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Networking The Internet

Comcast Launches Broadband Meter 199

Posted by kdawson
from the cap-and-do-not-trade dept.
nlawalker writes "Beginning on Tuesday, January 12, Comcast high-speed internet users in Washington state will have access to an online tool that displays their bandwidth usage for the most recent three calendar (not billing) months of usage, including the current month. Washington is the second market to receive access to the tool, following its introduction in Portland. 'For the fraction of less than 1 percent of our customers who are concerned about exceeding our excessive use threshold, we believe this meter will help them monitor and calibrate their usage,' said spokesman Steve Kipp. Perhaps those who aren't using 250GB a month should take it as a challenge."
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Comcast Launches Broadband Meter

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  • Honey... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ls671 (1122017) *

    > Perhaps those who aren't using 250GB a month should take it as a challenge.

    "Honey, I have been to that new page on Comcast site and I realized that we are using only 0.5 GB of bandwidth a month while we are paying for 250 GB, we need to find a way to make this more profitable, download more recipe books and travel agency pamphlets, I don't know, but we have to find some way. Maybe we should just forward emails with silly jokes or hoaxes to more friends..."

    "Let's phone that nerdy guy we know to ask him

    • "Honey, I have been to that new page on Comcast site and I realized that we are using only 0.5 GB of bandwidth a month while we are paying for 250 GB, we need to find a way to make this more profitable, download more recipe books and travel agency pamphlets, I don't know, but we have to find some way.

      Or just watch a few HQ videos, participate in some [legit] torrents, etc. We easily go far past 250GB per month on our fiber connection (which is uncapped, unthrottled, etc.). Of course, a couple of kids help to push the usage up, but I do enough by myself: last November, I uploaded more than 250GB of Ubuntu torrent. Downloads of various kinds pushed our throughput to well over double that.

      Does Comcast still advertise it as an "unlimited" service?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        No. I think they stopped calling it unlimited two or three years ago.

      • by ls671 (1122017) *

        Hello AliasMarlowe, I was talking about yourself in my OP, I knew that you would come up with a solution very quickly, Many thanks !!! ;-))

        > "Let's phone that nerdy guy we know to ask him what we can do about this..."

      • All You Can Eat (Score:3, Insightful)

        by copponex (13876)

        Fine print is a common business practice, only because people are so unreasonable sometimes. I ran a restaurant where we had all you can eat specials, and we had to put a little fine print to say you couldn't stay longer than two hours, since the first weekend a couple of people stayed for nearly four hours, and then tried to refuse to leave.

        Or just watch a few HQ videos, participate in some [legit] torrents, etc. We easily go far past 250GB per month on our fiber connection (which is uncapped, unthrottled, etc.)

        250GB is more than eight days of Netflix movies streaming, or two months of non-stop standard def Youtube watching, or downloading 64,000 songs. If you're hitting the u

        • What, exactly, is unreasonable about expecting something that was promised? If I came into your restaurant, ate some food, and then decided I wasn't hungry, would you accept partial payment? I guess I should print a *payment subject to hunger* clause on my fat pants.

          I agree that 250GB is a non-issue for most people. So why wasn't Comcast just upfront about the cap to begin with? I guess if they are advertising the cap now, it's better for everyone.
        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          Comcast said:

          'For the fraction of less than 1 percent of our customers who are concerned about exceeding our excessive use threshold, we believe this meter will help them monitor and calibrate their usage,'

          copponex said:

          Fine print is a common business practice, only because people are so unreasonable sometimes.

          Thank god someone is standing up for the poor, downtrodden multibillion dollar corporations.

          Does anyone wonder why big business feels they can treat consumers like crap with impunity?

          • by copponex (13876)

            Thank god someone is standing up for the poor, downtrodden multibillion dollar corporations.

            Does anyone wonder why big business feels they can treat consumers like crap with impunity?

            Yes... major network providers allow the NSA to build NOCs inside their datacenters, but the problem is there may be an arbitrary cap for bandwidth usage.

            The corporations are winning because you're more concerned about convenience than you are about your rights.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Dwonis (52652) *
          How many Debian mirrors or Tor exit nodes is it?
        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          I ran a restaurant where we had all you can eat specials

          Did you wear a pirate's hat and orange vest and name tag?

          I can understand that companies need to set reasonable limits on service. It's trying to hide it in fine print or misleading advertising that raises objections.

          And ultimately, this is why we can never have such a thing as a "free market". Because we readily accept that it's OK for companies to not tell the truth in advertising or to try to keep consumers from actually learning the truth.

