line capacity. If one user tries to max out the cable continually, it's hardly fair on his neighbours.

      I certainly agree that the cable bastards could be much more upfront about these implied limits in their contracts however.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by silas_moeckel (234313)
        Those limits are directly in the pricing, Comcast does not mention them and I believe is using the boilerplate we can cancel you at any time for any reason clause in there terms of service. Hopefully the DPUC's (state level monopoly regulatory comities) will pick up on this in the next round of lets keep the monopoly.

        As to pricing from the US, there are three modes, pay for peek megabit delivered on 95 percentile basis, megabyte delivered or statement free. 95th is the most common as it's generally a bett
    • These cable bastards need to be raked over the coals for this

      Cable, unlike DSL, is a shared medium. In other words, if some selfish jerk wants to trade torrents 24/7 and max the bandwidth then that can very well impact every other user on that line.

      If their advertisement of "unlimited bandwidth" is several hundred of gigs each month then that is effectively "unlimited."

      In my opinion, it is completely reasonable to threaten to terminate service to people who are, in effect, diminishing the service of others
      • If it's any consolation to anyone, I have a 100Mb fiber optic link (full duplex) at my house.

        Never been hit for any extra charges, probablly do a couple hundred Gigs of data transfer a month on average up and down.

        No torrents here.. way to slow.

        Way back when suprnova was up, I grabbed a torrent of some new game to try out. I left it running overnight for the download only to find that, after I got home from work the next day, I had transfered over 1Tb in the space of about 10 hours. (I have to order all my games via amazon so for me, testing before waiting a week or so to receive something I might not ever play again is worth the risk).

        Anyways, bandwidth isn't a problem here in Japan...
      • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @03:26AM (#18328829) Homepage Journal

        Cable, unlike DSL, is a shared medium. In other words, if some selfish jerk wants to trade torrents 24/7 and max the bandwidth then that can very well impact every other user on that line.
        ADSL is just as much a shared medium, as all customers share the DSLAM's upstream connection.
        • by Macthorpe (960048) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:08AM (#18329185) Journal
          I don't have any mod points but I can say that this is spot on, except that it applies to both upstream and downstream, at least here.

          Over here in the UK, companies advertise contention ratios (usually 50:1 or 33:1) with their broadband. That means in effect that if everyone is downloading all at once on your DSLAM in the exchange, your 8Mbps line is suddenly only 242Kbps. This rarely happens, but it's something to bear in mind.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          ADSL is just as much a shared medium, as all customers share the DSLAM's upstream connection.

          ADSL is not shared at all. The network upstream might be oversubscribed (and by might, I mean that everyone does it). That is not a shared medium. That is an oversubscribed upsream connection. From the central point of connection to the user, cable is shared and DSL is not shared. What happens above that is a business decision, not the technical constraints of the delivery method.
  • Not if ISPs start charging the content providers. This looks like just another argument to this end...
    • by The Zon (969911) <thezon@gmail.com> on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:24PM (#18327183)
      Yes, because I'm sure they'll take the money they get from content providers and pour it into upgrading their network. You know, so that they can handle enough bandwidth that they don't have to charge the content providers anymore.

      Oh, wait. That would cut off a source of income. Without net neutrality, they'd have a distinct profit motive to never upgrade.
      • by Grym (725290) *

        Yes, because I'm sure they'll take the money they get from content providers and pour it into upgrading their network. You know, so that they can handle enough bandwidth that they don't have to charge the content providers anymore. Oh, wait. That would cut off a source of income. Without net neutrality, they'd have a distinct profit motive to never upgrade.

        Yeah, until a few homegrown ISPs come along and offer unrestricted access and properly upgrade their networks to keep up with demand. Sure, such a co

  • by complexmath (449417) * on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:09PM (#18327007)
    perhaps this should be a marketing point for DSL providers. "DSL: the bandwidth you pay for is really yours."
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Well, we got it in writing from them when we signed up a 2 year agreement. We made sure that they didnt care if we used every last BYTE we paid for in our connection.

      Not to mention the telcos are common carrier, and immune to the real Mand in the Middle lawsuit attacks.

