Comcast: Cap bandwith?

A while back I complained about an installation misadventure I had when I got Comcast service hooked up to my new abode. Since the misadventure was corrected, things have been generally OK, except that for a while Comcast’s digital voice phone service produced an annoying buzz for a couple of weeks that made it almost unusable and that no amount of rebooting the modem would fix. Just as I was about to call customer service, the buzz spontaneously disappeared, and since then things have been more or less acceptable. In my area, at least, as far as I can tell BitTorrent traffic hasn’t been affected. I still get my fix of British TV shows, and download speed appears just as good as they were with my old cable company.

Thus it was with interest that I read this:

Comcast is evaluating a capping system that it hopes will pay for the cost of very heavy users without affecting most reasonable use, according to a tip sent to BBR. In the proposed plan, the provider would implement a clear 250GB monthly data transfer cap and charge users $15 extra per month for every 10GB increment past the limit. The effort would target the top 0.1 percent of users, or about 14,000 subscribers, who download well in excess of others but would still provide enough bandwidth for frequent use, such as video downloads.

It’s about time.


I don’t know how it all evolved that the main model for Internet service is a flat rate for unlimited usage. It’s a fine model for heavy users but not so fine for everyone else. Heck, even at my worst, I doubt I ever approach 25 GB of bandwidth used in a month, and I do a lot of surfing, blogging, online video watching, and some BitTorrent; so a 250 GB cap is incredibly generous. To me, a graduated, tiered fee system based on bandwidth makes a lot of sense, particularly if Comcast actually does do away with network traffic “shaping” and upgrades its systems so that there is sufficient bandwidth. That’s the rub. Charging more for heavy users is reasonable if this doesn’t just turn into another profit center and the rates for everyone else are kept reasonable. Also, given the increasing ubiquitousness of online video downloads, more and more people will be approaching 250 GB per month of traffic.

After reading the story, though, I’m still trying to figure out how that 0.1% of users can reach 250 GB of traffic. That’s a mind-boggling amount, something like a complete digital movie per day. What do they do? Leave BitTorrent going continuously all month?