          A bank

        • by Nikker (749551)
          This useless debate of adding up all those numbers and saying well watching more than 8 days of HD video or downloading X + 1 iso's / torrents is "more than enough". This idea of downloading is still young and the only reference you have to "more than enough" is the imaginary wall set up by a company. We have by no means hit any particular technological wall in terms of connectivity. The networks of today will give way to the networks of tomorrow but telling people today they don't need or shouldn't want
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by plover (150551) *

      I'm disappointed in all the geeks on this site misusing the term "bandwidth." Bandwidth is a measure of rate, not of volume.

      I can understand a Comcast marketing droid calling it a "bandwidth meter" because it's a non-geek selling it to non-geeks. But we shouldn't use the word improperly just because some stupid people do.

      Earning my karma today, that's for sure.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:27PM (#30744464)
    Perhaps those who aren't using 250GB a month should take it as a challenge.

    Perhaps those who aren't using 250GB a month should start sharing more porn! Darn leechers!
    • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @08:11PM (#30744932)
      Perhaps those who aren't using 250GB a month should start sharing more porn! Darn leechers!

      Perhaps those who aren't using anywhere near 250GB a month should start paying less.

      If the price is a flat $45 (or whatever) for unlimited use, that is fine. But if they can quantify usage and affix a more specific pricing scheme to it over and above 250GB of usage, then they can due the same but in reverse for usage under 250GB a month. But they won't. This isn't about fairness or network congestion, it is about making as much money as possible, nothing more.
      Opinion of Comcast and Time Warner: "Some folks download a lot and will continue to do so, so let's wring every last penny from them!!! What are they gonna do, get some crappy DSL connection? Haha, let's see them get comparable download speeds. Some of them can't get DSL at all. Screw 'em, it isn't like we have competition. Oh, and we should probably raise TV rates again, just for the hell of it (but no reason to improve service). Thank you, local monopolies!"
      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        Perhaps those who aren't using anywhere near 250GB a month should start paying less.

        It doesnt work that way. They are already paying for what the average person uses. Thats what the cost is based on.

        • It doesnt work that way. They are already paying for what the average person uses. Thats what the cost is based on.

          You're implying that Comcast is only interested in recouping its own costs and expenses. That's just silly. Comcast is not some philanthropic do-gooder non-profit organization. It will charge whatever the market can bear (or whatever it can get away with).

      • by jank1887 (815982)

        that's a great point, and actually something the FCC (FTC?) should take notice of. Competition would result in price reduction according to cost of service. If Comcast is now providing cost or usage data (which should be translatable to cost) and they don't provide reduced price options to customers, it's demonstrating the fact that the current price fixing structure is more than just a theory.

      • by fm6 (162816)

        is isn't about fairness or network congestion, it is about making as much money as possible, nothing more.

        I read somewhere that making as much money as possible is the whole point of capitalism. Perhaps I misunderstood.

        The problem here is not their policy, but their dishonesty about it. It's as if a restaurant advertised an all-you-can-eat buffet, but gave you a hard time if you ate more than they liked.

        Or maybe the problem is stupidity. The ISPs are stupid because they refuse to admit that not all customers use them in a way that's consistent with their business model. And many users are stupid because they th

  • Convenient (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "Here's a fake metric that has no meaningful relation to what we're going to bill you for."

    On a side note pfsense keeps track of this for you, and I'm fairly certain the majority of those cheap shit Linksys or Dlink "routers" do as well. You can even match them to your billing cycle. Yay.

    • by _merlin (160982)

      That won't help you all that much. Not all traffic contributes to your usage for the purposes of billing. For example, on Internode in Australia, downloading from Internode's software mirror archive or watching ABC streaming TV doesn't contribute to billed usage, so you'd need to do some funky configuration of your router to account for that.

  • or... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mikey177 (1426171)
    you can also go online and download one of many broadband meters... who knows there meter could be rigged to show you using more bandwidth then you really are just to give you a reason to overcharge you.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm sure you will be really successful arguing that you are at 249gb when they show you at 251.

