I was a fan of Comcast for about five minutes until I learned this week that Comcast plans to kill the Internets by placing a cap on bandwidth.


Comcast argues their 250 gigs a month cap on broadband usage is more than enough to satisfy 99% of their users. 

I don’t understand why Comcast is punishing 99% of us for the bad behavior of the one percenters.

The Comcast cap is not about user abuse — Comcast is pushing for a mulligan on the “Double Billing for Bandwidth” matter that I raised here on January 11, 2006 — because they don’t want you downloading HD movies from Amazon or iTunes at 2-3 gigs a pop without having you pay more to them for that convenient luxury, but they can’t quite figure out a way to properly tier you by priority, or you or charge you more, so they instead wish to punish you for even thinking of becoming a mega-content downloader.

Comcast also doesn’t want you streaming video to your computer without them getting some sort of reciprocal benefit in return.

The Internets will only become richer and more immediately bandwidth intensive as the future unfolds, and Comcast doesn’t want you to have any part of that better experience unless, of course, you’re streaming their Pay-Per-View videos or paying extra for their VOIP service. 

Oh, sure, Comcast will give you a 16BM “blast” download pipe — but what good it the extra speed when they limit how much you can download a month? 

The Comcast Straw Man ploy begs the old “Bait and Switch” dime-store routine:  Faster download speeds mean the quicker Comcast can cut you off each month for enjoying their online competitors too much.

With Comcast setting the punishing new standard for the web experience, and Time-Warner Cable following their tacky lead, we are being pushed back to the Bad Old Days of combining ISDN “A” and “B” lines — billed at two pennies per minute per line — to get a 128K download speed.

Comcast won’t tell you how much bandwidth you’re using a month — they’ll just cut you off when you hit 250 gigs and if you go over your allowance, you cannot buy more.  You’re out.  If you go over your limit twice in six months, you are cut off from Comcast for a year!

Comcast falsely argues the burden of knowing how much bandwidth you are using a month is yours.  They point you to their ridiculous online FAQ that explains you can only buy tiered speed — not more bandwidth — and that you have to monitor your own usage:

Why won’t Comcast tell you how much bandwidth you’re using?

We know they know how much bandwidth you use on a second-by-second basis because they plan to cut you off when you reach the cap. 

Why is Comcast playing coy with your online life?

Comcast doesn’t want you to know how much bandwidth you’re using because then you’ll be more conservative.

Comcast cynically knows most people won’t know how to meter their own broadband usage — and so they’ll skip that video call with mom or not download that new HD movie from iTunes because they really don’t want to go over their allowance and risk getting cut off and placed on six months probation.

Or, ever worse, Comcast believes if you know how much of the 250 gigs you’re NOT using, you’ll use more to get “your fair share” — and they don’t want 99% of us coming anywhere near out cutoff limits. 

I can’t wait for the day when a user gets unceremoniously cut off and calls customer service to complain:

CUSTOMER:  Hey, I only used 100 gigs!

COMCAST:  Oh, no you di-in’t!  You used 250.001 gigs!

CUSTOMER:  But I meter my own bandwidth.

COMCAST:  Your meter is wrong!

CUSTOMER:  But you won’t let me see your meter.  How do I know how much bandwidth I’m really using?

COMCAST:  That’s for us to know and for you to find out! Bwa-ha-haaar!  We are Comcast and you are cut off!

I have an at&t 3G modem I use for laptop internet connections in the field. My monthly limit is 5 gigs a month.  If I go over that 5 gigs of bandwidth, I pay a lot of money — but I am never cut off. 

I can also login to my at&t account and see precisely how much data bandwidth I am using every day.  I can manage and meter my data usage based on at&t’s system.  I am not forced to find my own bandwidth meter. 

Who knew it would take Comcast bandwidth restrictions to make me appreciate at&t billing?

Here’s the hard line that Comcast boils down for your current internet usage — and forget about taking advantage of multimedia video streaming in the future — you won’t be able to afford to participate without the fear of getting cut off:

  • No third party VOIP like Skype or Vonage
  • No Deaf Video Phone conversations
  • No Video on Demand
  • No Multimedia Streaming
  • No Online Games
  • No Telecommuting
  • No Gmail All Day Long
  • No more working online with an “always on” connection

The future of broadband in America is quickly going down and back into the Dark Ages.

Comcast has effectively frozen the Internets forever in today because customers and content providers won’t want participate in or create the “Next Big Thing Online” because they will risk being cut off for using too much bandwidth.

America once led the world in technological advancements with the birth of the “All You Can Eat” internet connection, and now, it looks like Comcast is pressing us under so Japan, and the rest of the world, can continue to surpass us in broadband speed, convenience and easy access to content.

Bandwidth limits are bad for business and really bad for the freedom of a wandering expression.

