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The Internet Networking

Comcast Expanding Data Cap Locations, Training Reps To Avoid Subject (arstechnica.com) 264

An anonymous reader sends news that Comcast is about to expand its 300GB data cap to more cities in the Southeastern U.S. "Newly capped areas include Little Rock, Arkansas; Houma, LaPlace, and Shreveport, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Greeneville, Johnson City, and Gray, Tennessee; and Galax, Virginia." This happened at the same time organizations are calling on the FCC to investigate Comcast for this practice. A helpful Comcast employee decided to leak the internal training on how Comcast plans to message these data caps to consumers. For example, they direct their representatives to tell customers that areas without a data cap actually have a 250GB cap, but it just isn't being enforced. They even suggest avoiding the term "cap," instead preferring "usage plan." There's also this: "If a customer calls in with any questions associated with the usage policy and how it relates to Net Neutrality, Netflix or observations about how XFINITY services are or are not counted relative to third party services, do not address these items with the customer."
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Comcast Expanding Data Cap Locations, Training Reps To Avoid Subject

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  • by jimmifett ( 2434568 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @11:55AM (#50877781)

    Soon as this hit my area, I signed up for the $30 extortion fee, bc 300 gigs is a joke and my household crosses that in a week easy. Now, I make it a point to use as much bandwidth as I can, downloading every goddamn cat video on the internet, twice, daily, while playing games online and streaming netflix on multiple devices most of the day, just because.

    I'm getting every damn pennies worth out of it.

    • Except they can still do something about it....
      Page 5:
      "... internet service must be consistent with our acceptable use policies for residential services and network management system"

      Pretty much leaves the door open to whatever they want to do about it.

    • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

      Just curious. How do you burn through 300 GB in a week? I think an hour of Netflix programming ~= 1GB, so 24x7 use of Netflix would be about 100 GB in a week. What's a bigger bandwidth hog than that?

      • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:43PM (#50878283)

        Just curious. How do you burn through 300 GB in a week? I think an hour of Netflix programming ~= 1GB, so 24x7 use of Netflix would be about 100 GB in a week. What's a bigger bandwidth hog than that?

        He spends a LOT of time masturbating to UHD/4k porn.

      • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

        netflix on high? (Best video quality, up to 3 GB per hour for HD and 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD)

      • How do you burn through 300 GB in a week?

        By having more than one person in the household, for one. If one copy of Netflix downloads 1 GB/hr, three will download 3 GB/hr.

      • The poster did indicate it was a family using the connection. It is entirely possible that a family with teenagers might have several people using streaming media on a nearly constant basis while at home and not sleeping. 300 GB in a week still seems a bit excessive to me, but then again I don't even use a cellphone so who knows what the kids are doing these days.

        • This, in spades. Daughter uses her PC for school (public virtual school, far superior to brick-and-mortar public schooling, i'm amazed at what they teach), both her and waifu use youtube and netflix heavily during the day. I use netflix at night. Direct TV downloads on-demand over the intertubes, my skype/google hangout DnD sessions I host, Battlefield, metal gear online, dynasty, counterstrike, waifu's MMOs,twitch streaming, crunchyroll anime, steam, faceyspace and twatter, Daughter voice chatting over Vit

        • by B1 ( 86803 )

          You are speaking my language. We've got two teenagers at home that basically live off streaming video and game downloads. The general rule is that when they're awake and home, video is streaming.

          On a typical school day, we use about 10 GB of bandwidth. Some days, we use much more -- 20 GB in one day isn't unusual. Our high score is about 35GB in one day.

          As for how we use that bandwidth, kids do the darndest things.

          Sometimes they'll turn on Netflix for background noise, while they download a game from St

    • You might be better off signing up for one of their business plans. I don't think that Comcast requires actual verification that you are running a business.
  • Data cap scam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wardrich86 ( 4092007 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @11:58AM (#50877815)
    I'd be okay with "usage plans" if I got credited back for the data I didn't use. If I use 200 of my 250 plan this month, then use 300 next month, I shouldn't be charged an overage. I'm paying to use X amount of data. Where the hell is my change back for the stuff I didn't use?
    • AT&T had a patent on that, at least as applied to mobile phone minutes ("rollover minutes"). Nobody else was allowed to do it.

