77 thoughts on “Memo To Comcast: Show Us the Meter for Metered Broadband”

  1. Very true Om. If they meter, we want the meter which is metering us. Its a fair expectation. They just cannot call up and say ‘you are being kicked due to overage’. Consumers have the right to know their consumption all along.
    On the HD movie note, it seems that everyone’s problem against Comcast caps is the same 😉

  2. The more I think about it, Om, the more I think broadband caps are anti-competitive. Basically, once everything switches to high-def and people start watching content over the Internet en-masse, the more I see Comcast clamping down. While it’s “fair” that they are finally saying what the limits are, metered bandwidth by definition discriminates against content that competes with their less than stellar television offerings.

  3. You missed the best part of the FAQ:

    “How does Comcast help its customers track their usage so they can avoide exceeding the limit?”

    “There are many online tools customers can download and use to measure their consumption. Customers can find such tools by simply doing a Web search – for example, a search for “bandwidth meter” will provide some options. Customers using multiple PCs should just be aware that they will need to measure and combine their total monthly usage in order to identify the data usage for their entire account.”

    Translation: we don’t! And given the many different ways that one could “count bandwidth”, users have no idea where they stand.

  4. I checked SNMP stats on my router, and I consume approximately 100GB per month on my poky DSL line in San Francisco (AT&T DSL, but actual Internet transit provided by a decent ISP, Raw Bandwidth).

    The thing is, I don’t download movies, HD or otherwise, nor do I run P2P (I listen mostly to Classical music, which is not well represented, and only care about lossless formats, not nasty MP3s). I run my mail server on my home machine, as well as my RSS aggregator and some ancillary services for myself that are not used by the Internet at large (well, apart from my secondary DNS server, that is).

    Comcast’s so-called arguments are a thinly veiled way to milk its duopoly. If ISPs in Japan, South Korea or Europe can offer unlimited service at true high speeds, even though their salary costs are higher than in the US and their cost of Internet transit also usually 50-100% more expensive, Comcast can afford to do so as well.

  5. Could one use the information (bytes sent/bytes received) in the Windows network properties to get a rough estimate of bandwidth usage? Granted, as you mention, it’s unclear whether or not TCP/IP packet overhead is included or not.

    For example, I’ve had a wifi connection at home for 3.5 days, and I’ve received about 3 gigs of data, so I could extrapolate somewhere between 25-30GB per month. If you think about the 250GB limit, it’s pretty sneaky, because at 50GB for a Blu-Ray HD DVD, it means you could only download maybe 4 HD movies per month (whether legally — through someone like Netflix or iTunes, or illegally — through, say bit torrent) — until you presumably had to pay Comcast more money. A nifty little workaround to net neutrality, eh?

    (duplicate content note: I made a similar comment on a friend’s personal blog who also wrote about Comcast’s bandwidth’s limit)

  6. As long as the meter doesn’t require Comcast software being installed on your computer, I think it’s an excellent idea.

    Particularly in a world of bandwidth caps, I don’t want/need any vendor software installed on my machine. Verizon FIOS doesn’t even offer a (non-hack) way to view your user account and billing information without installing their crapware.

  7. I’m just waiting for spam offering botnets to knock someone off from the Internet for a year. It should only take about 5 days of continuous beating on a port to send someone over the limit. Make it harder to detect, spread the attack over 30 days and assume the user is using some of their bandwidth too.

  8. For the time being Om, 250Gb/Month isn’t so bad.
    It will surely grow in the future, but when that comes, they’ll pretty much have to increase it to suit demands – either through competition with other ISPs (which would be giving out more free initial bandwidth per month) or start charging for the extra. AT&T has always wanted charge per extra bandwidth as a business model… This could be a smoother introduction to the social conscious of the heavy internet user.

  9. “For the time being Om, 250Gb/Month isn’t so bad.
    It will surely grow in the future,”

    No, it probably won’t, and that’s the major problem with accepting caps, even if they initially seem reasonable. There’s absolutely nothing preventing Comcast from lowering this cap whenever they deem it necessary, nor do they ever actually provide pure data proving congestion, nor (despite the recent FCC dog and pony show) does this country have a tough enough regulatory authority to police caps should they be abused.