      Comcast has always been know for their level-headed, even-handed approach to customer service.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RobVB (1566105)
      Their traffic meter will almost definitely show more traffic than anything you install on your PC, because they measure on their end and you're measuring on yours. I'm sure some people can explain why better than I can (because I can't think of anything except packet loss), but for some reason there's always more data being transmitted than being received (and most home users do more receiving than transmitting).
  • by maino82 (851720) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:41PM (#30744632)
    In college (I went to Penn State) they had a similar monitor that would update and show you if you were getting close to, or had already exceeded the limits for the month. After the first infraction in a semster, they'd cut you back to dialup speeds for about a week, then at the second infraction, for the rest of the semester, and after the third (assuming you could even get there at dialup speeds) you were cut off. My friends and I took this as a challenge, so we were always trying to get as close to the download limit without going over, even people who otherwise would not download much at all. I would anticipate this will only encourage similar behavior.
    • by Urza9814 (883915) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:56PM (#30744802)

      Haha, I'm currently at Penn State. They just upped the bandwidth limit this year - we now get a whole 10GB :)

      And yea, there are all kinds of ways to get around the system. I'm not sure about Comcast and how they're measuring it, but Penn State only measured bandwidth out of their network - and they also had a proxy run by 'Academic Services and Emerging Technology', so people always just use that. Since your traffic is only going to the proxy, which is on the PSU network, anything that goes through that proxy doesn't count against your limit. And then there's always the wireless network - they try to make it unavailable in the residence halls, but you can get it in a lot of them, and they don't count your bandwidth on the wireless network.

      As a final thought: What I thought they meant when I read the article was that they were creating a physical broadband meter. That I would actually think would be a good idea. I mean if you're going to limit how much people can use, you should give them a simple way to measure it. And what's better than something similar to the water/gas/electric meter they're already used to? Of course it'd be inside near their computer, but if you're going to limit or charge for bandwidth, that's the only fair thing to do.

    • by RobVB (1566105)

      I remember back when I was on another ADSL provider that had pretty strict limits (10 GB a month a few years ago), me and some friends that were on the same provider would push that limit as far as we could. They had a traffic meter that reset at midnight on the first of the month, and if you went over 10 GB (up+down) you were set back to below dialup speeds. The good part was they could only change your speed when you weren't connected, and you could stay online for 36 hours before your connection was brok

    • I would anticipate this will only encourage similar behavior.

      I expect a similar ultimate result - more bandwidth usage - but for a different reason. People don't have to worry about going over the limit without realizing it - they no longer have to keep any sort of margin of error. They're free to use every last drop of service they're paying for without worry of accidentally going over and getting punished.

      I've had, uhh, "husky" friends who went on diet and exercise regiments that worked quite well *before* they started counting calories and setting hard limits

  • Sounds about right. (Score:4, Informative)

    by C10H14N2 (640033) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:42PM (#30744638)

    Basically, they're saying for 5% of the price of a T1 you get 5% the capacity over a month.

    So, continuing on about the tenth year in a row, I continue find it very hard to give a shit.

    • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      I also get 5% of the reliability of a T1 line I guess?

      I wish...

  • people want to be able to find out what they used the bandwidth for. Like a phone bill lists the numbers you called and the call durations. Except that it's not so easy to summarize like that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Crunchie Frog (791929)

      I agree, they should break it down into broad categories

      Email
      Instant Messaging clients
      Linux ISOs
      Pron
      Lolcats
      WoW
      Other

    • If ISPs tried to "itemize" your bandwidth people would complain about privacy.

      • Just separating traffic by port would be enough (torrent, http, ftp, pop, smtp, etc). No privacy issues
    • by RobVB (1566105)

      Except that it's not so easy to summarize like that.

      Also, no one I know needs an eye-opener like that.

  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:49PM (#30744716) Homepage

    This is just Comcast trying to legitimize their practice cutting off users who exceed their data transfer cap.

    I suppose it's better than not being told how close you are to having your service suspended for a year, but I'd prefer it if their service were clearly advertised as metered service and had reasonable fees for overages instead of suspending users' accounts.

  • What I've learned.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Snotboble_ (13797)
    .. in any area - broadband, speed limits, personal days off etc. etc. is that if you put a cap on anything, then people will consider anything below the cap as a right and use their right to the fullest. So Comcast may see a huge increase in traffic summed up as people start acting according to their rights.
  • So what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by faedle (114018) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:50PM (#30744726) Homepage Journal

    For all this handwringing, I've never seen this feature on my Comcast account. Yes, I live in Portland.

    Maybe it's because I pay for the higher tier?

    • The article says it's supposed to show up today in WA, where I live. I don't see anything about it on the page they mention either. I don't think I'm paying for the higher tier, but I do pay for HDTV. Maybe other services tie in to who they like to check?
    • by mcsqueak (1043736)

      For all this handwringing, I've never seen this feature on my Comcast account. Yes, I live in Portland.

      Same here! I'm not sure why... I never bothered to call and find out. We (myself and two roommates) pay for high-speed internet, standard cable+HBO, 1 HD box and 2 SD boxes. I don't think we've ever gone over the limit, we've never been contacted about such a thing or had our connection throttled back.