      • Are you for real? How the hell do you patent that? That's like patenting giving back change if you hand a cashier too much money.
        • by swb ( 14022 )

          Business method patent, one of the worst kind.

          But it may only apply to cellular telephone minutes and not generally to all data on every communications platform.

          • >But it may only apply to cellular telephone minutes and not generally to all data on every communications platform.

            I'd hope so. The concept is no different than the way sick days and PTO roll over to the next year, which predates cellular billing by a long time.
          • Then how is Google Fi getting away with it? Also, why aren't we seeing more diversity in plans from various carriers?

            Please pardon the cliche, but [CITATION NEEDED].

        • Are you for real? How the hell do you patent that? That's like patenting giving back change if you hand a cashier too much money.

          Exactly. But see, in this case it's like the store would just be keeping your change until you made your next purchase from them, as long as it was within 30 days of your last purchase. After that you don't get it back at all. So it's like totally fair, man!

      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        "Not ripping off your customer" - a novel enough idea to patent, how about that.

  • by Blue23 ( 197186 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:01PM (#50877845) Homepage

    Comcast support is so horrible it's the go-to for making memes. Anecdotally, the people I know with Comcast have no other viable solution. If that's a more general case, it's monopolistic lock-in based on area. If it's not, why do people still use them?

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      Anecdotally, the people I know with Comcast have no other viable solution. If that's a more general case, it's monopolistic lock-in based on area. If it's not, why do people still use them?

      The only reason I am with them is because they are the only ones that serve high-speed internet to my house. The only other options were 56k dial-up or 5mbps satellite internet. Supposedly AT&T is slowly rolling out internet service to my area, so when my contract is up (sadly have about 22 months left to go) we will probably switch to them.

      • A few things they don't tell you about satellite internet: 1) It is blocked by rain or snow. 2) It has a ridiculously low data cap, meaning if you watch a movie over the net, you are throttled back to dial-up modem speeds for the rest of the month. 3) Transmission to a satellite requires extremely precise alignment. You really think that dish bolted to your roof is never going to move?

        I think your best available alternative is to continue using Comcast, and just ask them very nicely if they would please u
        • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

          A few things they don't tell you about satellite internet: 1) It is blocked by rain or snow. 2) It has a ridiculously low data cap, meaning if you watch a movie over the net, you are throttled back to dial-up modem speeds for the rest of the month. 3) Transmission to a satellite requires extremely precise alignment. You really think that dish bolted to your roof is never going to move? I think your best available alternative is to continue using Comcast, and just ask them very nicely if they would please use lube in the future...

          Yeah, I have to play nice with Comcast until AT&T gets to my area. I already lessened the pain slightly by buying my own cable modem and just using my PC's wireless card as a router (saving the $10 per month rental fee). But like I said, as soon as another viable option pops up in my area and I can switch to them, I will.

        • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

          Blocked by rain or snow on either end of the connection my gateway was in syracuse ny it rains a lot there..Oh would you look at that its raining there right now isn't that nice?

          I haven't had sat service in several years now yet the modem will still sync up with anik f2 (if I plug it in). So i've had pretty good luck with it staying put.

          had a 17gb down 5 gb up rolling usage limit. always stayed right next to the cap it was 22/7GB limit when I signed up (not promotional standard) but they changed it after th

    • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:11PM (#50877937)

      Three guys walk into a bar together and sit down at a table. The hostess comes up asks them what they do for a living.

      "I work in finance," says one
      "I work at Comcast," says the second
      "I am unemployed and my wife just left me," says the third--and pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head.

      So the bartender asks the hostess what happened.

      "Did you know one of those poor bastards works for Comcast?" she replies.