      Like I said before (FP ;-) we kept up a 60% up/down on average. Nobody cared.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:17PM (#18327097)
        Not to mention the telcos are common carrier, and immune to the real Mand in the Middle lawsuit attacks.

        Not on your DSL line they aren't. They specifically petitioned the FCC to have DSL declared a data service instead of a communications service because the costs of maintaining the common carrier standards on the DSL lines were making it too hard to compete with the cable companies.
        • Oh. I didnt know that.

          Hmm... So what would it be declared if you ran Asterisk on your DSL circuit? Better yet, what about fractional T?

          Some of this phone stuff and lingo blows my mind... (and thats not easy to do)
    • It isn't all roses with DSL.

      Currently I have a ticket in with Verizon because for the first month of service on my 3Mbps line, I've never exceeded 35K/s. That's a factor of about 10 slower than I was sold on--they're "looking into it".

      I've had Verison DSL in the past however and not heard a peep from them for 3 years, so likely it is noticeably nicer than the disgusting cable cartel tactics.

  • by Faizdog (243703) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:11PM (#18327033)
    My upload with Cablevision's Optimum online is currently capped. I think it's due to my torrents, even though I had a global limit of 40 Kilobytes per sec. I download at 10 Mbits but upload is 140 Kbits.

    I've had this happen with them before, and it seems like there is no way out except to call, and you only get 3 strikes before you're out I've heard.

    It's very frustrating, I pay for a fast internet connection and should be allowed to use it within reason. I purposefully capped my torrent uploads at 40KBytes, that's not too much, I shouldn't be capped.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Well I have been slapped by comcast with a digital-millenium-rights email saying blahblah owner of a movie is aware I am giving their movies away. And I am violating their services. The problem is that I did torrent for like 2 weeks only. I have never been a big user, at most I am estimating 20 gigs of downloads and uploads. I know people that way exceed this. They cap you if they don't like what you are downloading. IMHO bandwidth has nothing to do with it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by karnal (22275)

        Well I have been slapped by comcast with a digital-millenium-rights email saying blahblah owner of a movie is aware I am giving their movies away. And I am violating their services. The problem is that I did torrent for like 2 weeks only.

        So you're saying you did violate a law that is currently in place, and then go on to try to deflect it? I mean come on, if the RIAA or MPAA came knocking on my door, I'd HAVE to hang my head regardless of how much or how little I may or may not have downloaded.

      • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:41PM (#18327343)
        Dude, expect more than a letter from you ISP talking about upload caps...

        You have almost 3000 comments, and your number is lower than mine, so I know you're not new around here. That letter from your ISP is a precursor to being sued by the RIAA/MPAA. It means they've subpoenaed your ISP for your name and address based on your IP address. Your ISP is doing you a solid by letting you know they've give up your name. (I don't believe they're legally required to do so.) Expect more unfriendly mail in the near future. Best of luck to you.
        • by Basehart (633304)
          I'm betting the grandparent is super happy it was only that one Andy Warhol movie that was shared on torrents!
        • by Perseid (660451)
          Not necessarily. Often industry people send letters to ISPs saying 69.123.12.96 downloaded this. Yell at them or we sue you. It does not mean a request for information was made or that a suit was filed. I have a friend who got 5 of these. He's fine.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by sumdumass (711423)
            Downloading isn't a crime. It is distrbuting and copying that is a crime. The letter said he was giving their movie away meaning he got busted for both copying it and distributing it.

            On the other hand, Outside his dumass attack by admiting to it in public, he said he was using a torrent and if it did go past the here is you letter stage, He could fight it on that. I remeber a case a while back were the MPAA didn't have any proof outside you were conected to a server that has access to content being distribu
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          Yes they do, Comcast will gladly give away the customer names and information to anyone that asks. They are some of the biggest contributors to the MPAA, RIAA, and BSA fight against piracy (They are "partners" with microsoft and several media companies) and actually pride themselves in turning in their own customers. I sat there with my mouth open in disbelief during that teleconference.

          Why do you think the media companies and software giants are "partnering" with lots of the connectivity companies and bu
      • by antdude (79039)
        Or worse when someone loses their account (terminated) forever. I have seen that happened.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrbcs (737902) *
      I pay for a fast internet connection and should be allowed to use it within reason.

