ISP Enforcing Bandwidth Caps And Charging Extra

While this is not <just> a Comcast issue, there are a glut of these pieces in the news today:

Comcast: Company to Charge Extra for Internet Usage Exceeding 300 GB, Report Says

The basic premise is that network 'speeds' have little or nothing to do with congestion, but how much individuals are willing to pay for bandwidth.

Comcast has a program in place that places a bandwidth cap on individual/residental accounts unless users pay more:

Comcast began introducing 300 GB data caps for Internet subscribers across various markets in the U.S. If you go over your allotted bandwidth limit, you’ll be charged $10 for every 50GB of data you use. Or, you can opt to pay Comcast an extra $30/month to eliminate the cap completely.

Do you think this is fair? Many people are extremely negative on Comcast doing this, although other utility services (like water, electricity) also bill based on usage.

Very interesting that they are enforcing this.

300GB = 1Mb/s continuous per month so that's actually fairly significant even with the cap for most users.


Though water and electricity - and most utilities - charge by usage... they have always done so.

This is not the case for internet, which traditionally has been a flat charge.

By adding a 'cap' (which is a misnomer anyway; it is not a cap, but instead, an arbitrary usage threshold. i.e. you can use more than 300GB if you want to) Comcast is changing the rules.

This is nothing more than a bean-counter move, imo.

Marty watches Cool Hand Luke non stop, consumes 3000GB of bandwidth per month.

John studies PDFs and write posts, consumes 30GB of bandwidth per month.

John and Marty pay the same price for bandwidth.

What's fair about that? What's wrong with the ISP changing?

My meta point is that, historically, with ISPs, the variance in bandwidth consumption was fairly limited as there was only so much one could do on the Internet but as video based services have exploded, this has radically changed variances in usage patterns.

I never said there was anything inherently right or wrong about the move - simply that they are changing their rules. Is changing the rules fair?

I'm positive there is language in their user agreement that says it is - just as I'm sure that a customer affected by this change in rules might think that it is not.

I pay the same amount for health insurance each month that everyone in my company with the same plan pays - even though I never (knock on wood) use it while others do. How is that fair?

Comcast has 22.4M internet customers.

Comcast says that only ~2% of their customers approach or exceed 300GB/mo.

2% of 22.4M = 448K customers.

If ALL of them pay the extra $30/mo, Comcast snatches more than $13.4M 'new' revenue each month for adding nothing of value.

Obviously they all wont pay - some will change providers. But imo, if you are one of the 2% of Comcast customers that exceed 300GB/mo, it aint like you are just going to quit.

I don't like it, I use about 500gb per month! But I understand it, many cable companies are losing revenue to Internet TV. This is simply a way for them to make up that lost revenue. As internet TV becomes more popular I wouldn't be surprised if those rates go higher. Like I said I don't like it but who am I.

Sorry my math was way off!

I think it is fair; more than likely, the users that are complaining do not understand it. If you take into consideration the resources that are required to consume 300GB, then you would understand it. For example, consider a consumer that is paying for a 10Mbps cable connection; if that connection was utilized 100% of the entire billing cycle, the consumption would equate to around ~3TB of data. Take the average work day and the time it takes to prepare for work, time for commuting, and the hours required for a good nights sleep, you are already in at ~18 hours of not using the Internet directly. Based on this, if a consumer used that 25%, then at the end of the month, that user would have consumed ~765GB of data.

You leave the air conditioning on while you are at work, you pay for the resources you use.

Can't have that both ways.

If that were the case, then what if I am out of town for a month and use nothing? Should my bill be $0?

True, but most would not be away for a month. The same could be said that one is paying for a 10Mbps and should theoretically be allowed to consume 3TB. 300GB is a lot of data for a residential user, if you are using more than that then you should pay for it, it is that simple. How much of a CAP is important too; what is the resource that is trending. It is obvious that video is demanding on bandwidth resources, so when the requirements change for video, so will the cap.

If fairness was the motivating catalyst behind Comcast's move, then they would offer $10/month discounts for each block of 50GBs under 300 used each month by the other 98% of their customers. :)

"if I am out of town for a month and use nothing? Should my bill be $0?"

Most people likely do not want to worry about wild fluctuations of Internet / bandwidth charges, especially since many have little idea how much bandwidth they are using.

