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The Internet The Almighty Buck

Comcast Tells Government That Its Data Caps Aren't Actually "Data Caps" 341

mpicpp (3454017) writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica about Comcast's data caps that aren't data caps:Customers must pay more if they exceed limits — but it's not a cap, Comcast says. For the past couple of years, Comcast has been trying to convince journalists and the general public that it doesn't impose any "data caps" on its Internet service. ... That's despite the fact that Comcast in some cities enforces limits on the amount of data customers can use and issues financial penalties for using more than the allotment. Comcast has said this type of billing will probably roll out to its entire national footprint within five years, perhaps alongside a pricier option to buy unlimited data. ... Comcast's then-new approach was touted to "effectively offer unlimited usage of our services because customers will have the ability to buy as much data as they want."
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Comcast Tells Government That Its Data Caps Aren't Actually "Data Caps"

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  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:11PM (#47761515)

    I have no faith that the government won't fall for this blatant lie.

    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:47PM (#47761721) Homepage

      Of course they will, while comcast is telling them this, they are stuffing wads of money in the senators pockets. The longer they talk the more money goes into their pockets... Senators need to keep warm during the upcoming winter....

      • Obligatory Pearls Before Swine [gocomics.com].

        Money doesn't influence anyone! Also the gumdrop trees in Candy Land are great! ;-)

    • Re: Sigh (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward


      Considering Congress convinced itself that the Affordable Health Care Act was a financial penalty and not a Tax, ( though declared a Tax by the SCOTUS ) I'm right there with you on that :)

      It's like car insurance. We don't penalize you for being single, we just give the married folks a better rate :D

      • how did SCOTUS declare it a tax when it wasnt wriiten up as one in the law? How do they have the leeway to change the definition of something in a ruling? They are supposed to rule on whats before them, not define it as something else in order for it to pass constitutional muster.. ??? The reason it wasnt called a "tax" in the law is because it wouldnt have gotten the votes. SCOTUS ruling it is a "tax" bypasses the whole point of voting for a bill.

        Am i missing something?
        • how did SCOTUS declare it a tax when it wasnt wriiten up as one in the law? How do they have the leeway to change the definition of something in a ruling?

          Basically, because that's how the government defended it. SCOTUS didn't come up with it themselves, the Attorney General said that was how the Federal government had the authority to impose it, because the Constitution gives them the power to tax.

    • I have no faith that the government won't fall for this blatant lie.

      I have no desire to defend Comcast. However, I think it's a bit strong to call it a "blatant lie." What I would call it is "highly disingenuous."

      Comcast says there's no cap: they won't stop sending you bits, they'll just charge you more if you exceed a threshold. Of course, their definition of "cap" is a thin disguise over their real intent, which is to discourage heavy usage of their network. It sucks, but it is tenable.

      • by Predius ( 560344 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (sbmooc.hsoj)> on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @09:19PM (#47761863)

        I want to say this was all debated once in the past back in the dialup era. If you advertised 'unlimited' dialup, you had to deliver and couldn't back door in per hour charges, etc. What makes this any different?

      • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @10:05PM (#47762027) Homepage

        This is done in Australia with virtually every single ISP with one tiny exception.

        The quota you have is in big print right next to the price.

        If you don't tell people what the quota is (in a fair way) then blatant lie does cover it quite nicely.

    • Can we sue for false advertisement at this point?
      They told the government it was not a cap. So How are they charging me??

  • I get it. (Score:5, Funny)

    by master5o1 ( 1068594 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:13PM (#47761525) Homepage

    I have access to unlimited amounts of petrol because I am allowed to purchase as many tanks as I need.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @09:49PM (#47761973) Homepage

      I have access to unlimited amounts of petrol because I am allowed to purchase as many tanks as I need.

      Works for the US military, with more tanks you can acquire more oil...

