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Comcast Now Restricts Bandwidth Data Transfer Levels

If you haven’t reviewed the GigaOM White Paper: The Facts & Fiction of Bandwidth Caps, do it now.

As of Wednesday this week, Comcast, the largest provider of broadband and DSL for Internet access in the United States is going to be restricting your data transfer levels to 250 gigabytes a month. According to Om Malik:

With this move, the cable company will become the symbol of a new Internet era, one that is both monitored and metered. It is an era that threatens to limit innovation and to a large extent, the possibilities for new startups.

Many bloggers are part of online businesses and startups as well as suppliers of video, podcasts, and downloadable and uploaded files across the web. As web designs and WordPress Themes become more graphic and code dependent, increasing our bandwidth access levels, these limits impinge upon that grown and that access.

While WordPress Themes, Plugins, and Widgets account for very small levels of data transfer, what about a new WordPress user who wants to download and experiment with a lot of Themes and Plugins? Downloading more than a gig or two of WordPress stuff is rare, but if you add that to their other file downloads, like software, instant messaging, IRC, email, flickr, YouTube, podcasts, music, news, television, VoIP, and all the information and data that enters our world through our computers – those numbers add up fast.

I just moved from a satellite connection with a 17 gig limit. We hit the limit all the time and we weren’t downloading music or shows. I didn’t even download podcasts until I went on a trip. There were three of us using the web for our work. Download a few software programs, update your computer’s operating system, test out some Plugins, and it all adds up fast.

According to the White Paper, “today’s power users are tomorrow’s average users” with a predication that by 2012 we will be paying about $215 a month for Internet data access. Malik and others are fighting back with words in hopes of changing this “walled garden” limitation. I hope you join us in spreading the word.

The Web Must Be Free

The timing of this announcement comes the same time as the announcement of the new was announced. In the welcome statement, the founders, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, stated:

The World Wide Web Foundation seeks to advance One Web that is free and open, to expand the Web’s capability and robustness, and to extend the Web’s benefits to all people on the planet. The Web Foundation brings together business leaders, technology innovators, academia, government, NGOs, and experts in many fields to tackle challenges that, like the Web, are global in scale.

One of the focuses of the World Wide Web foundation is to investigate, in its Web for Society program, how to lower the barriers of accessing the Web for people who are not able, today, to find accessible and usable information.

While I’m totally in favor and support breaking down communication and language barriers, as well as all social, cultural, and technological barriers, the biggest barrier we have to fight is greed.

It’s getting harder and harder to find free access to the web. Someone has to pay. With belts tightening around the world, will Internet access be only for the rich?

The Internet was originally started and built on lines abandoned by the phone companies, the same companies who struggled to find ways of charging for that access after they realized they were missing out on the financial possibilities of connecting via the Internet and web. They have been looking under every rock to find ways of making money off this “web thing” ever since.

Yes, we must pay for the continued growth and access to the web, but restricting bandwidth and data transfer hurts an economy already showing the flashing red danger signal.

Be warned, be aware, and let Comcast and others know that you do not want this. Fight back with your voice. Spread the word.

I remember when Arthur C. Clarke predicted that long distance telephone calls would be free by the end of the century. I thought it odd since he was a very intelligent man and he lived in the same world that I did, one where corporate greed controls everything. I couldn’t see such a thing as being possible, but with the web, it became possible. Will that freedom continue or will corporate greed continue to slip into our pockets?

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  1. Posted October 2, 2008 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Actually, places like Australia and New Zealand already have bandwidth caps and have had it for a long time. I really don’t mind it and at the end of the day most people don’t really use that much bandwidth to begin with. 250 gigs is a lot of bandwidth to consider especially since even I made do with a 16/48 peak/non-peak bandwidth cap and am online 24/7 as a heavy internet user.

    As I understand it, free is a matter of opinion. Everything costs and bandwidth doesn’t come cheap.

  2. tavwebmom
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Uh not the only broken promise in our time… putting aside all the deregulation and competition promises that were made and broken, I have to go with Walter Cronkites promise of flying cars from the show Twentieth Century. Kidding aside, caps are not a problem until caps are a problem, and eventually they will be. Right in your wallet. Thats the point. Compared to South Korea where dsl is free and available to everyone the caps are just plain old greed. Going back to a jaw dropping promise… congressmen on the steps of congress saying if you deregulate Ma Bell competition will make communication cheaper. Still waiting and caps are not improving my mood any.