      The problem is that the internet providers NEVER charge what it's actually worth. Their business model works on overselling. I have a town with 100 customers. They all get at least 1.5 mbps connection. We supply this town with a 10 mbps connection and it works fine. If we had to provide 150mbps for this town, they'd never have service. Also, if you put 10 guys here that download 24/7.. we're going to have real problems.

      Wit

  • "Those Cox-uckers!" (Score:5, Informative)

    by dosius (230542) <bridget@buric.co> on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:11PM (#18327035) Journal
    I hear this from Shaw and Cox users all the time, they're getting shitograms from the ISP over their heavy bandwidth usage. Well, Verizon's never bitched at me and I have full uplink running almost 24/7. This was true even when I had a residential line.

    -uso.
    • by evought (709897) <evought@pobo x . c om> on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:52PM (#18327447) Homepage Journal
      I got my Internet access cut off by a local DSL provider a little while back because of a sudden bandwidth spike. They had noticed that my account had suddenly gone to the top of their bandwidth-usage chart and stayed there. They informed me that the account had been suspended because of a "probable virus infection". At first I thought that they were just having problems with (legitimate) torrent use, but I did have a Win2K box up at that point to run some software my wife needed for work. Lo and behold, despite patches and security, the box had been owned. I told them I had taken the 2K box off-line (booted it back into Linux and the other box was a Mac) and they immediately reactivated the account.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by value_added (719364)
        At first I thought that they were just having problems with (legitimate) torrent use, but I did have a Win2K box up at that point to run some software my wife needed for work. Lo and behold, despite patches and security, the box had been owned. I told them I had taken the 2K box off-line (booted it back into Linux and the other box was a Mac) and they immediately reactivated the account.

        After which your DSL provider's technical support people informed you that your Linux box is not supported. :-)

        Reading som
  • really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ISP's have been limiting dl/ul for like....forever.

    Since when does this make it onto slashdot???

    Now.....TRUE unlimited speeds/bw....that would be a story.

    I'd sign up.....five days ago.
  • How many? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:13PM (#18327063) Journal
    Comcast says that only .01 percent of its 11.5 million residential high-speed Internet customers fall into this category.

    ONLY 1,150 customers are at risk of being cut off?

    Comcast has an interesting definition of "common carrier". I wonder if the courts will agree with it...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      ONLY 1,150 customers are at risk of being cut off?
       
      Apparently a large percentage of them are here on Slashdot.
    • by arth1 (260657)

      Comcast has an interesting definition of "common carrier".

      No, you have an interesting definition of "common carrier", since Comcast and other cable companies are not, in fact, common carriers. They are excluded from that piece of legislation, just like xDSL services. You have to rent a BRI or PRI to get common carrier privileges.

      --
      *Art
  • I mean I've heard about these sort of things years ago, I'm surprised that people don't expect this to happen when they use too much bandwidth.
    • by QCompson (675963) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:22PM (#18327155)

      I'm surprised that people don't expect this to happen when they use too much bandwidth.

      Yes, it's strange. It's as if they were told they had unlimited internet access.
      • by bconway (63464) *
        Unlimited access, not unlimited bandwidth. Comcast hasn't advertised unlimited bandwidth in over 7 years. They sell speed and access, not dedicated bandwidth. It seems most people prefer 15 Mbps when you need it to 1.5 Mbps and waiting.
  • by Oz0ne (13272) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:19PM (#18327123) Homepage
    For any reason...

    That's how this works. That's the only way this works. They can advertise whatever they want, but as long as their contracts have that little clause in them, it really doesn't matter WHAT they advertise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      They can advertise whatever they want, but as long as their contracts have that little clause in them, it really doesn't matter WHAT they advertise.

      Uuuh? You serious?

      Say verizon advertises an ADSL2 24 / 1 Mbps unlimited service, but the fine print actually says "we'll send a kitten to pick up any packets you print out on wedensday afternnon". Would that be cool?