    It’s a door that once we walk through, we won’t be walking back out of. I ultimately believe it ends with highly overpriced metered billing and begins with baby steps.

  10. This is clearly not about today, this is about tomorrow and after. They always had the right to cancel contracts.
    If innovation is about the future then this is clearly designed to direct innovation away from comcast’s net and it’s customers so they can do business a usual.
    Innovation and leading is about setting a goal and using data to get there.
    Management is about using data to set a goal and to get there. Therefore Managed companies without a leader will always be slow and do just what’s easy and easily identifiable. They will fight innovation since it’s out of their reach to identify and archiv.
    Om is right.

  11. Om – great points in your post. A great example of companies that give users the ability to see exactly where they stand in regards to their limits is wireless phone companies. I can login to ATT’s website any time from anywhere to check my minutes usage and see how many minutes I have left this month. Something similar integrated into Comcast’s online billing system would be wonderful

    Also, It occurs to me that the proliferation of bandwidth limit caps could open a great new market opportunity for consumer devices that measure bandwidth usage that could be connected to the incoming connection just behind the router or access point. For that matter, I could even see routers that measure usage themselves through hardware or a firmware update becoming quite popular.

  12. It is definitely about tomorrow — what everyone needs to keep in mind is that Comcast in most markets is the fastest game in town. There is no real competition for the speed that they can deliver. When this happens, it will change those users habits unnecessarily and in turn cripple their enjoyment of the services they want to use and have been enjoying since they originally signed up with Comcast.

    Very, very bad move.

  13. The key statistic that Comcast leaves out? At 8 Mb/s for MPEG-4 AVC HD video, a 250 GB cap is about two and a half hours a day.

    The average US household watches 8 hours and 11 minutes of TV per day.

    Intended or not, this cap will have the effect of limiting the ability of over-the-top video to supplant “traditional” cable video delivery (broadcast or on-demand) and its business model.

  14. @DG Lewis

    I agree with you and have been saying this for nearly six months. Unfortunately people are falling for their arithmetic and paying attention to the bigger picture here.

  15. Excellent post Om. And here’s how it will go. At some point the government will likely step in and require it (consumers to be able to look at their usage). At which point Comcast will do what the telcos did when the government pushed for number portability. They’ll rant and rave about how providing such a feature will “increase costs” that will have to be passed on to the consumer. And of course we know how they hate passing on costs to the consumer ;-).

  16. Yes. This is true. We want meter. Atleast for my personal verification I want to know how much I use. How can you believe you comcast if you call me one fine morning and just say I over used? What will happen to so many people without securing their passwords on their routers? What will happen if some road warriors tapped into my router and used it heavily. Just logically you can say 250GB is high enough. What is the guarantee that you will use it against just some customers to cut their service. Worrying every minute whether I over used or not without knowing whats going on will be a hell. So me some meter, some proof that I am using this much. Thats why I switched to DSL long back.

  17. One more question. Even if you give me some meter, how can I believe its a reliable one? Is it approved by some authorities or governing bodies? How some one can prove they did not use a lot but someone else in the apartments hooked to my internet and used it? Will comcast print my usage on monthly billings or just I have to assume that I am not overusing reading some blogs like this? Already talking to comcase customer service is very tough. What will happen if I call customer service with so many questions like this? How the customer service will get knowledge about all these? So many things to be answered…

  18. I believe if Comcast insists on regulating our usage of the internet then the only proper response we’ll have is to start regulating Comcast.

    So much for the idea/goal of a free market.

    There’s no way Comcast can even know the can of worms this little action might open.

  19. Another point to note is how will this impact telecomuters. Sending data back and forth via VPN for 8+ hours a day. If they are RDPing into another machine you have the overhead of all the graphics to dispaly the remote machines desktop, etc.

  20. Another excellent post Om and thanks for taking up the fight when it seems none of the big names care.

    We can fight this ourselves – as someone else posted I don’t want Comcast crapware or more importantly SPYWARE on my computer. So here is the solution (which I’m sure Comcast is aware of but failed to mention – they only talked of the PC based meters – because those types of meters will be easy to fight in court). Comcast users need to buy a Linksys WRT-54GL (has to be the GL model) or a used Linksys wrt-54g (but only versions 1-4) from Ebay and install either the Tomato or DD-WRT firmware. This will monitor your internet usage over ALL of your internet appliances. It will also tell you each one individually. If we take this route instead of Comcast providing the meter WHEN Comcast is caught lying the lawsuits can fly!!! Plus you don’t have to worry about SPYWARE.