  3. Posted October 3, 2008 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    thats a pretty high cap. I do not believe I hit that on a regular basis. But at the same time, I can get into modes where I download A HEFTY amount of stuff though. That is sort of crazy. I didn’t expect this to come so quickly. Luckily, though, I am up at school and we have Charter, so it does not affect me immediately. But my family does have Comcast back home, which already has problems. I can only imagine the problems that will arise because of this.

  4. Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    A lot of ISPs cap here in the UK, some as low as 2gb per month. I happily pay more for uncapped. The key thing is education, it’s not just the net savvy who should be worrying about this, if you’re kids play xbox online and they download a couple of game demos there goes your limit. ISPs sell us accounts on the strength of on demand media and then jump up and down when their users take them up on it.

  5. Posted October 3, 2008 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s the point that the cap is high enough or not. It’s the point that they are capping it at all. It may be alright to do this is other countries but it shouldn’t be allowed here. I hope to see our free market system work this one out. Comcast has a tight grip on things but I will switch if the price is right and it’s uncapped.

  6. Posted October 3, 2008 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Can unlimited bandwidth and responsible use co-exist? There must be a way to allocate the resource (which is not unlimited) fairly among all users. Huge, overweight video and audio files with bells and whistles to send ‘look-how-smart-I-am’ messages are taking up a large portion of the web right now. ‘Free market’ has natural checks and balances – and putting a price on resources is one of them. Maybe the Comcast way to go isn’t right, but there will be a wall around the garden sooner or later.

  7. Posted October 3, 2008 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    I must say I share Lorelle an mOOmin’s points of view. It’s a matter of education and correct use about boradband usage. I think this kind of practices are strangling internet’s free spirit.

    About Patrick Britton’s comment I must say I can’t imagine why “It may be alright to do this is other countries but it shouldn’t be allowed here”.

    About “no’s” comment just a few words, It’s because capitalism is so great that USA’s economy is enjoying a welfare era?

    Hope not to irritate anyone.

  8. Posted October 3, 2008 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    “The web must be free.”

    What a juvenile concept! How can any adult believe that something as gigantic and complex as the worldwide web can be free? Are you saying that it should be “free” as in provided by the government — that institution that can magically provide anything without cost to anyone?

    Or are you saying that it must be “free” as in “open to everyone?” I don’t think anyone in the US is denied access who can pay for a connection or find their way to a public library (except for some criminal offenders). I can’t speak for China and other countries.

    “Be warned, be aware, and let Comcast and others know that you do not want this. Fight back with your voice. Spread the word.”

    How about fighting back with your wallet too? If you’re not satisfied with Comcast’s service get your service from another provider. If Comcast is the only provider in your area the problem is government regulation, not the free market and capitalism.

  9. Posted October 3, 2008 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Here’s how I fought back against Comcast cable internet; I canceled it and got AT&T DSL. The sad part was, AT&T was just as fast and more reliable to be up and working. I’d love to say I’m a shill for the phone company, but Comcast internet really does suck that much in the Jacksonville, Florida area.

    And I know this for a fact: Comcast outsources to local technicians her in Jax, so whenever anything goes wrong, it was “the technician,” not Comcast. Hey… it’s Craptastic!

  10. Posted October 3, 2008 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    m00min: Down in South Africa a 1GB cap is considered large and anything over 8 GB is very expensive, even considering that we pay about 5 times what the UK does for internet access in the first place.

    250 GB cap? Gees. Wanna swap?

  11. Posted October 3, 2008 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    My family regularly hits our 60GB limit here in Canada on Rogers Cable… And that 60GB is $60 Cdn a month… Anything over that is $2 per GB…

    And we get pushed regularly to go to the next level which is $100 per month…

  12. mattotoole
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I suspect this is really about keeping people buying cable TV, by limiting the movies and TV they can get over the internet — like how phone companies tried to prevent DSL customers from using VOIP.

  13. Posted October 3, 2008 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    “250 gigs is a lot of bandwidth to consider especially since even I made do with a 16/48 peak/non-peak bandwidth cap and am online 24/7 as a heavy internet user.”