If if video killed the radio star, then Comcast just killed the Internet revolution in its crib.

22 Comments

  1. I can just see the parody Comcast Housemates ad: the real ones had housemates touting all the benefits of Comcast,
    Greg: Okay, who used up all the bandwidth this month and got our account closed for the month?
    Ron: I guess that was me. I suppose watching every single episode of Reno 911! over the course of a week was probably a bad idea.
    Greg: Yeah, I guess it was. Who has a modem we can use to dial up AOL?
    Ted: I knew it was a good idea to keep it around.

  2. Ha! Love it, Gordon!
    And right on point!
    There are also people who steal WiFi — and your Comcast bandwidth — and few people know how to really set up a secure home network. Technically, Comcast doesn’t allow you to use WiFi unless you’re on their $99 a month “five IP” home networking plan… that they must install and set up for you with their WiFI router…
    It is unclear if Comcast includes their VOIP/HD/On Demand services in that 250gig cap or not!
    I wouldn’t have a problem with the Comcast Cap if they gave us online access to their records of what they say we’re eating and if we could be allowed to pay for any overages.
    Right now, Comcast wants you to use much less internet, not more, and that’s why they’re capping us and killing the internet in situ. What a burn!

  3. Gordon —
    Who will step up? Time-Warner is following Comcast. DSL and Dial up can’t compete with broadband cable and FIOS isn’t nationwide, but once it is, Verizon will certainly place their own bandwidth caps because nobody out there wants to give us an “all you can eat” menu any longer because the business model doesn’t make them enough money compared to the stuff we’re paying to download and stream on their backbones.

  4. I naively have to think that some independent company will come out of the woodwork, maybe like a grocery store coop and make things right. Work for us a few hours a week, maybe do a little tech support, don’t worry about bandwidth caps.

  5. Hi David,
    I have an “unlimited usage plan” but there are other plans which have limited bandwidth.
    But I am not sure how long I can enjoy this luxury
    if someone starts the similar policing here.

  6. Katha!
    I’m glad to know you can still buy unlimited usage. That’s a fine thing to have in your online arsenal.
    Bandwidth restrictions kill any sort of rich, streaming, multi-media — precisely where the next generation of the web intends to take us — it’s so disappointing that companies like Comcast and Time-Warner are doing everything they can to kill that next step up in functionality and presentation.

  7. That is the point of it all, Anne. Comcast doesn’t want to foot the bill for bringing you shows from competing content companies unless they can figure out a way to get part of that advertising streaming pie being delivered to your eye. Right now, they deliver the goods, but only get your subscription fee in return: That isn’t enough of the world for them.

  8. Hi David,
    Do you think Comcast’s animosity towards bandwidth-heavy content may have anything to do with the fact that they are also providers of television programming?
    i have an unlimited broadband connection here. there are no traffic caps, but the bandwidth isn’t enough for streaming full-screen video content.

  9. Dananjay —
    Yes, I’m sure that’s a lot of it. Comcast wants you to pay $5 to watch the latest movies via their On Demand service and not Netflix or Amazon or iTunes or whatever else is out there via the web that they just route to you as part of your monthly plan.
    Cable TV has s tremendous advantage over any other competitor when it comes to offering broadband internet access — they’ve had a thick, copper wire/pipe into your house for over 30 years and they can throttle you up or down at will.
    I have a 16MB down pipe from Comcast internet compared to a 3MB down pipe using Verizon DSL.
    While I may not see any benefit in a 16MB pipe by streaming one or two events — most events have very low quality streaming caps on them right now — I can, however, stream Big Brother live at 225Kbps, download HD movies from iTunes, upload movie files to my server and download massive product updates from Apple while listening to streaming music from Pandora… all at the same time and they all happen instantly.
    That sort of performance is fantastic, but Comcast doesn’t want to just be the pipe — they want to be the content provider so they can pull royalties and user fees and rental options.
    Cities do have a great responsibility to its citizenry in that they control the wires and cables that thread into every house and those governments need to start to realize that equal access to high-speed broadband is fast becoming a necessity, and not a luxury, when it comes to defining the required infrastructure of an urban core.

  10. I love this article. Not because I am a huge pirate or bandwidth user 😉 , but because of the illustrious nature of the ideas coupled with those beautiful pictures. You’re portraying the death of innocence, the loss of love. The cutting of wings and lowering if standards.
    This is something that is commonplace today. And it’s sad. We’re nothing more than mere conglomerated cells within the organism of society and we’re being sucked dry by the cancerous corporate tumors that seem to only get larger and larger with time.
    Coupled with your mechanization of memory, and we’ve got Brazil(movie:1985)!!
    I feel we’re going to see much more corporate bottom feeding in the future.