  21. You forgot about femto cell access which the wireless companies plan to prolifically deploy into the broadband consumer home (ie DSL and cable)… Vonage was able to get away with 2 Million subscriber Adapters while raising the Network Neutrality card, but we’re talking about hundreds of millions of mobile customers who are about to dump all their mobile phone originated voice and data traffic onto the broadband provider pipe when the subscriber is at home. Terrestrial network providers aren’t in the business of moving other peoples bits….

    Expect that 250GB cap to come down further….

  22. Man, we have customers who legitimately send us 20K (or 25K) photos per month. Not many, granted, but there are photographers who shoot large sporting events and whatnot that generate this many photos.

    I hope they don’t find their access suddenly cut off. 🙁

  23. Comcast Security “powered by McAffee”. Has a “Traffic monitor” under the tools tab. At the end of this month (August) Showing 9.36 MB last moth was 10.55MB. Seems low as I run Hulu and netflix streaming in the backround a couple of hours a day.

  24. This is a good opportunity for FIOS to advertise their service.
    They can tout “unlimited unrestricted” internet use.

    The PR guys at Verizon have a chance to pick up the ball and run with it.

    I agree give me a meter on my account so I can see what they say I’m using.
    These bandwidth meters only work on one machine and don’t show Wireless connections as mentioned.
    ALSO what about DOCSIS 3 I can see getting to 250 even faster.

    FIOS in my area is 6 months away and I will not hesitate to subscribe if they also don’t implement caps by then

  25. Too right. I’ve worked on this very issue for a cable ISP (not Comcast). Everyone recognized, or came to recognize, that charges and limits would not fly without a bulletproof ISP provided meter. Anyone who wants to proceed without one is inviting lawsuits and government intervention. The only thing worse than the PR hit for instituting such a program? Having to suspend it because you can’t measure what you are charging for.

  26. Om, blogging this issue is a great idea, but someone needs to step it up here and launch a coordinated campaign here and this seems like the perfect opportunity to take the Giga Omni Media to the next level of publicadvocacy.

  27. Om – good article, someone needs to call them to the mat.

    If Comcast is going to be heavy handed, then they need to provide a standard “meter” that tells us our usage now and historically so that we can make changes or make decisions. Also they should offer some sort of “get out of jail” for user that go past the 250GB limit so that these users can choose to pay. Right now it seems you have to limit yourself to 250GB or go to jail for a year!!!

    BTW – Where is the FCC in all this? Spending their resources trying to fine broadcasters using expletives!!

  28. I’m not a Comcast shill. I despise them. But pick your battles!

    It’s pretty clear that Comcast set the bar at 250GB because it makes metering irrelevant.

    If you are downloading that much, you know you are doing it. You probably also know you are abusing the service in some way (e.g. sharing a single connection with a whole office of people – or downloading a blue-ray movie EVERY DAY).

    Given the shared nature of Comcast’s local nodes, it only makes sense that they prevent people from downloading at full throttle continuously. It’s an abuse of the service by any reasonable standard. There are commercial connections available (at higher cost) for people who have a legitimate need for that bandwidth.

    Throttling p2p is a bad unethical practice. Favoring any traffic over other traffic across their network is evil and should be fought. Their monopoly billing practices and frequently poor service are all legit gripes. In this case, a 250GB limit is a completely reasonable boundary. We get a very high limit and they don’t monitor every customers’ internet usage in real time. Alternative: Lower limit and more detailed customer metering – albeit the customer can check that metering too.

    I’ll go for the higher limit and less monitoring.

  29. There are other alterntive provides that do not do this. So switch to them. Even if it may not affect you today this will in the future. This also sets a precedence for others do the same. I am surprised people are are resigned to accepting this in stead of mass boycott of comcast.

  30. @ Charlie Sierra

    Welcome back. I have missed your wit and prescient comments.


    this isn’t the last you have heard on this issue from me. If you are willing and promise to take individual action, this is worth putting up a challenge.

  31. If you want to play like a utility you are answerable like a utility…

    Charter should have to be accountable to the respective PUC’s in states they operate and be compelled to provide equal access as would any utility with license to service.