    No, actually, 250gb/month is not a lot these days and the original article is correct that such limits will stifle innovation. Now having said that, Australia/New Zealand have specific issues due to the limited fiber optic cables for international bandwidth (it is my understanding, for example, that NZ has a single fiber optic cable for International IP).

    I regularly transfer >500gb/month on my Charter connection and have hit >1 TB/month at times.

    Along with normal web browsing (which for me is about 1-2gb/day given how pages have bloated with the proliferation of broadband); there is also managing my server and websites; using online backup systems like Amazon’s S3/Jungle Disk (where I currently have >300gb of data archived); downloading movies, music and video games; streaming music and movies (Youtube, etc); voice over IP; Skype/Ooovo/other video chat; VPN/VNC (I am constantly logged into my home computers from wherever I work/visit); etc.

    For me at least, my broadband is my all-in-one communications solution. Adding some silly 250gb cap in the U.S. is just unwarranted at the prices the Comcast monopoly is charging.

    The only thing that cable/DSL caps will do is simply drive Verizon’s FIOS and similar services (hmm..maybe those caps aren’t such a bad thing!)

  14. Posted October 3, 2008 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Brian Carnell brought up an excellent point. While the cap may be normal practice in other countries, adding one in the US may end up hurting a lot of people who are already being hurt by the economy.

    Saying that it’s super high and there’s no way we could use it all shows that not everyone understands just how much people in the US use the internet–in fact, the first thing that came to mind was all the people who use VoIP as their primary phone. And all the online-game-o-holics? I can easily see the 250GB limit being reached in as little as 2 weeks in some cases.

    With the sheer amount of data out there, they should be thinking in terabytes rather than gigabytes.

  15. Posted October 3, 2008 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Free access? Where? I pay to get access. Caps? Obviously they have existed in various forms for awhile now. Corporate Greed? That’s the popular catch phrase today, isn’t it? Wall street is to blame for all our woes! I think you need to look deeper than the latest politically motivated finger pointing, and look to the role of government in this mess.

    Let’s take a breath and stand back and really view the issue outside of narrow considerations.


  16. Tim
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I am so tired of the complaining about bandwidth caps. Every ISP, including Comcast, has a business level of service that allows for almost unlimited bandwidth. Sure it costs more, but the issue of greed is with the consumer, not the corporations. As well, this 250GB will only affect 1% of Comcast’s customer base. These are the people running businesses on a residential line, people downloading large files daily, and people simply abusing the system. If my internet stays at a consistent speed all the time, I’m fine with any caps on data.

  17. Tim
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    As far as VOIP customers using 250GB in a couple of weeks. That is laughable. The voice data is miniscule.

  18. Posted October 3, 2008 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    As an Internet service provider I am familiar with these caps and why they are coming into being. They are not directed at user that browse the Internet or even people that download extensively. That is evident by the generous amount of bandwidth.

    The true test of these caps will be when HDTV becomes more predominant on the Internet. The intent of bandwidth caps is to limit the amount used for high definition video in the future.

    Rod Jordan
    Sleek Communications, Inc.

  19. leokarchesky
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    I find it humorous that this comes out in the same week they start serving 1 Gbps connections in Japan. Which with Comcast’s caps would give you about 4 minutes of service per month.

    Talk about moving in the wrong direction.

  20. Posted October 3, 2008 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    You also have to remember speeds. Sure, 250GB may be a lot if you’re on 256k Internet. However Comcast is 10-20mbit. When you’re on those kind of speeds, one would think you could actually use it.

  21. Posted October 3, 2008 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    I am from Canada, but I have a few ways that I find useful to watch my bandwidth for typical stream YouTube or video or BitTorrent user.
    Track your bandwidth tools-
    I also find try to upload/download large files when you head to bed late at night. I find it eats less bandwidth.
    I find that there are also tricks at CNET for Firefox- is on the videos that will speed up the transfers.
    Every little things that you do will help your bandwidth limits.
    I hope:)

  22. Posted October 4, 2008 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    My cable company is capped at 100 GB at their 20 Meg package, which is adequate for my blog.

    Please correct your story. Cable is NOT DSL – that’s the phone company, Verizon etc.

    Speaking of the phone company, if you’re really wanting big bandwidth you may want to look into Verizon’s FIOS product.