    • You joke, but two(ish) decades ago we had an ISP tell my father that their "Unlimited Internet" referred to unlimited access (eg: 24/7/365) and not unlimited bandwidth. When he asked what the monthly data allowance was, he was told that there wasn't one... but it wasn't unlimited. It was just that our household was using more bandwidth than usual (entirely my fault, being a tech-crazed teenager at the time) and it would be really nice if we would cut that out - for the good of the network. So my father expl

      • I remember dial up plans that were capped at like, 150 hours of usage. So unlimited time based access isn't something I would have thought of as weird about ten years ago.

        ADSL came along and it shifted from time based restriction to data cap.

  • frist psot (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:14PM (#47761535)

    first post courtesy of my high speed comscat connection!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:14PM (#47761537)
    We need the government to build fiber to every residence in America and lease the glass to anyone that wants it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We need the government to build fiber to every residence in America and lease the glass to anyone that wants it.

      Learn your history. The government already paid the LECs a couple hundred billion to do this years ago.

      They squandered it all instead.

      Now the taxpayers are left holding that bag and some of the worst broadband infrastructure on the planet.

  • come on Google Fiber (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:15PM (#47761539)
    everywhere Google Fiber has set up shop has completely changed the landscape of what these legacy internet providers offer. Google's rollout cannot happen fast enough and even if comcast matches it people will still dump them due to these types of policies.
    • by machineghost ( 622031 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:22PM (#47761587)

      The problem is, Google Fiber isn't some product they're rolling out slowly, but eventually to the whole country. Instead, it's jut one of their little experiments. As much as we'd all love them to, Google has expressed no interest in becoming America's ISP (or at least not any time soon).

      • It was an experiment. One that was successful enough that they've decided to do 38 cities for the next phase. Gmail was an experiment. So was [insert long forgotten Google project here ]. Some of their experiments don't turn out, and Google shuts it down. Others take off, like Gmail. At this stage, Google has invested a couple hundred million dollars or so, so that shows a significant level of commitment- they're probably not going to shut it down tomorrow.

        One of the criteria Google uses to decide

    • by dontbemad ( 2683011 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:26PM (#47761609)
      Atlanta resident, here.
      I'm currently paying Comcast a pretty hefty premium for 50 Mbps speeds with a 300 Gb cap every month (which is pretty easy to reach when you torrent and stream a good deal). Google Fiber is possibly coming here in the next year or so, and I can not be happier about it. Even with Google's "reckless spying", supposed GFiber outages, and everything else, what Google is really doing here is a forcing competition in a market that hasn't seen the legitimate face of that... well... ever.
      • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @09:02PM (#47761791) Homepage

        Is there anyone here who is using Google Fiber?

        I would be curious to know how well home servers (www, email, SSH) perform when on this, especially given Google Fiber's original prohibitive TOS and Google's desire for you to keep everything on their servers. I see they have updated their TOS since the EFF kicked up a stink, but would like to hear from anyone who is actually using it.

    • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @10:13PM (#47762079)

      Everywhere huh? Google Fiber serves less than 10,000 people (last I checked) out of over 300 million in this country. Google shows up in a town, then asks people to sign up, and only installs where the capacity is concentrated. This ensures the highest amount of profit possible. I keep coming into these threads and trying to explain this but Slashdot seems to be completely oblivious to how ISPs work. Yes, to the tiny part of the country google is offering service they are doing great. But they are never coming to your house... not unless you live in a major metropolitan area. The problem with internet access in this country is not located where Google is offering service. When some rural town gets Google fiber, let me know... then they'll be on to something. But this? They're offering service in areas that are already flooded with ISP options, this is not progress.

  • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:15PM (#47761543)
    So, what will Netflix do when a customer can't get access to the data that they paid Comcast to deliver to said customer?
    • by jxander ( 2605655 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:33PM (#47761645)
      Comcast is getting to double-dip from Netflix with the new agreement you mentioned... why not go for the triple dip and charge customers extra on top of the extra they're charging Netflix, on top of the "unlimited" plans they're already selling.
      • Comcast wants to do what AT&T does -- pressure 3rd party service providers, such as Netflix, to pay a "fee" in exchange for their traffic being exempted from monthly usage limits.
      • They could start driving the customers to the competition. Some loss is acceptable to keep average selling price up, but there is a limit.

        • What competition?

        • What competition? I have comcast. I do not want comcast. I want internet access.... I have comcast. :(

          In the name of all of their nasty business practices, I have wanted to cancel service for a long time. But my government is failing at anti-trust law. My culture and society is absolutely dependent on internet access. Thus, my government is failing me and forcing me to give money to bad people that do not deserve my money.

    • Comcast will, in that hypothetical case, pressure Netflix into paying for their traffic to be exempt. Sounds a heck of a lot like a clever way to get around any potential "net neutrality" legislation.
  • Semantics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Yes, it's technically not a cap because you can exceed it. No, this argument didn't work for cellular carriers. Bill shock was invented by AT&T first.

    • Re:Semantics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by crbowman ( 7970 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:37PM (#47761669) Homepage

      If you claim (in large print) to be selling me unlimited internet access and are then charging me more when I go over some limit, then yes it's a cap, and the FTC dam well ought to be going in and bitch slapping any company doing this type of thing even if they put an asterix with words in tiny print to the effect of "when we say unlimited what we really mean is as long as you don't exceed the limits we actually put on it"

    • A speed limit, with the 50GB for $10 penalties being repeated speeding tickets.
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:21PM (#47761579)

    And in most areas, how "full" is the coax line between my house and the fiber node? Ie, how much of the usable coax bandwidth has been allocated to cable channels, on-demand viewing, phone service, alarm monitoring, and Internet access?

    Has switching from NTSC analog to all those HD channels (even though they are compressed, etc) been a net gain in usable bandwidth on the coax or just a wash?

    I always just wonder if Comcast isn't just trying to keep that coax cable capable of handing TV and Internet by various means of suppressing bandwidth consumption on Internet usage.

    The suck for Comcast is when that coax cable "runs out" of bandwidth and there's no room to cram yet another HD sports channel on. A project to migrate from coax to fiber would be a total nightmare for them.

    I'm not trying to defend or justify anything they do, I'm sure it's at least half oriented towards nickle and diming and profiting off of manufactured scarcity but coax cable shared by many dwellings seems like a major bottleneck that will eventually have to be addressed and it will not be cheap.

    • by Cute Fuzzy Bunny ( 2234232 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:59PM (#47761777)

      If I recall correctly, the same amount of space a television channel uses is around 10-12Mb/s of continuous data. Current modems can bond 12+ channels. The more that people stream instead of requiring live tv, the more channels can be allocated to internet. Each modem can be configured to use different channels. While there is one piece of wire from the street to your house, there are many piece of coax AND backup unused cable throughout your neighborhood. Each neighborhood has a junction with bazoodles of cable to it and probably fiber.

      So the short answer is they can allocate gigabits of data streams in your neighborhood, and with numerous backbone options from there to the main office they have all the bandwidth they need for the foreseeable future. And it doesn't 'run out', it just gets slower at the shared wire level for the user. Which is why netflix looks like crap at 7PM every night.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by adolf ( 21054 )

        And it doesn't 'run out', it just gets slower at the shared wire level for the user. Which is why netflix looks like crap at 7PM every night.

        No. Netflix looks like crap at 7PM every night because they ditched Akamai and started their own CDN which is typically backhauled by Cogent, and Cogent tends to have terrible connectivity.

