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Comcast clamping down on "excessive" downloaders

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  Comcast clamping down on "excessive" downloaders

Posted 09/22/2003 @ 12:58 PM

by Eric Bangeman

It's one thing to use more than your allotted bandwidth. It is another, entirely-different thing to not know what your allotment is. Comcast has warned one of its subscribers that his bandwidth usage was excessive, while refusing to inform him how much he is allowed.

    Keith, who asked to keep his full name private, said he'd subscribed to the service for four years and never had a complaint before. Now he was being labeled a network "abuser."

    Worse, he said, Comcast refused to tell him how much downloading was allowed under his contract. A customer service representative had told him there was no specific cap, he said, adding that he might avoid being suspended if he cut his bandwidth usage in half. But even then, the lack of a hard number gave Keith no guarantee.

While Comcast's concerns about excessive bandwidth usage may be justified, not communicating to their subscribers what constitutes excessive usage is not. ISPs are taking differing approaches to capping usage, with some such as Cox opting for clearly-defined download limits, and others are being more nebulous.

    Comcast's policy has proven most controversial. The company's terms of service say only that users cannot "represent (in the sole judgment of Comcast) an unusually large burden on the network." According to a spokeswoman, the company began sending notes about two months ago to the top 1 percent of the heaviest users--people who collectively use about 28 percent of the company's bandwidth--telling them they were violating their terms of service.

    [Comcast spokeswoman Sarah] Eder said there was no specific line crossed by these subscribers, but she added that some of those people were downloading the equivalent of 90 movies in a given month.

Broadband ISPs all over the U.S. are in a dogfight for market share, and bandwith (along with price) is a key element of the broadband value proposition. Thus -- at least for cable ISPs in which customers share bandwidth with others in their immediate areas -- some regulation of bandwidth usage may be necessary until DOCSIS 2.0 is widely implemented.

Two tough questions remain: will video-on-demand and other future broadband-dependent applications be able to grow to their full potential if downloading is capped by the ISP? Also, what is the best way for the ISPs who choose to implement caps when their competitors (e.g., U.S. DSL providers) do not cap usage? Comcast needs better answers.

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I'm sure I'm missing something,  but this was a 2003 letter so whats happening in 2005?  Most TOS's include some excessive use verbage as a way to insure they can suspend true abusers.  It's sort of an at will clause taht allows them to reach out and touch you if your  a bad boy.


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From the Comcast FAQ:

How long can I stay on line before I have to log out?

As long as you like. You'll never be timed out, and you never have to log out! That's one of the many benefits of being a Comcast High-Speed Internet subscriber. Your time spent online is completely unlimited, with no additional charges.

Also, from the AUP:

Network, Bandwidth, Data Storage and Other Limitations

You must comply with all current bandwidth, data storage, and other limitations on the Service established by Comcast and its suppliers. In addition, you may only access and use the Service with a dynamic Internet Protocol ("IP") address that adheres to the dynamic host configuration protocol ("DHCP"). You may not access or use the Service with a static IP address or using any protocol other than DHCP unless you are subject to a Service plan that expressly permits otherwise.

You must ensure that your activity (including, but not limited to, use made by you or others of any Personal Web Features) does not improperly restrict, inhibit, or degrade any other user's use of the Service, nor represent (in the sole judgment of Comcast) an unusually large burden on the network. In addition, you must ensure that your activities do not improperly restrict, inhibit, disrupt, degrade or impede Comcast's ability to deliver the Service and monitor the Service, backbone, network nodes, and/or other network Services.

Violation of Acceptable Use Policy Comcast does not routinely monitor the activity of Service accounts for violation of this AUP. However, in our efforts to promote good citizenship within the Internet community, we will respond appropriately if we become aware of inappropriate use of our Service. Although Comcast has no obligation to monitor the Service and/or the network, Comcast and its suppliers reserve the right at any time to monitor bandwidth, usage, transmissions, and content from time to time to operate the Service; to identify violations of this Policy; and/or to protect the network, the Service and Comcast users.

I haven't found any specfic numbers.

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