    Charter broadband as delivered should lose the haven of being labeled as “entertainment” and Digital Inclusion would be mandated for Charter to continue this path.

  32. >>>Of course, in today’s terms that is more than enough

    More than enough for who? You? Why should everyone else be stuffed into your straitjacket?

    Bandwidth caps will make us less competitive against all the countries that currently have NO caps, LOWER COST Net access, and FASTER Net access.

  33. With a cap am I really supposed to waste some of my bandwidth on ads? I’ll start using Adblocker that much more…and definitely make sure to block anything from Comcast.

  34. Ah, my SlingBox, my Nintendo, my Tivo, my Yahoo Unlimited soon to be Rhapsody subscription… why does Comcast hate you? I wish I had a better choice for Internet… my idea of a good service isn’t one where I have to constantly monitor how much streaming music I’m listening to or whether my Tivo gets too talky with it’s parent service while downloading those crap ads I never watch. It’s extremly difficult to montior your bandwidth when you can’t install bandwidth utilities on non-PC devices for the most part. If this is important enough to educate consumers about and cut their service off then make usage available to the customer. This is just a dirty tactic from a company trying to squeeze the consumer and change people’s mentality. No wonder the US lags behind in Internet access.

  35. Also, I talked with their customer service trying to find out my usage. I had to explain to their customer service the difference between bandwidth speed and total bandwidth usage over a time period. Further, they said they’d never heard of the cap and then I directed them to links on their site. They then gave me a long distance number to call of their “security” team which I’ve been on hold for 2 hours with. Yikes.

  36. I just use comcast as a spigot. I don’t want their services, I don’t want their tools, I don’t want their crack addicted installers – just give me the goddam fiber and leave me alone. Comcast gives us higher upload and download speed then places a cap. Huh…

    I’ll have to run my fiber up the road to the next sprint router and screw comcast – worthless bastards.

  37. I have 3 computers all running linux and windows and 6 people using them. Wonder how long it will take to reach that cap and with all that it is impossible to figure if I went over the limit. Anyway, I chose to go with comcast because they sold me about all the things I could do with high-speed, now they are taking it all away. I could go to the local coffee shop and use the wifi to cut down on my usage at home- but wait, theirs will probably be shutdown as comcast cuts them off because they went over the limit the first 2 days of the month of october when the caps start!

    It’s not about people hogging the bandwidth. It’s about greed. That’s why they have tiered pricing for different speeds. Eventually, they will have tiered pricing for bandwidth too.

  38. Comcast has enabled a denial-of-service attack. I can program a computer at a nearby colo to send lots of UDP messages to my neighbors’ IP addresses, specifying unused ports. The messages won’t have any direct effect on my neighbors because they will be rejected by my neighbors’ firewalls, or by their PCs not having any programs listening on those ports. However, the messages will increment Comcast’s secret usage meter. Comcast will probably react first by slowing their Internet access, then (as they announced) by disconnecting their service. With all my neighbors slowed or disconnected, I will get the bandwidth to the cable head-end that they would have used.

    The best thing about this nefarious scheme is that the neighbors won’t be aware that there is a problem until Comcast calls them, and no matter how much they refrain from using the Internet, they will get another call the next month. Even shutting down their PC (but leaving their cable modem running) will not prevent them from exceeding the cap.

  39. Comcast needs to do 4 things:
    1) Show us the meter.
    2) the action of reading the meter costs nothing. So if the meter is a webpage, then all traffic in relationship to the webpage is “free” (does not count). This is includes ads and other links.
    3) ALL VOIP is “free”, just like Comcast VOIP is “free”. Can’t have the monopoly giving away service to compete.
    4) ALL Video on Demand is “free”. Again the bandwidth is either free to all or to none.

  40. My Comcast HS internet account was cancelled on Monday 8/25, a few days before they announced the new bandwidth cap policy. There are 2 problems at work here – 1, that they refused to tell me how much I used, or what the invisible line was that I crossed. Ok, so they’ve rectified this glaring policy problem. However, what about their willful deceiving of me and others, into thinking we were getting unlimited service, INCLUDING unlimited bandwidth usage. Forget what the policy states, I’m talking about what their customer service reps tell new/potential customers when they are signing up for new service. Want concrete evidence? Ok, on Wednesday, Aug 27, 2 days after my service was cancelled, I logged onto to Comcast’s online chat help. I chatted with a CSR named Maria, and here’s an excerpt from our chat:

    analyst Maria.25372 has entered room

    Maria.25372(Wed Aug 27 2008 19:44:19 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    Hello Kurt_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Maria.25372. Please give me one moment to review your information.