    • Cable internet doesn't require every modem in a town to share the same limited spectrum. Similar to the way DSLAMs would be put into each neighborhood to terminate DSL, cable companies use CMTS (cable modem termination systems). The cable company deploys HFC (hybrid fiber-coaxial) boxes which each contain a CMTS; each of these can serve several thousand cable modems, depending mostly on the amount of available channels (read: not used for TV) for use on the coax and the amount of bandwidth being allotted to
    • The main question is how many channels are allocated for DOCSIS. Each channel gets you about 38mbps of bandwidth, though more can be had on newer standards with 4096QAM (if the SNR is good enough to support it). So if there's 4 downstream channels then a max of about 152mbps total down (upstream is separate).

      How many channels can they add? Not sure with current DOCSIS specs, but the wire limits are either 600mhz for old systems, or 1ghz for most new ones. So you cold probably get in the range of 166 total c

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Well, from the looks of it a coax cable can carry anywhere from 1000-1500 6MHz channels @ 42.88 Mbit/s so 42-63 Gbit/s, subtract TV channels (200 @ 10 Mbit? = 2 Gbit/s), divide by number of subscribers sharing the rest. It shouldn't take that much money to cut a loop in half though, just pick a midpoint and run two coax cables straight to the central office. Considering how rapidly things progress with competition I really doubt there's any technical difficulty in delivering more.

  • data burqa? (Score:5, Funny)

    by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:22PM (#47761585)
  • Right.. in their world, that's perfectly reasonable to call it an unlimited plan...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:38PM (#47761673)

    I suspect the plan is to get these "Caps" in place prior to broader adoption of 4K TV services. Once 4K catches on the users will have a choice of routinely exceeding their 300GB/month limit or buying their 4K content from Comcast who will likely not count their content toward the monthly data limit. Might be a nice way to tilt business away from other content providers such as Amazon, Vudu, etc.

    Regarding these "Caps" I had quite the conversation with Comcast before I dropped them and had to settle for DSL without a cap. First of all, the cap kicks in at 300GB/month, after that you are charged $10 for each subsequent 50GB allotment. This rate is higher than the $/GB before you exceed their limit. There is no rollover for unused GB's. So, if you go on vacation and only use 100GB in August you can not carry the unused amount into July or subsequent months.

    The plan is like cell phone plans years ago. Higher, 'gotcha' rates if you go over. No rollover minutes. You can buy business service from Comcast at a higher rate, a 2 year obligation, and they must own the modem. This effectively doubles your monthly rate before they started the unlimited plan you used to have before the limits were imposed.

    I think it is fare to charge for higher usage. However, the overage fees are prohibitive and will subsequently block the open adoption of future bandwidth intensive services for vendors other than Comcast. I am hoping a new wireless standard will jump past Comcast's copper infrastructure.

    • I have business service from Comcast (there are no reliable alternatives in my city). It is actually $4 per month cheaper, since I use my own modem. Turns out that isn't a problem, and you don't have to rent it. That being said, I have just as many internet outages as when I had Comcast residential internet service, and it certainly isn't any faster. I just don't have data caps anymore.

    • Even 1080p could push people over the limit. Getting everything I can in HD, 1080p if available, (e.g. all movies and maybe 2/3rds of TV) I've averaged just over 300GB/month for the last 24 months, even hitting 720GB one month. And I'm the only person on this connection. You get a whole family on the line (or god forbid 3 college kids sharing an apartment), and exceeding it is probably already common.
      This is squarely targeted at those not getting their TV from Comcast NOW. No need to wait for 4K. I suspect
  • So Comcast won't mind refunding all those fees for over data use. Hello class action lawsuit and government sanctions!

  • Brilliant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @08:48PM (#47761729)
    I once run the IT department of an ISP, and data caps were a substancial source of the revenue. Lets say it could reach to 1/3 of our Internet net revenue, some months exceeding it. To be fair, at the time the international bandwidth was severely constrained, and in a post p2p world, you would have a change without some form of control. However, we were very clear about it, those were data caps, period.What I should call it nowadays then? Voluntary taxes? Net speeding fine? Tax for changing to the competition? One is always learning...
    • .... those were data caps, period.What I should call it nowadays then? Voluntary taxes? Net speeding fine? Tax for changing to the competition? One is always learning...

