Com-Capped at 250 Gigs

by Sachin Balagopalan on August 29, 2008 · 2 comments

Comcast has made it official - starting October 1 customers are going to be limited to a 250GB bandwidth threshold per month. So what does this “metered” approach mean to the average customer? Unless you’re someone who downloads huge amounts of video and other bandwidth intensive data it’s probably not going to impact you that much. And if you do happen to use more than 250GB’s per month you will be “contacted” and informed about your “bad” behavior. If you fail to curb your bad habits I’m assuming at some point they will shut you off.

… and establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB/month per account for all residential customers.

250 GB/month is an extremely large amount of data, much more than a typical residential customer uses on a monthly basis. Currently, the median monthly data usage by our residential customers is approximately 2 - 3 GB. To put 250 GB of monthly usage in perspective, a customer would have to do any one of the following:

  • Send 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email)
  • Download 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song)
  • Download 125 standard-definition movies (at 2 GB/movie)
  • Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (at 10 MB/photo)

This is the same system we have in place today. The only difference is that we will now provide a limit by which a customer may be contacted.

Forget about “50 Million Emails” or digital photographs. IMO the real issue here is the future and more importantly video. There is no doubt video will be the dominant content accessed over the internet and streaming video is going to be the norm rather than an exception. Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and Hulu already provide video content over the internet. We’re at the cusp of HD-Video becoming a mainstream reality over the internet. IMO the carriers and cablecos want a piece of the future revenue these bandwidth intensive applications have the potential of generating. By throttling data usage right now when it really doesn’t impact the average user that much sets a precedence. When the inevitable happens - it’s already happening as many of us are “hooking” our wide screen LCD’s and Plasma’s to the internet - we will be expected forced to pay for bandwidth consumption.

TechCrunch makes a good point however…

The Comcast move seems more focused on the politics of the FCC decision to rule out Comcast’s filtering of P2P traffic. But BitTorrent and other such traffic is all about downloading, not streaming, and the advent of new look-ahead streaming capabilities in Silverlight suggest that streaming can accommodate DVR-like functionality that makes the value proposition of “owning” the data on a local drive much less important.

The TechCrunch post is essentially talking about the difference between progressive video streaming via HTTP and “real” video streaming via a streaming media server that is utilized by technologies like Silverlight. In the case of progressive video streaming there is no “relationship” between the web server and the media player. The web server does not know at what rate the video is encoded. It just tries to push the entire file out as fast as it can thus taking up more bandwidth. Unlike a web server however a streaming media server “knows ” everything about the video file. When a request is received from the media player the server knows exactly how much of data it needs to serve up and the rate at which it should send the file. There is a “conversation” between the media payer and the server. Therefore the whole file is not pushed out. Only the required piece requested by the player is sent thus minimizing bandwidth usage. So theoretically anyway the bandwidth caps imposed by the telcos should not matter.

Something tells me the telcos and cablecos are going to figure ways to squeeze out the customer regardless of the technology - They always have!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Prisaz 09.01.08 at 8:29 am

I am in 100% agreement that it's Comcasts way to stick it to P2P when the FCC said no. Also look at the true comment regarding Video over IP. Look at the latest fiber provider and their video services. Can you imagine what would happen when they start to offer video subscriptions over the Cable company's coax? With the QAM technology used by cable and currently used by the fiber provider, there are limits. The fiber provider is already using IP for some of it's video. They will go 100% at some point. The cable companies must do something. Like gasp for air.

Matt 09.01.08 at 10:05 am

Someone tell me why it counts just as much to download a 1GB file at 4:30am when the network is at 5% capacity as when it’s 1:00pm when the network is at 90% capacity.

They should just implement the management practice they claimed they were implementing before the FCC complaint - dynamic, protocol-agnostic throttling. At any given time, take the top N users and throttle their bandwidth back, with each user throttled to the same speed such that the speed is greater than or equal to the next-highest user outside of the N group, with N being a value such that the network load is no more than 90%. Granted, it would be somewhat complicated to implement, and performance doesn’t simply drop off linearly with network load, but it can be done, and it can be done with existing technology.

This option would be fair for everyone, as it would affect the heaviest users first, and virtually never affect Comcast’s precious 99% who use 2-3GB/mo.

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