Comcast bandwidth pigs won’t just have to deal with a slower Internet connection — they’ll reportedly have to pay more per month to use the Internet, too.
In May, Broadband Reports reported that Comcast (CMCSA) was considering capping the amount of bandwidth its cable modem subscribers could use each month as part of their all-you-can-eat subscriptions. Today, the site reports that those caps are official, that they’ll be announced soon, and that they’ll be rolled out on Oct. 1. Comcast rep Charlie Douglas doesn’t deny the report; in an email to SAI, he simply says, “Please stand by…”
UPDATE: Charlie has delivered. Here’s Comcast’s official policy:
Today, we’re announcing that beginning on October 1, 2008, we will amend our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) available at http://www.comcast.net/terms/use/ and establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB/month per account for all residential customers… Currently, the median monthly data usage by our residential customers is approximately 2 – 3 GB.
What does this mean for most Comcast subscribers? Nothing. According to Broadband Reports’ source, the caps will only affect 14,000 of Comcast’s 14.1 million broadband subscribers. (The top 0.1%.) That sounds about right to us.
As we noted in May, 250 gigabytes per month is a lot — much more reasonable than Time Warner Cable’s 5- to 40-gigabyte monthly caps. In practical terms, 250 gigabytes is:
– A LOT of Web usage. Your typical daily Web/email/IM usage is probably somewhere between 10-50 megabytes — maybe 100-200 if you’re watching some low-quality YouTube, or 300-500 if you’re watching a few hours of Hulu every day. So normal Web users won’t have any problems. (1000 megabytes = roughly 1 gigabyte.)
– A LOT of World of Warcraft. Downloading game patches uses a bunch of bandwidth once in a while, but normal game play tops out around 30-60 kilobytes/second, or maybe a 100-200 megabytes an hour run rate, according to one blog. Another user says normal usage is closer to 1-5 megabytes per hour. Continue to play until your eyes bleed.
– 2500-4000 MP3 albums, or 50,000 3-minute songs. Depending on quality/length, an MP3 album is somewhere between 60 and 100 megabytes. Amazon says its 3-minute MP3s are about 5 megabytes. There are only 43,200 minutes in a 30-day month, or enough time to listen to 14,400 3-minute songs. So you’ll be ok.
– 170-250 iTunes movie downloads. Digital movies in standard-def run between 1 and 1.5 gigabytes. “No Country For Old Men” is about 1.3 gigs, friend-o.
– 50-60 HD movie downloads. These run closer to 4-5 gigabytes each. So theoretically, this could be a problem, one day, for people who download more than 2 movies a day. Do you know any of those folks?
So: If you download one HD movie a week, six standard-def movies a week, 5 albums a week, play a ton of WoW, and surf a lot of YouTube and Hulu, you’ll still struggle to use 100 gigabytes of bandwidth per month. We think you’ll also struggle to listen to all that music and watch all those movies. Also, you should get out more. It’s nice outside! Go for a walk.
This cap would be in addition to the “network management” techniques Comcast will also be rolling out by the end of the year: Slowing down heavy downloaders’ speeds if Comcast thinks they’re slowing down its network.
Are these techniques ideal? No. Are they a reasonable compromise? Yes. Will they slow down Web innovation? Probably not. Comcast has every right to manage their network — it’s theirs, and any competition is welcome. And until hi-def Web video becomes massively popular, 250 gigabytes of Internet consumption per month is a niche behaviour that any Internet provider should be able to charge extra for.
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