The Comcast Cap
posted at 9:45 am on August 29, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
I moved away from Comcast just in time, it seems. The cable giant has decided that its users only need a certain amount of Internet traffic each month, and when they hit the limit, their customers can party like it’s 1989. Starting October 1, Comcast switches to a shortage economy on Internet usage:
Comcast Corp., the nation’s second-largest Internet service provider, Thursday said it would set an official limit on the amount of data subscribers can download and upload each month.
On Oct. 1, the cable company will update its user agreement to say that users will be allowed 250 gigabytes of traffic per month, the company announced on its Web site.
Comcast has already reserved the right to cut off subscribers who use too much bandwidth each month, without specifying exactly what constitutes excessive use.
Granted, a 250 GB cap will restrict few people on the network. Comcast points out that a user could download four feature-length films each day and not run afoul of the cap. They expect few actual confrontations over the limitation, and they plan to counsel customers who come close to disconnection.
However, the entire notion seems a little strange, especially as prices keep falling on the technology needed to build infrastructure for delivery. Comcast offers a good price on their connection, but they’re hardly losing money, and the economy of scale favors the largest providers. Telco providers don’t penalize customers for making too many local calls, and that’s arguably more of a resource issue than broadband Internet. It looks like a Net Neutrality-friendly way of putting the lid on P2P and file-swapping users.
This change will further impact Comcast’s perception in the marketplace as a capricious and arbitrary provider and lower trust in its brand among the users they need to attract. One has to wonder whether this policy based on shortage really reflects a cost issue or just the turf-protecting impulse found within big corporations. At the very least, it makes Comcast look paternalistic and condescending — and cheap. (image via Lonely Machines)