      I think the proper business terminology here is 'fucking the customer'.

      • by ruir ( 2709173 )
        Normally you could say that. As a couple of anecdotal stories, I was called in some more difficult cases...despite customers having access to reports and having automated warnings about exceeding the data caps, which were in the package and in the contract, they only complained after the fines. I found more than once opens wifis, wifis with their password cracked, with defaullt passwords, and I believe I found once a "hacked" wifi point (it was more certain probably someone unscrupulous neighbour bribed the
  • Cable tv is a leaking ship and losing subscribers by the day. In a few years most content will be streamed. If you are losing money on the television end of the business, you have to make it up on the streaming end. Satellite is the same except they don't have the kind of internet end that comcast has. This is why Dish is doing the 'over the top' offering later this year. They're going to offer 'basic cable' as a streaming, non satellite option. This is why comcast is buying time warner. They'll basi

  • Otherwise I think they got themselves all confuzzled. Cable modems and the such are unlimited. I guess alongside that award winning customer support recently documented [youtube.com] and here [youtube.com] and here [youtube.com], folks might want to seriously consider their Cox business.
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @09:57PM (#47761997) Homepage

    "effectively offer unlimited usage of our services because customers will have the ability to buy as much data as they want."

    So our unlimited isn't unlimited, and our caps aren't caps.

    This is like saying you have an all you can eat restaurant, where you pay for everything you eat individually under the notion that you can buy all you want.

    This is lying to consumers, deceptive marketing, and just plain bullshit.

    If the FTC or someone isn't giving them the smack down on this, then we can pretty much expect corporations to start making up their own meanings for words and getting away with it.

    Greedy bastards.

  • Customers must pay more if they exceed limits â" but it's not a cap,

    That's fine with me, if they'll also give me a refund if I don't reach my limit. After all, fair's fair, right? They estimate how much data I'll use when I sign up, and if I exceed it they charge me extra, if I don't reach it they charge me less.

  • This is precisely why I go with the lesser of the evils, Verizon FiOS. I wouldn't give Comcast my money if they were the last ISP in the United States. I would simply just go with mobile broadband and stop streaming altogether if I had no alternative to Comcast. Really, all telecom companies are crooks but Comcast takes it to entirely new lows.
  • customers have unlimited money. Which I don't. You can't squeeze blood from a stone, Comcast... I'll just have to get new hobbies.
  • "...customers will have the ability to buy as much data as they want"

    Because taken at face value, that comment means that they should be offering customers as much money as they need to get all of the data that their customers want. After all, if a customer don't have enough money to pay for it, then they don't really have the ability to buy it, do they?

  • China comparison... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rick in China ( 2934527 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @03:17AM (#47763165)

    So, in China, a 20mbit fibre package can cost you approx. $12 USD (varies by city). Electricity, for me, in Chengdu, costs about $20-$30 per month for a family of 3 in a reasonable size place with a lot of appliances, computers, and gratuitous 24/7 air purifiers running. Water is far less at maybe $15/month, and gas is also quite low around $15/month.

    Internet is extremely cheap. There is an option to bump it up to a 100mbit fibre connection in most areas, which runs a whopping $45 or so per month.

    Those are fixed prices, because traffic is unlimited - and speed tests from everyone I know who runs the various speeds actually come in at close to the advertised speeds for downstream traffic (although upstream is usually like, 2mbit in comparison).

    Unlimited. Oh, and no DMCA, nobody gives a FUCK what you download - as long as you don't need a VPN to connect to the content (which is like 99.9% of the torrents in the world) in which case make sure you get a VPN provider that ignores DMCA :D

  • by hurfy ( 735314 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @12:16PM (#47766001)

    All you can eat pizza.... ...only $1.00 per slice.

Forty two.