    • I just switched to Comcast because the only other "alternative" is 3mb DSL.According to the FCC's definition of broadband, Comcast is literally the only provider in my area.
      People need to understand that Comcast gets significant concessions from local governments such as monopoly protection (municipal franchise agreements) and special access (utility line right of way). Get your neighbors together, fill up a city council meeting, and demand action from the ground up.
      • by pla ( 258480 )
        Get your neighbors together, fill up a city council meeting, and demand action from the ground up.

        You realize that virtually no one in your local government will have the faintest clue where to even start on trying to offer municipal broadband?

        Nice idea, in theory, but in practice, you'd better have both an action plan and a source of funding lined up first.
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:02PM (#50877853) Homepage

    So basically they have a formal policy to mislead, misdirect, or lie to their clients in order to implement a policy and pretend it's always been there?

    Isn't shit like this illegal?

    • by MitchDev ( 2526834 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:24PM (#50878085)

      Not if you buy enough congressmen...

    • Actually, no. This kind of corporate policy isn't the kind of thing your front-line support *should* address. It's getting into regulatory issues, public relations, and on-going legal action. If your employees start talking about it, they represent the company position; if they're wrong, then your business is on record promising something it can't deliver, or stating something with legal implications.

      I get market research and reporter calls all the time. People just dial random extensions or look up

  • If the cord cutting continues, Comcast needs to make money somewhere, and that somewhere is increased data fees.

    .
    There's a good discussion here [dslreports.com].

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I wonder if Comcast has internal projections that show the cable TV business -- ie, delivering real-time TV broadcasts -- basically dying over time.

      I have a hard time believing that would happen in the real near term but I would bet it's something that will happen.

      • I wonder if Comcast has internal projections that show the cable TV business -- ie, delivering real-time TV broadcasts -- basically dying over time.

        That would depend on NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA dying. These sport promotions have sold long-term exclusive live video rights to national and regional networks commonly included in multichannel pay TV packages.

    • If the cord cutting continues, Comcast needs to make money somewhere, and that somewhere is increased data fees.

      Personally, they're not offering enough to justify the added expense, especially since I discovered the Dirty Little Secret of cable and satellite: recompression of video to the point where it looks like total crap, even at supposed 1080i or 1080p. I paid once for an antenna I put on my roof, I get more than I have time to watch, and the video quality is as good as it's going to get. Getting OTA broadcasts has already paid for itself many times over. Never going back to cable.

    • by arekin ( 2605525 )
      Its absolutely true. Its not actually about the profits, its about encouraging usage of their Video on Demand and Streampix services over netflix. If you can get television and internet for the same price as you can just get internet and netflix then why wouldnt you just pay one bill for more? Their data cap is exactly what that is for, to discourage netflix users, and when i worked for comcast that was 100% of the customers that I saw with overages.
      • If you can get television and internet for the same price as you can just get internet and netflix then why wouldnt you just pay one bill for more?

        Because someone wants the shows exclusive to Netflix more than the shows exclusive to Streampix.

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:03PM (#50877869) Journal
    That's what Comcast has done. Their network capacity has been so overbooked that if everyone actually tried to use what they think they're paying to get, the whole thing would grind to a halt. It makes me wonder how many network engineers tried to tell management that what they were doing was a really bad idea, and how many of them got fired for daring to explain it to them. Now they're painted into a corner, and rather than invest in expanding their network to meet demand, they'll just tell everyone who is paying them 'tough shit, deal with it, it is what it is' and hang up the phone in your face -- then badger you to death when you try to cancel their 'service'. They've painted themselves into a corner, and are denying it furiously. Meanwhile they're allowed to buy up more and more other companies so they can corner the market.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:30PM (#50878149)

      Caps don't help with network congestion. They only make network usage more uneven: People use the internet less when they need it least and don't change their usage when they really need or want to use the internet, which is at the same time for almost all people. Consequently, caps reduce usage off-peak and don't help with on-peak congestion.

      Caps serve two purposes: They are a method of market segmentation and they make certain network dependent services unattractive. Comcast is a cable operator, and the biggest consumer of bandwidth is video streaming. You figure it out.