    Maria.25372(Wed Aug 27 2008 19:44:26 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    Hi there! How are you doing today?

    Kurt_(Wed Aug 27 2008 19:44:44 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    hello, I’m wondering, if I sign up for high speed internet service, how often I can use it?

    Kurt_(Wed Aug 27 2008 19:44:59 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    I mean are there any limits?

    Maria.25372(Wed Aug 27 2008 19:45:38 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    Kurt, once you have signed up for our Internet Services, you can use it 24/7.

    Maria.25372(Wed Aug 27 2008 19:45:47 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    There are no limits on the usage of the service.

    Kurt_(Wed Aug 27 2008 19:46:29 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    Are you sure, because I’ve read on the net about some peoples accounts getting canceled because of excessive bandwidth usage, is this not true?

    Maria.25372(Wed Aug 27 2008 19:46:32 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    You can create up to 7 email accounts with the Comcast service; 1 primary (owner) account and up to 6 additional accounts. Each Comcast email address has 250MB space for email, up to a total of 1.75GB across all 7 possible email accounts.

    Maria.25372(Wed Aug 27 2008 19:47:48 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    There is no bandwidth usage limit, Kurt.

    — (snip)

    So, there you have it. I then informed Maria that my account had just been canceled because of “excessive bandwidth usage” and asked her to explain that. She asked for my account number, I gave it, then she said “one moment, let me check on that” and then came back copying and pasting relevant parts of the acceptable use policy. She then apologized for her mistake. But the damage was done – what if I really was a new customer, I would have been totally deceived. Comcast does not (or at least DID not) inform their CSRs of their policies. This is not right. When I signed up for service 4 years ago, I certainly thought i was getting completely unlimited internet access. My account is suspended for one year, and now I’ve had to sign up for Verizon DSL, the ONLY other choice I have.

  41. Good bye Sling Box, you were fun while you lasted. Good bye to all promosing media content businesses that will push me towards my cap.

    Btw, where the heck are the anti-trust lawsuits… Comcast is using their Internet service to weed out competition to their television service. If that’s not a possible anti-trust issue I don’t know what is.

  42. Since when did;

    “UNLIMITED INTERNET ACCESS,” and “ALWAYS ON,” mean 250gb per month?

    I have 3 kids that all like to play games on the internet, to name one of those games, “World of Warcraft.”

    This is why I bought into the Comcast high speed cable.

    Now you say that you have “FAILED” at your part of the bargain, and cannot deliver what you had “advertised and promised” to the public.


    Since “YOU” have “FAILED” you want to change the rules to suit your FAILURE…



    I think it’s time to sell your million dollar homes and FOREIGN Luxury cars…

    If you can’t deliver the product you DO NOT deserve that multi-million dollar paycheck!

    You are all just more, “corporate thieving bast–ds!”

    I hope you are all proud as this is the perfect example of why America is in the sorry shape it is in right now.

    The executives sucking every penny they can out of the company and saying they can’t afford to pay the employees!

    Then you jerks cut the jobs to make the numbers look good, and give yourselves a fat bonus. All at the X-employees expense…

    We see it, your not slipping by un-noticed!

    Your just another ENRON in the making…

  43. This whole metered internet usage spiel is just crap. It’s no different than metering my cell phone usage. I almost never use my cell phone, 30 minutes a month at most. I still get bills that say I was on the phone for 800 minutes in one phone call to one phone number. So much for accurate company meters. This is nothing more than rape of the consumers plain and simple. It doesn’t cost them any more for the increased usage. They are making more money than ever before with more customers signing up every day to use their services. This is just more outrageous bull shite from greedy corporations.

  44. I do not like the monopoly cable making rules and laws that affect us all as users. How do we contact the FCC to stop this kind of nonsense?





  46. Does ATT have such stupid bandwidth rules? Its time to put Comcast out of buisness and use someone else.

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