Opposing Comcast's Internet Bandwidth Cap (Opinion)

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sykozis

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If you have an active contract (meaning you've signed a service agreement that guarantees specific terms for a pre-determined amount of time), then Comcast can't enact a data cap on you without your consent, unless otherwise specified in the contract itself. I'd expect Comcast, as shady as they're known to be, probably has some clause built into their contracts that allows them to do pretty much anything they want.
 

KK98045

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Comcast says good news, you only use 300GB. Yeah, I do now. However, if I upgrade to 4K video this immediately goes up well past 1TB. This hits the retired particularly hard since we're home all day and watch a lot of video. When I was working we were home and awake 6 hours a day. Now we are home and awake 16 hours a day. 1TB won't be much 5 years from now. Even 5 years ago 10GB would have been significant. Don't be complacent because Comcast is so "generous" now. Ten to 15 years ago Comcast was considering a 1GB limit.

Comcast has a complete monopoly in our area and probably will indefinitely. There is zero choice. We should not allow monopolies to take advantage of us. Please note that while our utility franchise authority (our county) does have some limited control over TV prices, they have zero control over data. According to them the only entity that has any control is the FCC. Complain to the FCC. Complain to your elected representatives. Even complain to Comcast itself.
 

dalauder

Splendid
I stream maybe 3 hours of video a day and it's not even all HD and I used 267GB in July. If I streamed 3D or 4K video, I'd have gone over 1TB already.

I've got 1TB on my OneDrive and every time I connect a computer, it syncs 200GB of data. I could devise many scenarios where 1TB of data would be insufficient without disregard for my data usage.

What if my 3-year-old turns 5 eventually and I let her watch some of her own shows on a tablet while I watch Netflix? What if I watch 5 hours of video during the summer or March Madness AND get a new laptop and decide to sync my OneDrive and download 6 games on Steam/Origin?
 

falchard

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I think there are a few things going on here.
First data caps are not new for Comcast. As Comcast builds out it's network and offers higher speed, they will need to impose temporary data caps regardless in order to not overload their systems. Still this is assuming they are properly building out their systems which one would assume they are, or they would have already went out of business.
Second Comcast has to find ways to offer better internet services as people demand more. They can't do the fast lane type deal where a service like Netflix can offer quicker more reliable streams that give Comcast less network overhead. If they tier data, they don't fall into the net neutrality rules which would be the next logical choice.
Third, this doesn't concern me at all. I have 300MB/s uncapped data service from Cox. Suck it plebeians who are stuck with a choice between 2 shitty ISPs.
 

dxbydt

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Having the FCC getting involved with the internet is pandora's box. Let the problem sort itself out naturally. Enable competition, don't stifle it.
 

synphul

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It's not good news for end users but at the same time it seems there's conflicting interests. I'm not a fan of comcast by any means but if people are jumping ship on their main service (cable television) and they offer internet as well it's a normal transition for a company to try and pick up lost customers on the backend somewhere.

The conflict of interests or goals comes from trends, media providers and then the backbone that actually provides it. Woohoo, youtube transitions to offer 4k content. What do they care, it's new and cool and people love it. They're not having to provide the infrastructure for all the end users and the bandwidth for them to do so.

Similar to the odds of intel vs the motherboard manufacturers battling over offering conflicting features. Intel says no, we want our cpu's to work this way and the motherboard manufacturers decide pfft, we'll do what we want.

Rather than working together they're working against each other. In this case the bloated content providers and the ones who are then left picking up the bill to provide access to all the bloat. In a relatively short period of time we went from text/image based content to a healthy majority of video content which is vastly more bloated than text/images. That video went up and up and up in resolution which doubles and triples the bandwidth to view the same material.

Try jamming semi's shipping products coast to coast into the bike lane that was never really intended for that sort of traffic. Who is going to pay to widen the lanes? It won't just magically appear. I think that's the reason for the data caps, as it was cable used to have shared pools of data connection which is why speeds were rated 'up to' a certain speed range. When everyone was home from work and school and the neighborhood usage became overloaded everyone's speeds dropped. That was prior to 2k or 4k video, now they want that dumped into it on top of it.

With the bloated video being pushed over mobile connections many 'unlimited' mobile providers were forced to cap their service and impose speed shifts after a certain amount of data. The bandwidth they had available to everyone is finite and they have to spread it out. Reading email and checking social media was a non issue, but now everyone wants 4k picture in picture while viewing their vines and everything else in super mega uber hd. That comes at a sever 'cost' in terms of bandwidth. Dvd picture quality isn't horrible by any means, bluray offered slightly better resolution with better audio. However a 4.7gb dvd quickly meant shifting to a 25gb bluray disc. moving in image quality between those two formats means that people would be consuming 5x the bandwidth to watch the same content.