    • Imagine if they actually sold their capacity. Instead of everyone buying a 100Mbit/s plan on a median usage of, say, 10Mbit/s hour-to-hour average with occasional 25Mbit 5-minute peaks and 40GB usage, and the major users consuming 80Mbit/s hour-to-hour average with frequent 100Mbit/s peaks and 300GB usage, they could spec the network sized to assume everyone who buys the 30Mbit/s plan is using 30Mbit, and must cover the infrastructure and peering costs of 30Mbit, and so must pay in full.

      You pay $70/mont

  • Chattanooga (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:05PM (#50877879)

    Pretty sure that any Chattanoogan in their right mind doesn't even have Comcast to begin with.

  • Chattanooga is one of the cities mentioned and if I recall offers municipal fiber. If Comcast isn't completely shut out by consumers in that city by now, they will be very soon.
    • Not municipal, but the local power company (EPB) rolled out fiber a few years back to all their service area. Coincidentally, EPB recently announced 10 Gb to the home over said fiber. Pricey, but cool.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:10PM (#50877925) Homepage
    after common carrier reforms were passed this year its really shocking to see internet providers still pulling crap like this. Comcast considers this a trial because its hoping if it rolls the whole thing out slowly enough then maybe, just maybe, it wont face scrutiny by the FCC and a class-action lawsuit.

    caps, wireless hotspot whoring, advertisement injection and yes, even SRVFAIL hijacking should have come to an abrupt halt under the FCC reform. Turning your callcenters into crisis hotlines that grill you in ESL about what you use the internet for are also a pain in the ass. stop advertising internet service i can buy over the internet if it just means i have to spend 2 hours on the phone to seal the deal 3 days later when a truck drives by to hook my internet up.
    • by leonbev ( 111395 )

      I think that the FCC reforms said that you can't throttle an "unlimited" data plan once they get over some usage threshold.

      So naturally, Comcast no longer says that their plans are unlimited and give you a usage cap... er usage limit... er... "usage plan" to either follow or pay out the nose to exceed.

      Hell, a "usage plan" almost sounds like a good thing to clueless consumers if you don't bother looking at the fine print. It kinda sounds like the various "data plans" that Verizon and AT&T have been using

  • Real Reason For Caps (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:10PM (#50877929) Homepage

    Comcast was saying at one point that caps/overage fees were needed to reign in bandwidth hogs who were clogging the network. Since then, they've admitted what we all knew from the beginning: This isn't about network management/congestion.

    The reason reason for caps and overage fees is simple: Cable TV. Cable TV revenues are declining as people move from watching Cable TV to getting video entertainment from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other online sources. The cable companies don't like this because it means money flows to other companies instead of to them.

    Now, cable companies tend to have a monopoly for wired, high-speed Internet access in their areas. (If not a monopoly, then likely a duopoly with the phone company.) They are using their monopoly control over Internet access to prop up their Cable TV business. By establishing caps and overages, they can ensure that people: a) Are limited in what they can stream and b) wind up paying the cable company if they stream too much. The overages raise the price of streaming videos. Instead of paying under $20 for Netflix and Hulu, you might wind up paying $40 or more. Suddenly, streaming "costs more" than cable TV would and (Comcast hopes) people will abandon streaming and come back to the cable company.

    The big problem (for Comcast) in all of this is that it's illegal for a company to use their monopoly position in one market to squash competition in another market. That's exactly what Comcast is doing here and the FTC/DOJ needs to investigate and stop them.

    • comcast needs to use there power to make ESPN and Disney channel premium channels that alone can drop the cost of a cable plan by at least $10-$15 /mo.

      • If Comcast actually had the power you think it has, its NBCSN would be able to outbid ESPN for Monday Night Football effective 2021 when the rights come up for sale again.

      • comcast needs to use there power to make ESPN and Disney channel premium channels that alone can drop the cost of a cable plan by at least $10-$15 /mo.

        Unfortunately Comcast is in the weaker negotiation position relative to Disney and ESPN so threatening to drop them i they don't go premium is not a viable course of action.