  23. Posted October 4, 2008 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    And to think, Tokyo I believe has announced that they will be doing 1 Gbit connections to the come. 1 Gigabit down and 1 Gigabit up. (Japan’s KDDI to Offer 1G Bps Internet Connections to Homes

    I wonder if you had that internet connection with your previous cap of 17Gbps, if you would run through the cap in 17 seconds?

    I also agree with Vipers statement. These guys offer faster and faster speeds ultimately allowing end users to reach these caps faster. What the heck is going on!

  24. Posted October 4, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I really wouldn’t put it past those bungholes at Comcast, they were fighting Net Neutrality and now, they have barcoded and put RFID stickers on their internal tapes at their tape vault in Centennial, Colorado. I know because I used to work there doing just that. I don’t trust Comcast for a minute and neither should you.

  25. Posted October 5, 2008 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Another option to consider is speed throttling once the limit is reached.
    As an example, my connection here in Kazakhstan is nominally rated at 256Kbit (actually fluctuates between 256 and 384kbit). My data limit is 10Gb per month. Once that is reached, I am down to just a 64kbit connection. Annoyingly slow, however I’m still able to work, publish posts, send&recv. emails, even still watch YouTube et al, if I don’t mind waiting for the vid to buffer to the end. The only problem are sites such as the BBC News section, where paused videos don’t buffer until the end, and even if you let the jerky audio-laden clip run to the end, and then re-play, the whole stream is re-downloaded 😦
    Obviously I wish I had a higher cap, like back home in Britain, and my speed could do with at least quadrupling to be useful, but I’d much rather be in this position than paying for extra data up/downloaded or even cut off.

  26. Posted October 5, 2008 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Rodjordan wrote:

    “The true test of these caps will be when HDTV becomes more predominant on the Internet. The intent of bandwidth caps is to limit the amount used for high definition video in the future.”

    And that’s what this is really about. There was a WSJ article the other day about how increasingly cable channels are putting their content in one streaming form or another which is good for the channels but not so good for the cable companies under the current model. The WSJ article interviewed people who have cable only for Internet and watch their “TV” on the web, etc.

    This is all about Comcast trying to limit competition in video content. They don’t want to become commoditized like happened with phone service . . . but that’s a losing battle. There will come a day when you’re paying Comcast or Charter or Verizon X dollars for Internet but getting your video feeds from whatever company you chose rather than through a single provider.

    Two best ways to stop that — a) make caps on usage the standard and b) use QOS to give the cable co’s video feeds priority over competitors.

  27. Posted October 6, 2008 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    Free and open access that Berners-Lee speaks about isn’t the same as toll-free access.

    He says that we should be investigating ways “to lower the barriers of accessing the Web”. This acknowledges the fact that there already are limits in place for all of us. These limits are the infrastructure which all has to be paid for somehow.

    Here in the UK, capping at low usage levels is commonplace as is throttling against data types (p2p etc) especially at certain points in the day. Cable is not widespread. With the dot-com collapse of a few years back, the previously rapid spread of cable outwards from London stopped around Weston Super Mare as it entered the South West. It’s still there! This is analogous to the implementation of ADSL which has been market driven sporadically rather than planned in a coherent manner.

    To truly be free and expansive would need a degree of central planning and control that much of America would violently oppose, I think. I also don’t think that the current situation can be fairly compared to the early rapid growth of the web from a non-existent base that easily fitted it’s demands within the infrastructure extant at that time. In the early days, the problem was getting enough modems into exchanges. Now it’s about getting trans-continental fibre and satellites. The modems are the least of the problem.

  28. Andrew Slominski
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Attention everyone, this is NOT ABOUT CORPORATE GREED. This is about CENSORSHIP and squashing the transfer of alternative ideas that are therefore dangerous to the political establishment. These corporations already have all the money they need – they just are trying to maintain the social order.

  29. Andrew Slominski
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Wow, I just read comment #20. I was unaware that 1GB connections are here. I guess we should imagine 1TB connections in the future instead. Comcast would then include the first15 seconds of internet free for your convenience.

  30. Posted October 6, 2008 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    When there’s no electricity: no internet. Making things free will help them last longer, breed less contempt, keep the fantasy that this-thing-is-useful in place just a little longer.

