Comcast (CMCSA) is considering capping the amount of bandwidth its cable modem subscribers could use each month, according to a DSLReports tipster. The plan is to allow subs to download 250 gigabytes per month as part of their monthly service fee, with an overage charge of $15 for every 10 gigabytes beyond the cap.
If true, it would mean that Comcast would be joining the ranks of Time Warner Cable (TWC), which is also considering charging its cable modem subscribers based on how much bandwidth they use.
We’re assuming that this will outrage folks who like to get outraged by any kind of limit, or any kind of payment system. But we’ve done some back-of-the-envelope maths, and we don’t see how this cap limit would affect any but the most obscene bandwidth hogs.
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.
Bottom line: 250 gigabytes is a fair cap for now. According to DSLReports’ tipster, this would only impact about 14,000 subscribers out of 14 million — or the top 0.1% of downloaders.
Once HD Web video is more widespread, more people might hit their caps. But for now, it’s a very niche activity — and won’t be mainstream for a while.
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