    • by Shadow IT Ninja ( 3891909 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:46PM (#50878317)
      The duopoly is exactly what I have in my area. AT&T is my alternative to Comcast and Verizon FiOS is available as close as just half a mile away. They are not enforcing a bandwidth cap here at all. I exceed 300GB on a regular basis, although a good part of that is backup scripts which run in the wee hours of the morning. I guess they are better here because of the potential competition. Either that or... I do have this pet theory that they have put a flag on my account which says "influential nerd. Keep this guy happy." Actually, I have no idea how good or bad their tech support is. In nine years, I have never used it.
  • They even suggest avoiding the term "cap,"

    The "C word" used to refer to something different.

    "We're not going to cap your data, we're just going to ummm, 'rate limit' it according to your 'usage plan'...and the rate limit will be zero bytes per day. Thank you for being a Comcast customer!"

    • They even suggest avoiding the term "cap,"

      The "C word" used to refer to something different.

      "Congress" ?

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      Push the rate limit too low and it no longer qualifies under the FCC definition of broadband service.

  • System sucks!
  • Conal O'Rourke was right Comcast needs to be investigated for breaking the law.

  • by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @12:33PM (#50878175) Journal

    when 640k got you a lot!

  • This is the first step to Comcast offering multiple tiers of data.

    .
    Just as Microsoft did with their online storage, Comcast will eventually say that the extra $35 for unlimited is no longer valid. Now $35 gets you only an extra 200GB. If you want more, well there's $50 for 500GB, or $75 for 700GB, etc.

  • "If a customer calls in with any questions associated with the usage policy and how it relates to Net Neutrality, Netflix or observations about how XFINITY services are or are not counted relative to third party services, do not address these items with the customer."

    This sorta reminds me of an experience I had with AT&T. I have one of the grandfathered unlimited plans. In 2011 AT&T started throttling unlimited users indiscriminately, some only using a gig in a month and then *BAM* modem speeds. I was never affected mainly because I never really used that much data (I do now... somewhat vengefully...) but I did want to know exactly what their minimum spec for throttled transfers was. That seems like a reasonable question, right? If they're offering an unlim

  • Taken out of context (Score:4, Informative)

    by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @01:45PM (#50878855) Homepage

    I love to hate on Comcast as much as anyone, but the quote in the summary really was taken out of context.

    There's also this: "If a customer calls in with any questions associated with the usage policy and how it relates to Net Neutrality, Netflix or observations about how XFINITY services are or are not counted relative to third party services, do not address these items with the customer."

    The full quote from the document is:

    Third Party Services: If a customer calls in with any questions associated with the usage policy and how it relates to Net Neutrality, Netflix or observations about how XFINITY services are or are not counted relative to third party services, do not address these items with the consumer. Immediately escalate to the Customer Security Assurance (CAS) Team.

    Leaving off the last sentence escalating the call to someone who is more thoroughly trained in how to bullshit the customer changes the narrative. Without it, it sounds like the policy is to just ignore the customer.

  • For example, they direct their representatives to tell customers that areas without a data cap actually have a 250GB cap, but it just isn't being enforced.

    Well of course. It's called getting your foot in the door. They roll out a "cap" that isn't enforced, and simply start enforcing it little by little in different locations. Why are you complaining when it was there all along? /s

  • by Hulfs ( 588819 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @03:02PM (#50879387)

    As a forced Comcast user, out of curiosity, I checked my usage. It's day 5 of the month and I've used 70GB so far...previous months I've downloaded anywhere between 260 - 290 GB of data.

    I work from home and access all my work data over my internet connection (I move very few files around - it's mostly rdp/ssh sessions, git interactions), use voip phones (both work and home), my kids almost exclusively watch "tv" via Netflix and YouTube and I would say my wife and I maybe watch 4-5 hours of streaming tv a week. Apart from that our internet usage isn't anything out of the ordinary and we're still exceeding the cap.

    Comcast is insane if they think classifying anyone over 250GB of consumption a bandwidth hog especially as streaming services continue to grow in popularity - and eat into cable revenues.

    If I had any real choice of provider, I'd be switching away from Comcast in a heartbeat.

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