  31. Posted October 6, 2008 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    “Most infrastructures for phone lines are already established. Charging for them is greed. In a world where peak oil is past, Capitalism will scramble for every last dime it can before it hit the brick wall of reality.”

    This isn’t about free-market capitalism; in fact it’s the opposite. This is about cable companies trying to retain their monopolies when their main argument for said monopolies is disintegrating.

  32. Posted October 6, 2008 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Andrew, that’s a good point. Though I think maintaining greed (profit margins) is a piece of that social order.

  33. Posted October 6, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    This been going on for many years. Everyone is now just waking up?
    Like the article said… the web should be a forum of free expression and info exchange. Be it a TerraByte or a GigaByte. Multimedia has surpassed text and pics by the way, thus the need for unlimited internet usage.

  34. Posted October 6, 2008 at 8:00 pm | Permalink


    i think we need more b/w in indonesia. some time i felt that another country specially in US or europe they have cheap internet access.

    Thank you,


  35. Posted October 7, 2008 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    This is about CENSORSHIP and squashing the transfer of alternative ideas

    Exactly, because I’m incapable of transferring alternative ideas using anything less than 500 GB/month.

  36. Posted October 7, 2008 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Comcast capping their customers at 250GB’s per month is really nothing to get excited about. Verizon began capping their Wi-Fi some time ago and at 5GB’s per month (for $59.99).

    Luckily, I am grandfathered in on Verizons’ “unlimited data” (Broadband Access) plan which they originally offered, so I’ve been able to surpass this new limit on a monthly basis.

    For the typical user, the 250GB limit is probably never going to be hit, however, for those that download music and movies on a daily basis, I honestly see this as a problem.

    I know for a fact that I was going through about 60GB’s of bandwidth in 2-3 days when I was with Charter Communications.

  37. alec j
    Posted October 10, 2008 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Hey its still a free market (barely)….go out and find another provider with no limits….if the government were involved….imposing limits that would be communist….not that we arent 1/2 way there anyway….

  38. Posted October 11, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Sincerely, I do beg your pardon for such a long wind has rushed me this day. Maybe the Reader (i.e. You, Me, Him, Her, Grandma, Grandpa, and all the way down to the last little Johnny Malcopee!) Though it seemed relevant at the time– and now, it seems i have made a great deal of work for myself. Please, I do urge you indulge my b*tch*ng, regardless of bandwidth it may consume (ha! band width…)

    If you’re not satisfied with Comcast’s service get your service from another provider. If Comcast is the only provider in your area the problem is government regulation

    My dear Carson, how misguided your tongue does ‘tempt to lead our readers. It is not, however, a fault of your own– but rather a symptom of Universal misguidance [in America]; the state of an overwhelmingly disproportionate influence of a predominately Liberal agenda– not only in the State’s Higher Education institutions, of course– but worse: from the womb [American Citizens] learn an inherently flawed manner of critical reasoning (as illustrated, herein precisely, albeit but a molecule of the drenching of poor Miss Liberty, as she cries “Mercy!” so rightly before You). It may be likened to one, so-called Original Sin– that it is practically impossible in a culture where too many soles of the public at large are practically made to become each Advertiser’s own private Malcovich†– and so, with each satisfaction of Your need for Product; Your own stench made palatable; Your sloth needing no change, for Product anti-sloth is reasoned, verily: a perfectly sensible way of life; and so many other obvious, and not-so-obvious, incremental blows You make to My; Our Nation’s Freedom– in the name of poor “Government Regulation”; in Your need to form a scapegoat for your confounded, incessant anxiety; for your satisfaction in removing the Dangers of My Freedom, we must rethink Govt Regulation– not that I will be the lesser harmed, but that I have no choice in the matter; for Your selfishness, laziness, and inability to reason with natural human sensibilities– may we impose Government, so you may be no longer bothered by thoughts of such matters, for put to bed all of it will have been– not by You, and certainly– I assure you, as readily as I claim lesser knowledge of the nose on my face– when we ask govt to settle the matters which are better left for Private decision, we stab unto the very heart of Liberty. How the twisting of that blade does echo from the squawking mandibles, cowering as the do in their Left wing.

    †John Malcovich

  39. Posted November 8, 2008 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I think we have that in Canada too!

  40. Posted November 27, 2009 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    One of our customers reported to us that Comcast is restricting single file transfers to 20MB.

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