On Thursday, August 28, Comcast announced that as of October 1, 2008 they would be instituting a bandwidth cap for their internet customers.
You can see their announcement here: http://www.comcast.net/terms/network/amendment/
In a nutshell, they are limiting combined monthly uploads and downloads to 250 GB per month. If you go over that limit, you may receive a notice requesting that you reduce your usage. If you go over again within a 6 month period, your service will be suspended for a year.
How could this affect you?
That really all depends. According to Comcast (there is no independant data available), the average customer only uses 2-3 GB per month. Quoting their TOS:
"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)"
Under normal circumstances, you should be ok. However, there are some serious problems with this. So you have a family. You have 3 or 4 computers online at any given time. How is this chewing up your usage? Well, you just don't know, do you? Other than overclockers and serious gamers, most people don't. There are no meters in place to keep an eye on this, and Comcast has no intention of implementing one. You can find free meters online, but you would have to put one on each computer and add up the totals, but what about your Xbox or your Wii? They connect through your wifi, but there is no way to meter them.
According to Newteevee.com, there are 5 devices that you need to watch out for to keep your usage down. The Slingbox, Xbox 360, broadband connected TIVO, Netflix Roku, and Vudu's set-top box. All of these can possibly use up a significant portion of your bandwidth depending on your usage. HD movie downloads are around 5-8GB each. Watch too many of those and you are going to be in trouble. What if you take classes online or telecommute? If you are a true "digital family" you may be in trouble.
Personally, the Rock Star games and watches videos online, Girly-girl video im's her best friend Skittles, Hubby plays bridge online, I surf A LOT, upload to my blog and back it up to my computer, and the kids have Wii-connect. How much bandwidth are we using? Beats me.
I really do understand the need for some kind of limit. There are abusers out there. But there are also legitimate users out there that want or need that kind of bandwidth. How fair is it to not let us KNOW what we are using? Every other metered service that I have (electric, water, cell phone, etc.) has a way for me to check my usage. I think that is my biggest issue here, and I hope Comcast reconsiders instituting some kind of meter for my cable modem that can show ALL usage. There are other issues as well, however - even if you aren't a Comcast customer. As HD becomes more prominent, will they up the limit? Will they upgrade their infrastructure to keep up with need, or just institute new limits? How does this affect other providers? There are already a few companies out there that limit usage to 5, 15, 30GB. Some are toying with tiered fees determined by usage. It remains to be seen what the true connotations of this new limit are.
I will give Comcast credit for at least stating what their limit is. Apparently this has been an unwritten cap for some time, so it is nice to have it official. I love my Comcast service and certainly intend to keep it. I have very few outages and the speed is significantly better than any of the other choices in my area. But I definitely will be watching these developments.
In the meantime, I'll be finding one of those free meters, guessing about the things I cannot measure, and making sure my wifi is secure so noone can piggyback on my signal.
What about you? Do you think you come close to 250GB and how do you plan to track it?