I won't pretend that there isn't monetary incentive for comcast to gain extra profits anywhere they can, no company generally turns that down. Rather than work to develop new compression algorithms though content providers would rather throw the options out there then leave the isp to pick up the tab and figure out the logistics of it. The repercussions of that means data caps. Overall 1tb caps aren't near as bad as others, many mobile providers drop their speeds after just a few gb's, are anti tethering and can deny service if they find out it's being abused.

Satellite internet like wildblue/hughesnet the best plan you can get is 15mbps down, 2mbps up with a data cap of 70gb/mo. At that it's 20gb/mo with 50gb/mo 'bonus' usage that applies between the hours of 2am and 8am, when hardly anyone is likely to be using it. Clever tricks to offer something but not really. That's all for $130/mo. The 50gb worth of bonus bandwidth is stated that it will likely be slower than advertised.

The US in general compared to many other places has really poor internet infrastructure and options. People's complaints that all they have are comcast, that would be an improvement where I live. Just an hour away from a major metro area and I can't even get comcast. My choices are wireless 3g, dialup and satellite. No cable, no fiber, no dsl.

I can understand the frustration to a degree, limited options is no fun but on the other hand, 1st world problems. 1tb/mo for less than some of us can get 70gb/mo isn't that bad of a deal. Many carriers/isps have had to tighten their belts with the data bloat taken for granted on the internet today so it's not really surprising.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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In all seriousness, bandwidth usage is going up for everyone. Even people who don't think they do much. The new software model is an "always connected" one. You log into Windows with a Microsoft Account, it's saving and backing up files to OneDrive, you download and play games from Steam, you connect your phone to WiFi to get updates, etc. Programs expect to be able to connect and get patches and validate, some games don't even allow offline play anymore. Apps get installed by default and are in constant communication, even ones you've never used. And don't get me started on how much additional bandwidth gets used by advertisers and their autoplaying video ads.
 

shrapnel_indie

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While Tiered data limits are nothing new, look to your phone carrier here in the U.S.... and now two or more carriers have decided to offer "unlimited" that is NOT really unlimited by throttling your speeds. Oh yeah, get X amount at 4G speeds, but soon as you hit their "soft" cap, you're throttled down to practically unusable 2G speeds. Look at Satellite internet too. Good speed, horrible lag, and data caps if surpassed overage fees that cause you pain.

While I don't have Comcast here, choices are still limited. I either go with Cox, some satellite service, somebody's DSL service, or pay extra for "unlimited" on my cell-service so I can tether to my computer, or pay a service that offers just 4G unlimited (using speed tiers) data. As someone who plays on-line games and streams Netflix, most are unsatisfactory.

Now, THIS, in addition to Comcast's other sins ( http://www.tomshardware.com/news/fcc-fine-comcast-unwanted-services,32845.html ) known and yet to be found, should, IMHO, be enough grounds to audit the whole company's practices with heavy fines for violations (not just a slap on the hand.)
 

oldboy2508

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Bandwidth and data caps are two different things. Bandwidth is how fast you can move data, data caps are how much you can download over a period of time. I could have 150 Mbs connection and no cap or a 50 Mbs connection with a 100 GB per month data cap. STOP MIXING UP THE TERMS. BANDWIDTH != DATA CAP BANDWIDTH IS YOUR CONNECTION SPEED AND NOT HOW MUCH YOU CAN D/L PER A TIME PERIOD. This is as bad as the misnomer of "hoverboard", they DON"T HOVER.
 

jpishgar

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America's bandwidth costs 3.5x more than similar bandwidth with similar upload/download speeds in Europe. The "quality" of our bandwidth is not better. The customer support that accompanies the bandwidth is not better. The data transmitted via this bandwidth is not somehow more valuable. We are simply charged this amount for this little in return because:

1. We are forced to do so with no alternatives, or pretend alternatives. Would you like Behemoth International's 150mb speed demon plan, or Dinky Flicker & Flash's 52k modem service?
2. Our municipal governments are complicit in exchanging anti-compete agreements for public land usage with providers for free bandwidth for local government. So your local city council can say "Look, we saved oodles of money by getting our internet for free for the city!" Yeah, but you sold out your constituents who are now left with no viable alternatives and are locked into a monopoly or duopoly that is shaking them down.
3. We have no regulatory protections in place for what is, in essence, a utility essential to modern life. Service providers are incentivized to get more and more granular on what they are able to charge us for. 5% for downloading that non-EA game, a $20 Netflix surcharge, and $0.38 per mb for that adult site. Absurd? Wait a little bit and see.