      It does matter what they're advertising. If the service isn't unlimited, they should advertise it as "up to unlimited" (similar to "up to 256kbps" c
    • by melchoir55 (218842) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:53PM (#18327457)
      No, it doesn't work that way. They can say whatever they want in their contract and you can sign it, but if just because you sign it does not mean the contract will hold. There are things a contract cannot do. Even if the contract explicitly states it and the person signs it, the contract can still be considered void if the contract violates a law. If I sign a contract that says "We reserve the right to enslave you at our discression", that contract WILL be considered void and they will be arrested if they try to act on it.

      There are rights you cannot make people sign away. "Reserve the right to terminate at any time..." does NOT equal "Reserve the right to terminate for any reason..". False advertising is a violation of law and cannot be gotten out of, no matter how fancy your contract is worded.
    • This is modded 3 for insightful?

      Are you kidding me? Even if they could terminate them at any time, there is no reason to believe the company didn't commit fraud by advertising their service as "unlimited bandwidth" and then termating his contract for bandwidth overage!
  • by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:20PM (#18327125)
    This and the net neutrality fight tell us something - the ISPs are not prepared for a large surge in bandwidth. Despite having about 10 years notice and charging up the ying-yang in many places, they're still not ready to provide the necessary speed to even those areas of the country they currently cover. When ISPs tell customers "5 Mb/s", they really mean "5 Mb/s, once in a blue moon, otherwise 512 kb/s normally and maybe a 2-3 Mb/s burst at times". 250 GB a month is only about 756 kbps. When customers realize this, there's gonna be a problem.

    250 GB/month is not going to sound excessive when we start rolling out movie downloads in HD (that's 12 movies), or Steam-like solutions take off, or people start using things like Skype. Nowadays, your game console, your HD-DVD player, and your DVR/cable box want Internet access to get patches or content, and these massive numbers are getting more and more reasonable. This shouldn't be a sign to Comcast that users should download less, it should be a sign that they need to upgrade their networks drastically and fast.
  • by rueger (210566) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:21PM (#18327141) Homepage
    "...even if only a tiny fraction of customers are downloading enough to trigger the policy, that will probably change as more entertainment moves to the Internet."

    If you're downloading gigabytes of movies and music from a service that the RIAA or MPAA approves of then suddenly bandwidth caps will cease to be an issue.

    I doubt that anyone will ever get a takedown notice from their ISP for excessive iTunes usage.
  • by techmuse (160085) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:22PM (#18327161)
    It seems like they are simply trying to eliminate customers who are unprofitable, or not very profitable. They have to invest much less money if they get rid of the people who actually USE their service, rather than just downloading the occasional e-mail or web page. You can offer unlimited bandwidth if no one uses it. This is very much like the cell carriers dropping support for users of older phone technologies because those users don't purchase extra services.
  • DSL has more local bandwidth as you have your own link back to the point there the big links come in.
    With cable you are shearing the bandwidth to the HEAD-END where the bigger links come with a lot of other people. Some areas are more split up then others so that is way there is no fixed cap as it is based on local use and capacity.
    • by TCaM (308943)
      Actually you are just sharing bandwidth to the node. From there it is fiber.
  • Brighthouse just finished laying the fiber outside my house, 100/100 for $135 a month, no caps no limits
  • Asshatery (Score:2, Informative)

    The CSB (CocksuckingBastards) at TWC(TimeWarnerCable) with Roadrunner "Quarantined" our modem because of bandwidth usage. Needless to say I was outraged and am still strongly considering a switch to ADSL. Oh, and they've still ignored my request for a copy of their TOS EULA and Fair Use policies. Their service sucks, it goes down randomly, and I've had more intelligent conversations with a rock than with their support centers.
  • by Nutty_Irishman (729030) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:37PM (#18327305)
    Download midget porn, it takes half the time (and bandwidth)!

    Ya, I've been saving that line for a long time....
  • And this is yet... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:38PM (#18327317)
    Another reason why Triple Play sales pitches are HORRIBLE.

    Cable line has been "exceeded". They then hijack your other 2 services for leverage.

