On September 5, 2008 I wrote an article — Comcast Kills the Internets – explaining, in detail, why Comcast’s broadband data cap of 250 gigs a month was a terrible idea set to freeze us all in their time and space for what we can and cannot do on the internet in the future. Today, less than three years later, that prediction has horrifically come true. When I read in Ozymandias that a user had been cut off from Comcast broadband and given a one year death penalty, I was alarmed, because I knew my concern had come true. I checked “Users & Settings” on the Comcast website to check my account and broadband usage.
Here’s the silly blurp that Comcast embeds in the middle of your data usage graphics:
Your Comcast High-Speed Internet service has a monthly data usage allowance of 250 gigabytes (GB). If you are wondering whether you are at risk of exceeding this 250GB threshold, you should know that the vast majority – around 99% – of Comcast customers use significantly less than 250GB per month.
Here is my current usage as of July 15, 2011. I’m at 30% with 76GB of my 250GB already used and I was surprised I’ve used so much so fast and the month is only half over. Compared to yesterday, I am using 2% of my cap allowance a day. I do not stream movies. I have started watching the live Big Brother feeds, but that only started seven days ago. I publish 14 blogs, and I upload and download images and content via FTP, but those are small files. I do not any online backups. Everything is backed up on the local network. I do have two iPads and two iPhones on the WiFi network. I watch a lot of YouTube videos. I sometimes stream music. My WiFi stream is secure and encrypted.
What was most alarming about my usage history was that I used 33GB in April and 30GB in May and then a whoppering 160GB in June! What happened to my broadband consumption in June? Comcast provides no way for you to check your usage logs, so you’re left to the memory of your experience to try to piece together shards of understanding to figure out what went wrong.
When I checked my published articles list in June for the Boles Blogs Network, one story quickly leapt to mind that was posted on June 3, 2011: The Google Music Beta Tutorial. Now everything was starting to cloyingly come together.
As a part of writing my review, I allowed Google Music to upload all my iTunes songs to the Google cloud. That was a lot of music and took tons of bandwidth. I think the upload took three, 24-hour days, to complete. That would be a pretty massive bandwidth hog.
Then I also realized the Google Music player was locally set on my Mac to keep an eye on my iTunes folder, and if new music were discovered, those new songs would automagically be uploaded to my Google Music account. I buy a lot of music for review in Boles Blues, so that also colored in some of my bandwidth usage details.
In testing Google Music, I streamed a lot of songs. I guess that added to my bandwidth eating, too, though I have no way of knowing how much the music streaming was costing me in my monthly allowance because Comcast won’t tell me or show me.
I also realized I had all our iOS devices set to “automatically” download new music and Apps and such based on a single user account. So when I bought a new album on iTunes, I was downloading the music from the iTunes server, then Google Music Player was uploading the new songs to the Google Music cloud server, and then our four iOS devices were re-downloading all the songs from the iTunes server. Buying one album on iTunes triggered five downloads and one upload. That’s a lot of bandwidth.
I turned off that new “auto download” in all our iOS devices to help preserve our Comcast data cap. I won’t turn off Google Music because I enjoy it too much and I don’t want it to die.
Big Brother will continue to live stream into my life until the early days of September, so if I want to watch the feeds, I will have to keep an eye on my usage — but who wants to login to the slow and punishing Comcast website every day to check a usage meter? I know Verizon FIOS doesn’t have a data cap — yet! — but I have been generally pleased with Comcast broadband and I moved to Comcast when I left Verizon because Verizon kept messing up my DSL connection and could not fix it.
Here’s what troubles me about the future. Comcast have locked us into their want for how much we should be able to do on the Internet — and they decided that in 2008. My wife is Deaf, and she relies on videophones to communicate with the world. With Comcast in our lives, her ability to use a videophone the same way she used to use a TTY with a telephone is compromised.
Can Comcast cut off my wife from their their broadband backbone because she makes too many video chats because she’s disabled? What if we’re at 250 gigs and she needs to make an emergency 911 call on her videophone — will Comcast arbitrarily cut her off mid-sentence as we hit the 251 gig mark? Does the Comcast broadband cap comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and equal accessibility under the law? How can Comcast meter emergency usage from non-perishable communication?
Google+ looks like a great invention — but will people be able to use it as they want on Comcast if they’re worried about “Hanging Out” all day long in a video chat Hangout if Comcast’s data cap is breathing heavily on their shoulder?
Today, videophone communication for the Deaf is widespread. Google+ Hangouts are burning into the home like wildfire. Those are two, new, fabulous, broadband products that were not around in 2008 when Comcast arbitrarily invoked their clever 250 gig data cap — proving my point that Comcast wants to suspend us, and our future internet joy, in 250 gig amber — and if we offend their data cap, we’re given the death penalty. We have no way to pay for overages to keep out account or to appeal our dismissal. We’re just completely unplugged from the very wave that brought us to Comcast in the first place.