Even the new controversial Comcast model is relatively simple with two main options - normal and unlimited.

My family of 5 streaming Netflix and Youtube puts us between 600-700GB per month (lots of kids/teen content). We're not in a market Comcast has piloted the caps in yet, but I'm paying them $150/mo for 110Mbps and a premium channel lineup (Redzone ect), no VOIP.

Its always been a pretty fluid pricing model with my account and I expect this will be no different. I'll call back every 6 months and probably end up paying them on average another $10-$15/mo for the unlimited package by jockeying around options across TV and internet promos.

Interesting considering:

Lightning Strikes The Home: Comcast Rolling Out 2 Gbps Fiber To The Door

I think you might blow thru your cap in about half an hour.

I totally agree; however, I would also hope that the 300GB cap would not exist for those speeds, if so, then it would be not that fair at that rate.

$159.00 a month for two years, introductory price. $500-1000 install price, NO CAP

the new 2-Gig service is available in the following areas:

  • Florida: Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, and West Palm Beach.
  • Georgia: Atlanta.
  • Illinois: Chicago.
  • Indiana: Anderson, Bloomington, Columbus, Elkhart, Fort Wayne, Gary, Hammond, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Lafayette, and South Bend.
  • Michigan: Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, and Lansing.
  • Tennessee: Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville.
  • California: Chico, Fresno, Marysville/Yuba City, Merced, Modesto, Monterey, Sacramento, Salinas, San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara County, Stockton and Visalia.

I am generally a proponent of pay as you go plans. I even favor toll roads.

I do have at least one issue with this. Using John's analogy above:

Marty watches Cool Hand Luke all day and uses 3000GB. John studies and writes post all day.

I agree that Marty is obviously using more, but Marty is using more what exactly? Bandwidth or data? Comcast is not saying Marty is causing congestion, they are just saying Marty uses more data and that is not fair to John. Fair according to whom?

I would contend that in general, if Marty is watching Cool Hand all day every day, he likely is paying for more bandwidth. He has more pipe because he doesn't want to put up with interruptions and buffering while Newman eats the boiled eggs.

John is probably paying for a smaller pipe. His screen stays pretty static from minute to minute.

Isn't Marty already paying for the privilege of consuming more data by the fact that he has purchased a bigger pipe plan?

So now Comcast and others want Marty to pay for a larger pipe and charge him for "excess data" (they freely admit it is an amount they get to decide, arbitrarily). The content he consumes isn't costing Comcast anything. They didn't create it.

If this truly were a public electric utility situation, I pay an electrician (a one time charge) to install a wall socket every 6 feet, throughout my home. Some rooms have 220vac; my garage might even have 440vac. I can use all I want. As long as it is up to code, the utility does not care how I wire my home. I pay them for the flow of electrons monthly.

Comcast is charging monthly for both bandwidth (the size of the pipe) and the data that comes out of the pipe. Seems like a nice plan if you can get it.


Normally, I would say that anyone that favors toll roads needs to be clubbed - but I get your point... and agree (except about toll roads). ;)

I also agree with John that people don't want wildly different charges each month based on actual usage of internet - but I think this is largely because they've never had to. But it's not like the model is alien - they use this model for utilities - as Brian noted.

Plus, Mark has a point about the difference between the 'stuff' you are paying for.

Electricity comes into my house in measurable chunks - as does water. Each of these things has an actual value per chunk (meaning the provider also pays some lesser amount for these chunks).

To further Marks point (I think), ISP's have traditionally charged a monthly fee based on speed - how fast the customer can send/receive data. Now they want to keep doing that, while also tacking on a premium for using more actual bits across the 'speed platform' you already pay for.

Double Dip

Similar here with AT&T, previous unlimited dataplan modified to 130GB cap which at first seemed OK. $10 per 10GB per month, as needed, automatically added to billing period. But bandwidth usage is well above that and growing with google cloud print, iPhone cloud backups, file storage, and services, AT&T dsl internet router/wifi connectivity for cellphones, netbooks, laptops, and streaming services such as NetFlix, and news.

The idea of cloud computing, storage, soon to come Windows cloud OS, and media having moved to streaming seems to be at odds with the carriers.

Can't have it both ways.