    It's free, until you use it.
  • by indy_Muad'Dib (869913) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:41PM (#18327347) Homepage
    you've been cox-blocked
  • Speakeasy will let you use as much as you like and not bitch. It's more expensive than some others, but maybe that's part of the reason.
  • I had Adelphia which was purchased by ComTrash. With Adelphia I had 6Mbit cable downloads and they were fast. After the acquisition by ComTrash, I was down with no service for 10 days. When the service came back, I was throttled down to 1 Mbit. Techs came and went - service remained at 1 Mbit. Customer [no] service was beyond worthless. They had no answers why the rate was so slow and they were unable to remedy the problem. They did want a rate hike though!!!

    I finally cancelled both the net and the T
  • I currently have COX internet cable, and would consider going to DSL if COX wasn't giving me basic cable for free.

    However, on any given day I could be legally downloading an HD movie (via xbox or similar services), downloading legally a gig or 2 of pron (I pay $10/month for a service that provides DVD quality rips), and downloading a TV show or two (legal, if you consider timeshifting to be a valid defense). So just by using legal services I'm doing a gig or two a day.

    It would be nice to know what a good sa
  • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:49PM (#18327419) Homepage Journal
    but I do have a problem with how they handle it. I mean, they don't specify a limit, it's basically a nebulous figure, and that they aren't clear at all about this in their marketing. I mean, if they don't mean to say that always-connected is for always maxed, then they shouldn't use weasel words in the fine print. The claimed interpretation of "unlimited" is that the connection is basically always on, as opposed to dial-up of old where you were allowed a certain number of hours. Of course, they know that unlimited also gives an impression of not having a bit limit either, but they never do anything to prevent that impression except in said fine print.
  • While perhaps the ISP's have "invisible" quota, the people being affected by this are downloading truly pathological amounts: enough to fill modern hard drivers SEVERAL times over in a month.

    On a 6 Mbps/s connections, if you did nothing but download all the time, you'd be downloading a little less than 2 Tb a month, roughly 4 for 5 hard drives worth (at today's hard drive sizes). That a over 200 double-layer (9G) DVD, 450 regular DVD's, 3,000 audio CD, hundred for thousands of DVD's. You could download ever
    • by Geekbot (641878)
      I'm not saying that isn't the case. But regardless of how excessive their use is, Comcast promises, Comcast needs to fulfill. If we are talking about users that are this far over the top, and as previously posted, only around 1,000 users, then why is this a problem? Comcast can't handle 1,000 non-typical users?

      Comcast has had plenty of time and plenty of money to deal with the issue of bandwidth. Instead of cutting these users off they should be using them as test cases to figure out how they are going to c
  • The infrastructure is more than capable of handling many times the traffic it currently has. This is nothing but network providers trying to convince people that bandwidth is precious so they will pay more for it.

    An artificial shortage.

    The standard comcast service is capable of >50Mbps. They just don't give it to you because they want to charge more for "business" service.

    • by realmolo (574068)
      Uh, no.

      The *local* network in a cablemodem network could run at 50Mbps, if they were using DOCSIS 2.0 modems and CMTSs.

      But, once again, you are ignoring the fact that it's the INTERNET BANDWIDTH that counts. And that isn't cheap.

      Do you really think that your cable provider can afford enough bandwidth to GUARANTEE that all of their users have 10Mb/second of bandwidth available to them at all times? Well, they can't. And honestly, even if they COULD afford all that bandwidth, most servers on the Inte
  • by u-235-sentinel (594077) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:12AM (#18327631) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad to see this finally on Slashdot. I've been pushing for Comcast to provide full disclosure since I was terminated. I didn't have DSL in my area until last Monday so now I'm not dealing with 28.8 speeds. While this may be legal, I'm hoping Comcast will come clean. I really appreciate Carolyn from the Boston Globe for publishing the story. There are many other articles coming from various consumer advocate groups in the next couple months so stay tuned.

    Since Comcast disconnected me in january, I've found dozens of people who have been disconnected across the country. What's amusing is Comcast is untilling to disclose what "Acceptable Use" is. They only point to their AUP/TOS on their web site and tell you to read it and follow it. Cox Communications and other reputable providers will tell you what Acceptable is in real numbers (50 Gigs a month, 80 Gigs and so on). Comcast will ONLY tell you an example of what Abuse is.

