Could overage charges be part of their solution?
Last modified on Friday, 09 May 2008 09:19
The days of unlimited Internet access could be coming to an end for Comcast customers at some point in the near future, as Comcast considerers the possibility of a per month cap. The pricing structure would charge a flat fee for monthly service with a maximum amount of data that can be transferred downstream during that monthly period, and those that exceed the monthly maximum would be subject to heavy overage penalties.
While nothing is set in stone yet, Comcast is said to be considering a cap of 250GB per month with a $15 charge per 10GB that you a customer exceeds the cap. While that might sound reasonable to some, the plan is targeted to deal with bandwidth hogs, many of which are engaged in what Comcast considers illegal BitTorrent activity. As part of the plan, customers would get one mulligan per 12-month period, meaning that once in a 12-month period the customer could exceed the 250GB cap without being charged.
Comcast has come under fire for using traffic shaping technology to deal with BitTorrent users by using forged TCP packets to terminate or disrupt BitTorrent connections. However, many BitTorrent users have been getting around this by using other ways to hide the traffic. Comcast claims that curbing the abuse of the liberal policies that are in place are impacting performance of those that are not abusing the system. This coincides with an effort to step up DMCA P2P pirate enforcement by Comcast of its customers by tracking letters that their customers are getting from the DMCA. Four letters in a 12-month period would spell disconnection.
According to reports, if Comcast were to make this change it would only affect roughly 14,000 out of over 14 million Comcast Internet customers. Comcast has had a reputation of being heavy-handed in dealing with customers who have crossed the thresholds that the company has established internally to monitor bandwidth consumption. Customers that exceeded these thresholds were sent disconnection letters that didn’t even go into detail as to how much bandwidth the customers had used and what the company’s specific threshold policies were.
Comcast has recently talked about an Internet bill of rights, a transparent explanation of their policies, and the fact that they want to be protocol agnostic. All of this is in response to the massive backlash from Comcast customers over traffic shaping that they were engaged in.
While no final decision has been made yet, it does seem that other providers are also warming up to the idea of some sort of limits. Time Warner has also spoken of considering the possibility of limits, as well. Some Internet users will not care one way or the other if providers impose limits and overage charges, but some that are high bandwidth users will have to adapt or be dropped by their ISP.