  • Why not just ship a decent router to the end user? I get detailed bandwidth reports on my WRT54GL running Tomato.
    • I'm on Comcast. Tomato reports the following usage:

      2009-12 105.87 GB
      2009-11 546.60 GB
      2009-10 299.63 GB
      2009-09 248.94 GB
      2009-08 222.14 GB
      2009-07 76.76 GB

      FWIW, I've yet to hear a peep from Comcast about the months that exceed 250 GB.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ZorinLynx (31751)

        They won't bother you unless they're having performance problems on that node, and even then they only bother the top n% (not sure what n is) which is not necessarily 250GB.

        250GB is just the floor for "we won't bother anyone under this amount".

        Trust me, Comcast doesn't WANT to lose customers, and won't get rid of you unless you're causing real, actual problems. They may be greedy at times but they're not entirely stupid. $40 a month is better than $0.

  • Not using all 250? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cruciform (42896) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:55PM (#30744788) Homepage

    Now users can band together and sell off their "quota credits" to each other the way corporations do with carbon credits.

  • WOW... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by koan (80826) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @07:56PM (#30744800)

    Less than 1% use that bandwidth and it affects their network, isn't that absurd? Isn't that an indication of a terrible network? I honestly don't know the answers to these questions, but if you can't support 1% of your users at that level then IMO you have a crap network.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BitHive (578094)

      I hope someone at Comcast finds your post and offers you a job, you sound like the network architect they've been waiting for!

  • For the fraction of less than 1 percent of our customers who are concerned...

    For the very extremely low and small fraction of far less than 1 percent, seriously there are like so few of you that I can't believe I'm issuing a press release, I mean I could just walk around to the insanely lonely few of you who are concerned about this thing... I'm sorry, I just want to emphasize how little this policy affects anyone besides like a small handfull of our customers. Because so few of you will be affected by this trivial little thing. Seriously, there aren't many of you. Lets not make

  • Freakonomics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @08:04PM (#30744866) Journal

    Perhaps those who aren't using 250GB a month should take it as a challenge.

    You're not kidding. There's a story in Freakonomics about a daycare center that had problems with people not picking their kids up on time. So they figured they would charge a fee; penalize people for leaving their kids and they'll stop, right? Instead, more people started showing up late. Turns out that paying a fee assuaged peoples guilt for not showing up on time. Before they felt like jerks for being late, now they could just pay a fee and feel better. Moral of the story, incentives don't always work the way you think they will.

    So when you give people this new information, what's going to happen? 90% of people are not using that much bandwidth already. Comcast is giving them a chart that says "look how little bandwidth you're using, you could use a lot more and not get in trouble". Some of those people are going to start using more bandwith, and I'll bet those people will more than offset the minority of heavy users who might curtail their usage.

    The real solution to this problem is for Comcast, and every other ISP to invest more into infrastructure.

    • 1. Parents arrive late to pick up kids.
      2. Charge parents a late fee. Even more parents arrive late.
      3. PROFIT!!!!!!!!!!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      So they figured they would charge a fee; penalize people for leaving their kids and they'll stop, right? Instead, more people started showing up late. Turns out that paying a fee assuaged peoples guilt for not showing up on time. Before they felt like jerks for being late, now they could just pay a fee and feel better. Moral of the story, incentives don't always work the way you think they will.

      I'm not sure I agree with the moral of that story (as it is presented in your comment) - the real problem (from a business perspective) is that parents picking up kids late means lost revenue in terms of having to keep a proportional number of employees (possibly paying OT) to the number of kids that haven't been picked up yet. So by charging a fee, I can at least cover my costs of retaining my employees, if not charge a little extra to make a bigger margin on the truant parents.

      Similarly, Comcast could us

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Similarly, Comcast could use the behavior everyone is hypothesizing to show that they need more bailout money because, "Gosh, Mr./Mrs. Congress Critter - We've been trying to implement better connectivity, but usage keeps going way, way up! We need more money to increase infrastructure!" At which point they pocket 99% of any corporate welfare money they get, and use the remaining 1% to increase the cap by 25GB/month.

        That's exactly what they are doing. The taxpayer paid the industry 200 Billion [pbs.org] for 45 mega

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >The real solution to this problem is for Comcast, and every other ISP to invest more into infrastructure.

      Comcast's residential pricing in Chicago is 59 dollars plus a 5 dollar modem rental (this is accurate as of today, as I just called and ordered). This is 64 dollars a month and because its residential its capped at 250gigs. Comcast's 6mbps (w 12mbps burst) Business class service is 59.99, with no cap, and includes the modem rental. The only difference is that they make you sign a 12month contract.