    They say an abuser downloads 256,000 photos or 30,000 sounds or 13 million (that's right, million) emails a month. So on my blog I posted what Comcast is saying in english. Abusers of their system are downloasing around 200-250 Gigs a month which is 100 times more than their "average" user. So the average user is only downloading about 1 - 2 Gigs a month. Hardly using the service in my book. Not really streaming video, purchasing movies from Amazon.com Unbox or anything. If you purchase 2 HD-DVD videos from Amazon and download them then you are already violating AUP/TOS with Comcast. Tonight I've updated my blog to include stories of other's who are providing videos for download online.

    I've posted my story on the web at my blog [blogspot.com]. I'm hoping to get the word out and have people look at fiber networks such as Utopia [utopianet.org]. Their fiber infrastructure provides choices. If a company (such as Comcast) is abusing customers, they can choose another. Of course having a 1 gig pipe to the house is also faster than anything Cable can provide. Must be why Verizon is rolling out FiOS.

    Anyway, Major Kudos to Carolyn at the Boston Globe!
  • by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:33AM (#18327833) Homepage
    I find it ironic reading stories like these where an unlimited account is told his account is in fact limited. My own broadband account is supposedly limited to 30GB a month, at which point I'd effectively be capped to 56k speeds. At the time I started the account broadband had only just been introduced and uptake was slow, the ISP said the limit most likely wouldn't be enforced for a few months. It's now over 3 years later and I've not once been capped, despite going over the 30GB limit numerous times, quite possbly 11 months per year (to give you an idea, I've downloaded nearly 2GB today). This includes P2P, various media streams, and everything else from HTTP and FTP to games etc.

    The thing is, I do 90% of this downloading between 11pm and 7am, using timed download managers and just starting P2P software before I go to bed. It seems logical (to me at least) that the ISP is internally using come kind of tariff system to downplay the effect of my broadband usage at off-peak times when I'm basically not affecting contention ratios or anything else. If such a system were being used in this case it could also explain why the ISP is unable/unwilling to provide a hard limit on bandwidth. There must be dozens of people on /. who work for ISPs, any chance of a confirmation/denial on my theory?
  • by onemorechip (816444) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:59AM (#18328043)
    From the article: "Comcast has a responsibility to provide these customers with a superior experience and to address any excessive usage issues that may impact that experience," Comcast spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said in a statement. "The few customers who are notified of excessive use typically consume exponentially more bandwidth than the average user."

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • by amper (33785) * on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @04:35AM (#18329051) Journal
    I used to run an ISP, back in the day. When I became aware that some hosting services providers were capping bandwidth and charging per unit of served data, I started to do a few calculations.

    Hmm, let's see. A typical T1 line delivers data at the rate of 1536 Kbps (don't bother about the extra 8Kbps, OK?). So, that's 1536000 / 8 / 1024 ^ -2, or a whopping .1831 GBps, or 10.986 GB/min, or 659.16 GB/hr, or 15819.84 GB/day, or 474,595.2 GB/mo.

    That's over 474 Tera-frickin-bytes with a capital B every month. On a single T1.

    Now, back in the day (mid 90's), a top-tier provider T1 Internet access port cost, what--say, 1500 USD/mo including the local loop? For the math-inclined but time-challenged, that's about .0003 USD per megabyte of data, no? Three hundreths of a cent for a megabyte. When I realized these figures, it just didn't seem...honorable...to charge users for the piddling little amounts of traffic generated by their servers.

    I think the cost structures of a company like Comcast might offer them some economies of scale, but hey, let's be generous here and give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's say Comcast has to get all of it's backbone bandwidth from T1's, and they have to pay another provider for it. Let's say that the average Comcast Internet customer pays about 52 USD/mo for the dubious privilege (which is about what they actually charge here in New Jersey, the last time I looked). We'll take that 52 bucks and give up half in administrative overhead. So, our 26 USD/mo buys us 86.666 GB of data each and every month.