-JP
 

mrjhh

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As the usage goes up, the ISP needs to increase bandwidth both from the cable head-end to customers, as well as to the internet (or support local CDN equipment such as available from Google and Netflix). The question is how one profitably pays for that infrastructure. I suspect that "sponsored data" will start showing up in ISP networks, just like is coming for wireless networks. That is likely to start increasing the price of those OTT services like Netflix. Comcast is likley hoping that the ire for data usage will at least partly go to Netflix and friends, rather than just Comcast.
 

Onus

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"Use more, pay more" = cool; "use same, pay more" = uncool. I understand and agree with the "use more, pay more" concept, particularly if "using more" "costs more;" but does it? How much more? What bothers me about this is the lack of transparency. Customers don't want caps; the customer is always right; what is Comcast doing to eliminate the need for caps? Are they improving their infrastructure? I wouldn't bet on it. This is a money-grab, nothing else, and that's what ticks me off. Unless you're providing more, there is no excuse to charge more.
So, what's the fix? How about tiering bandwidth, not data. Have a standard plan that is fast, but maybe doesn't quite support 4K smoothly. Have a 4K service level that offers enough bandwidth for trouble-free 4K streaming on a single system. Use "4K+" for service that allows trouble-free 4K streaming while someone else surfs, or uses other low-bandwidth Internet. Then, offer "4K Home" which is fast enough to allow multiple 4K streams at the same time.
 

jk8860

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to play devil's advocate, what is wrong with paying by meter, like you do with electricity, you only pay for what you use. I don't have high speed at my house, only have access to satellite which is crummy!
 
well think of your cell phone. you have a speed limit and a data limit if your like most people unless you actually pay for unlimited data. so what is Comcast doing that's any different then your cell phone company? think about it I used to get 4gb of data from Verizon that I cant even get 2gb now for that cost. Comcast is no different then what all the other company's are thinking and doing. and yes all the company's want to do is make money. So like all business they will find a way to nickel and dime you to death. even Walmart does it by having there suppliers shrink packages just so there prices look "cheaper" then the competition.
 

Tykkopoles

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It killed me when one of Tom's writers, Michael Justin Allen Sexton, made this quote:



He was defending the article he posted on the 1 TB caps, where he said that the reasons was because of limited bandwidth. In calling out his impropriety, I made this statement:



Now, to continue on this as to what I believe to be the final answer, I want you all to travel back with me to 1982. It was a historic year for Capitalism. A company called The Bell System had owned a monopoly on telecommunications and telegraphy in the US and Canada, both technology and service. The year 1982 saw the Department of Justice finally settle the 8-year-long anti-trust proceedings against The Bell System that resulted in a complete divestiture. That is, the system was broken up.

Coming back to present day, Comcast, is not the same scenario by any means. They do not have a complete monopoly in internet services and technology across the US and Canada. However, they do have several regional monopolies, where they will go so far as lobbying local governments to prevent competitors from entering the region. These regions see extremely sub-par services for excessive prices. There is no competition to stop it.

But let's look a the top level as well: Comcast also owns NBC Universal. NBCU is a corporation that has subsidiaries worldwide, and owns content creation and distribution channels everywhere. If one of the world's largest internet/cable service provider owning one of the worlds largest media conglomerate doesn't scream "conflict of interest", I don't know what does.

My proposal is that we repeat the Bell System Divestiture with firstly separating Comcast and NBC Universal, then breaking Comcast itself into smaller regional entities. These entities would then have to compete with each other.

And Comcast is not the only target in my cross-hairs: Time-Warner, CenturyLink, et al could use a massive divestiture and dissolution.

The alternative would be to give Google carte blanche and government funding to speed up the roll-out of Google Fiber in more regions to really create massive competition with these giants, but I am even more skeptical of that as a viable alternative. That sounds just plain dangerous, to be honest.
 

DRosencraft

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@Tykkopoles, the issue with your solution is that the decision on breaking up NBC Universal is moot at this point because the part of the government that decides that issue is the one that approved the merger just a couple years ago in the first place, and determined those issues were not a barrier to the deal. Furthermore, in almost every case where there is an apparent monopoly by an ISP, it is a nature of either agreements, or simple inconvenience. In other words, the local municipal government has to negotiate the terms of any ISP entering, specifically cable, satellite to a lesser extent, due to the rights involved in laying wiring, or the other options exist, but are just very poor, so it doesn't meet a legal definition of a monopoly.