      So

      • by doug141 (863552)

        For those interested, Comcast business has 14/2 for 89.99 a month. I might get that and split it with other tenants in my condo via the Cat-5 run in all the units.

        How would you handle one guy using 99% of it?

    • by Alcimedes (398213)

      I think you missed the entire story there.

      They found that if the fee was too low then parents felt fine showing up late and paying the fee. However, if you raise the fee high enough then they don't show up late anymore. Hence the $2 per minute your late fees at daycare centers that are standard around here.

      Don't think Comcast didn't figure out the second part of that one.

    • There's a story in Freakonomics about a daycare center that had problems with people not picking their kids up on time.

      If you offer care from 9 to 5, at 5 o' clock, take the kids that haven't been picked up, walk them out to the curb, tell them to stand there until their parents pick them up, lock up the place and go home.

      No kid would want that to happen again, so they'd beg their parents to be there on time. And no parent would want this to happen again either.

      Maybe it's reckless endangerment of children. Maybe it's just a plain old dick move. But I think it'd work.

      The general point: if you make someone else's behaviour

  • With mac os updates pushing 1gb and windows ones being big as well. People with more then one system are more likey to be download a lot. also game and other app updates are not as small as they used be.

    Then you have a lot of flash loaded web sites and more.

    also they seem to count arp traffic as part of the cap as well.

    What is the cap on a business cable internet plan?

  • So much for being able to stump their overuse calls by saying "oh sure, so how do I check my usage?" I'll need a new excuse for ignoring their cap.

  • I don't download pirated movies or music - but I do stream a fair number of TV shows and movies (Netflix), and occasionally have to pull down pretty large files on those days I work from home. So I've legitimately wondered where on the continuum we fell, and have been waiting for this since they announced it over a year ago.

    But heck, all that wondering and our household's only been using about 50 gigs a month, according to the meter.

    So now I guess I'll start leaving that Tor relay on all the time, and maybe

    • But heck, all that wondering and our household's only been using about 50 gigs a month, according to the meter.

      I was wondering the same...exactly how much WAS I using (I'm on Cox cable with a similar 250gb cap). Turns out about my max use is about 25G per week (reported via the untangle firewall box). Several Netflix movies, multiple pcs worth of updates, lots of YouTube, torrents, etc.
      To more than double our monthly usage would be rather hard. I'd have to make a dedicated effort to exceed 250Gb in a 30 d
  • Telus's broadband solutions never promises unlimited bandwidth and always had a site you could go to to see your current (and past) consumption of bandwidth per month. If you hit the cap, you have the option of buying extra bandwidth for the month. Also, it's a "nice" cap in that it simply throttles you so you can still check e-mail, etc., but not do any serious downloading, etc.
  • I've been waiting for this forever because I always assumed I was right up against the limit and it really kept me from downloading as much as I would have liked for years. But I recently added a Tomato flashed router and I now realize I can download 3 or even 4 times what I've been grabbing. So my downloads have gone up a bit since then, but only by a little. The real limiting factor for me now is drive space. That includes the primary and two or more backups. I'm swimming in ram, haven't needed to update

  • 250 what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mcnellis (1420749)
    250 gigabytes or 250 industry gigabytes? Base 2 or base 10? There's a big difference!
  • Dear US, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:23PM (#30746190)
    The rest of the world has had this for some time. Nice to see you're catching up.

    If the metre is half way decent this will be a valuable tool in tracking and assessing your own download habits, but given the level of competence displayed by US telco's something tells me this wont be the case.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Not to burst the bashing bubble, but this is more like falling behind, not catching up. We're getting knocked down to your level is all.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Not to burst the bashing bubble, but this is more like falling behind, not catching up. We're getting knocked down to your level is all.

        Giant "Whoosh" for missing the joke.

  • I still opt to get paper statements from Comcast because I love killing trees and it takes them longer to get my money. But print or online, if they are going to cap usage and nag users about their useage, why not print the bar graph on the top of Page 1 on the PDF version and the print version of the bill?

    My electric company does it. My gas company does it. My water utility does it. Comcast is just another utility bill really. Print the stupid usage on the bill and call it a day.

    Why do I need to

  • Maybe they could add a "connection quality" meter with the usage meter. Ever since Thanksgiving I have been having very poor quality service which (finally) Comcast agrees is their network problem. But I have to constantly run speedtest.net to verify my speed and terrible latency. I also looked into other software and some of them worked okay. But it would be nice to have a free software that would monitor their system and record the results. They would have to believe the numbers and we could quit bickerin

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