    Now, Comcast would have us believe that their average user consumes according to the estimates here, about 1% of the data that so-called abusers consume. Comcast admits that these abusers make up approximately .01% of their subscriber base. The estimates tell us that the abuser consumes 200 GB/mo, the average user 2 GB/mo. So, of their stated 11.5 million customers, about (and I'm not actually a statistician, so forgive me, here) 1150 are consuming a total of 230,000 GB/mo, while only paying for a bit less than half of that, or 99665.9 GB/mo. Meanwhile, Comcast is collecting 26 USD/mo from the other 11,498,850 customers, who are paying for a grand total of 996,559,334.1 GB/mo.

    So, Comcast's revenues from all of this total 299,000,000 USD/mo when, if those "abusers" were paying for their rightful share, Comcast would be making (and here, let's make the abusers pay triple to cover it all) 299,059,800 USD/mo. Is Comcast really going to whine over a loss of revenue of 59,800 USD/mo over a 300 million dollar a month revenue stream? It would appear so!

    Now, what was I saying about the cost of backbone bandwidth? Ah, yes...Comcast, having to provide a total of 996,789,334.1 GB of bandwidth a month, needs to install 2100 T1 lines to cover it all. Let's go nuts here and suggest that Comcast actually needs double that to really cover it. So, Comcast pays out 4200*1500, or 6,300,000 USD/mo to cover their backbone (though, of course, not all the traffic actually leaves Comcast's network).

    Ergo, in our hypothetical situation here, Comcast is making 292,700,000 USD/mo from their Internet services, while their users are leaving the backbone network at 50% utilization.

    And they're complaining about 1150 users losing them 60 grand a month?

    Anyone who knows even the slightest little bit about how the Internet works and is paid for can see how patently ridiculous all of this is. Yes, the numbers I'm using here are widly skewed, but mostly in favor of Comcast. Even if you double the costs and halved the revenue here, Comcast would still be making an fscking /bin/sh load of money, which of course is actually the case. According to what I see on Yahoo! Finance, in the trailing twelve months, Comcast, as a company, made a profit of 2.24 billion USD on revenue of 24.97 billion USD. Are they honestly claiming that they can't make their network perform? Boo fscking hoo. Not all of Comcast is an ISP, but they soon will be. Better string that fiber a bit faster, boys...
    • by amper (33785) *
      Ah, I just found the bizarre early morning hour errors in my math. If a T1 line delivers 474,595.2 GB/mo of data and costs 1500 USD/mo, then it actually costs something on the order of .000 003 USD/MB of data.

      And that 26 USD/mo actually buys 8226.31679 GB worth of the T1's bandwidth every month, not 86.666 GB. Not sure how that happened, but hey, I should be sleeping...

      You still get the idea.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by amper (33785) *
        So, to restate...

        The "abusers" are still only using up 230,000 GB of bandwidth, but they're paying for 9,460,264 GB, and change.

        The normal users are paying for 94,589,540,100 GB worth of bandwidth, but only actually using up 22,997,700 GB.

        So, Comcast needs to provide a total of 23,227,700 GB of bandwidth every month, which would take about 48 T1's worth of bandwidth.

        But the customers are paying for 94,599,000,364 GB of bandwidth, so even if Comcast had to cover the whole kit and kaboodle at a 1:1 ratio, it
  • by s31523 (926314) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @09:03AM (#18330699)
    Well, I am not one for arguing for big business, but it's their network. They don't want to impose hard limits but reserve the right to maintain quality of service. We have all been pissed off sitting there trying to check a quick email only to get the "thinking" status from the browser followed by a timeout error. So, as TFA says:
    You look at it and see there's some two to three people in the neighborhood or a college dorm . . . and what they're doing is impairing the customer experience for the rest of the people off that node," Davis said. "Then it's a business decision: Do you alienate a small percentage of customers to make your other customers happy?"

    If you have 25 customers pissed off because their $50/month broadband service is constantly slow, and 1 or 2 other people are constantly downloaded 300GB worth of data per month, what would you do? The problem, I am sure is that the situation was not handled with tact and reason. It was probably handled by some schmo customer rep who was like, "naaa, you just download too much, we just can't have that." If a nice polite person got on the phone and explained it just as the guy in the article, then people might be a little more understanding, and if not, tell them to go buy their own T3 line.

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