True story - when my family moved to a house in Southwest Florida almost a decade and a half ago, we tried to get cable in our house. We had to get TV from one company, internet/phone, from another. We couldn't get all from the one we wanted because they used different wiring than what already was in place in the house, and in our municipality you had to get a permit to run wires in the wall of a home if you were not the homeowner yourself doing it. You couldn't get someone else "drill a hole in your wall" to run that wire unless you went through the extra steps of getting and paying for a permit, and having an inspector come out to check off on the work. So if your home had older copper cabling or something, and you want the new, faster, DSL or fiber-optic, whoever your provider would be, would have to apply for a permit to run the new cable in your walls. The only reason Comcast even entered our neighborhood a few years ago was because they basically asked how many people would switch to them, and said they wouldn't do it until they had enough folks to make that commitment. The cable ISP in place, CenturyLink, did something similar before rolling out their own fiber system.

The point of this is that this problem is as much a problem of the rules put in place by these municipalities as it has to do with the ISPs. Folks balk at the ISPs for not raising quality enough while always raising prices, but there are also a lot of rules and the like at the city, county, level that are playing a big role too.
 

kittle

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weird marketing in that video. They assume people do only ONE thing per month, I dont think anybody fits in that box.
If you do multiple things (as most of us do) - Then by their own definition, you have already used 2TB or 3TB in a single month.

I guess they WANT people to go over their new limits so they can charge use mega overage fees.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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It's a fair point to make that the rules and regulations are often byzantine and anti-competitive. However, it's also important to note that in many cases, those rules were proposed and quite literally written industry lobbyists. Just check out all the states that tried to pass bills banning municipal broadband last year.

Lobbyists writing laws has actually gone from a cottage industry to big business, at least here in the US.
 

grimfox

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This is just the first step. In 10 years when 4k or even higher resolution content is the norm these same data caps will still be in place. And Comcast will tell you that this cap has been fine for years and that you are a data hog when you go complain to them about the overage fees. Certainly by then they will have done away with the unlimited option and introduced cap tiers. This is not a dystopian future this is our future if we do not force the ISPs to change. It's not enough to send a letter to just the FCC (but it is a start and it will help) you'll have to send a letter to your congressmen and women too. We've seen how quickly the FCC can be neutered when the ISP lobbies send their paid off officials after "over reaches" by the FCC.
 

Nephi80

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We can easily use a TB a month. I have a family of 8 with everyone having a cell phone, tablet, and tv. If we all use our devices we can blow through that small amount in no time. We don't have cable. We are a tech family. We stream Netflix, Amazon, VUDU, Sling, etc. We stream everything. Give it five years before all you can do is stream. 1 TB isn't and won't be enough.
 

synphul

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When it comes to data caps, leaving gouging aside and trying to understand legitimate reasons, it might be a way of making people more conscientious of their use. If they cap speeds then people are stuck with slow access that may not be suitable enough to stream a show or play a game or anything else, depending on the user's needs/wants it may be similar to unlimited dialup. Sure it's unlimited but never fast enough. If they limit by certain times of the day it's going to consistently hurt certain people depending on their job schedule.

By placing a total use limit it may allow people the freedom to surf at whatever hour they're on, the speed they need to access various things without being crippled and make the end user more conservative with their usage. Giving them incentive as they realize they only have so much access, don't spend it all on one day without being a total bandwidth dictator to them. Here's your 1tb for the month, use it as you see fit.

Bandwidth fees aren't really a new concept, web hosts charge for it as well. It might vary from host to host but usually if your site is hosting x amount of content or say you have high bandwidth content like a video hosted and users are downloading that video repeatedly, eventually you'll be paying more for your web hosting services.

Unlimited data use implemented in the past, I'm sure they figured there was only so much a person could use. Content has become so bloated and speeds so fast that many likely don't even realize how much data is being used because they can access it just as fast. It's a bit like an all you can eat deal at a restaurant. When they offer 'all you can eat shrimp' they likely figured most people would just have one plate of it. Some will have 2 plates worth and a few others might have 3. It was all factored into the equation. The concept of all you can eat didn't factor a person coming in and shoveling down a metric ton of shrimp for $10.95 much less 50% or more of their patrons doing so, they'd be broke.

At some point restaurants have had to abandon that offer because what they meant was "all you can eat (within reason)", not sit there for 8hrs eating them out of house and home. The way many use their broadband these days, everything requiring a connection, streaming all their entertainment, they're becoming the crowd that camps at a restaurant for 8hrs and eating their metric ton worth of data.

I'm like anyone else, I wish everything was cheap and unlimited. I'd love to be able to replace all my entertainment with a cheap unlimited data source like cable, 500mbps and unlimited use, get rid of paid television, never have to rent a movie again etc. It would be fantastic if that existed and was available to every single person. It's just not realistic though. Everything is doled out for a price per unit, we're usually not limited to consumption other than by our wallet. Use all the electricity you want, use all the fuel you want - but it'll cost you. This isn't much different and the usage guidelines as they are seem to be reasonable compared to other services.
 
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