Comcast: You're Paying More For The Ability To Reach The Download Cap Faster

Comcast, it seems, has a serious problem. They’re selling “Unlimited Access,” but again and again their customers tell us that they’re being threatened with “termination” for using too much bandwidth. How much is too much? Comcast won’t say. According to their Acceptable Use Policy, “too much” is defined as “where bandwidth consumption is not characteristic of a typical residential user of the Service as determined by the company in its sole discretion.” Reader Peter is one such atypical customer. He wants to cooperate with Comcast, but he can’t get a straight answer as to how much downloading he’s allowed to do. He can’t even get an estimate. Since he pays for the highest tier of access from Comcast, he figures that he should be able to download more than a “typical” user. Not true, says the Comcast “Abuse” department. Since his internet is “faster” he’s simply paying more for the ability to reach the bandwidth limit sooner.

Here’s Peter’s story:

Today, May 12th, Comcast called me at work to inform me that for the month of April I had excessive bandwidth usage and that if it showed up again in the May audit, I would have my service terminated. I was told I was in the “Top 1/10th of 1% of all Comcast users and that I was having a direct negative impact on 99.9% of Comcast’s 14 million nationwide customers”. I’m aware that I am a bandwidth intensive account holder. I am a nerd as are all of my roommates. Slingboxes, Xbox Marketplaces, WoW updates, Age of Conan install downloads, iTunes, Amazon Unboxes and torrents add up quick. I was not out to dispute the claim.

However, when I asked what I was supposed to cut my usage to, I was told “We don’t have a number for that.” When asked if I would receive any manner of compensation for the fact that I pay for their highest tier of access, but am limited on that access, I was told no. Stephen informed me that I was talking about speed and he was talking about quantity. When I asked if 99.9% of Comcast customers paid the higher rates that I did, he said, “I don’t have that number.” When I asked if he could send me my usage report, he said “No.” When I asked if he could show me proof that my paid usage was having a negative impact on the entire nationwide Comcast user base, he said, “No, that is proprietary information.” I asked if I was merely supposed to take these accusations on faith and assume that Comcast was not exploiting me, a higher paying customer, he responded with, “Why would Comcast want to exploit you?”

That was cute.

After roughly 15 minutes of trying to get some quantifiable answer as to what was non-excessive use, I was repeatedly met with the refrain, “Sir, this is all detailed in our online FAQ.” I said my goodbyes and returned to work. Once home I pulled up the FAQ, which is listed under the non-descriptive heading of “Hot”. There are 11 questions in the FAQ, 6 of which simply have no answers whatsoever.

I called their Abuse department back and spoke with a different man, Bill. I wanted to establish that I was not informed of this complaint filed against me until the middle of May, that I had secured my Wireless Network, that I had set up a net limiter and that I was actively trying to cut down my usage, but as far as I know I could already have exceeded “Fair Use” for the month of May. He informed me that I should have one month from the date of threat of disconnection to cut my usage of paid services, which was a slight relief. I proceeded to volley off him the same questions as before and received equally evasive answers. He said he had no quantifiable number to give me because it, “is proportional to all Comcast bandwidth for a month and is thus a moving target.” I proceeded to point out the inconsistency in their FAQ, which Bill proceeded to counter with the claim that information is there. I insisted it was not and he promised me he would escalate the issue. I’ll check later if there are any changes to it.

I once again brought up the issue of my higher priced service and was told, “I am talking about speed, he is talking about distance.” I could reach the same usage with their basic service as I could with their premium. His comparison was a “Ferrari to a Sentra” – They both reach the same destination, just at different times.

Now here is the twist. I called my local Comcast office to downgrade to the lower tier. I was met with a very nice woman who had no problem processing my request. When asked for a reason, I detailed all the above and she was flat out shocked. She said, “I have never heard of that before.” She went on to agree that my deal for Comcast was for “Unlimited Access”, or so we both thought, and that she was going to bring the issue up with marketing.

So, there you have it. Comcast’s own sales employees are under the impression that the services they are selling to consumers are unlimited. The Abuse department has a polar (and far more aggressive) stance, but refuses to commit to any quantification of it as well as a refusal to let you see any relevant documentation to your own paid usage.


(Photo: u2acro )


Edit Your Comment

  1. buzzybee says:

    Could someone please point me to the contract term which states that access is “unlimited?”

    I can’t find a guarantee anywhere on Comcast’s site that states that they are selling unlimited access. I don’t think anyone sells completely unlimited access at residential service prices.

  2. AraCBR says:

    Enough is enough! Give the work company title to Comcast already!

  3. NightSteel says:

    I know I’m kind of stating the obvious here, but as long as they don’t set any specific cap numbers that the customer can see, then they can still market their service as unlimited. The moment they document any sort of hard limit, they are opening themselves up to lawsuits.

    Personally, I don’t see why someone hasn’t sued them for false advertising already. Any cap, even an invisible one, would seem to constitute a limit. But I’m sure there’s some sort of regulatory loophole that allows them to get away with this.

  4. I love how it’s a moving target which is based on the national average. So if they have a outage somewhere, You could have transferred less data but still hit the cap.

  5. bravo369 says:

    whats funny though is that if someone would actually sue comcast in small claims court, I bet this guy’s questions would be the first few out of the judge’s mouth. I don’t get why comcast would deny a usage report. They should at least upgrade their systems so users can log online and see how much they are using at any given point. That would help in these situations.

  6. henwy says:

    Hell, he must really be sucking up bandwidth like a freaking sponge for something like this to happen. I can understand where any provider of service is coming from though. If something like 1/10th of 1% is hogging up 30% of the bandwidth at any time, it’s a real disservice to the other customers. It’s pretty abusive really.

    That said, it should be stated in the contract somewhere that this sort of excessive use can lead to termination. It should not be some sort of surprise they just spring on you one day. I have no clue what the OP’s original contract looks like so I don’t know if he was warned ahead of time.

  7. MitchV says:

    >> His comparison was a “Ferrari to a Sentra”

    Bad analogy. Regardless of your tier of service, the *speed* is the same.

    The difference is the capacity. A better analogy would be a pick-up truck compared to a dump truck. Both vehicles may travel the same speed down a given path, but one vehicle has greater capacity than the other.

    Regardless… mind yourself, the lady at Comcast that gave you the answer you wanted to hear is not empowered to save your account.

    It’s not right, but you will have to decide whether you want to play by Comcast’s rules or not use their service at all…. at least until the FCC slaps them back into their place.

  8. BPorche says:

    So basically, if they implement a cap and make the users pay for every bandwidth they use or worse terminate the users just because of exceeding the “bandwidth”.

    I have one question, what about the Deaf/Hard of Hearing users? The only thing that makes me concerned for them is because they use video as a means of communication. I do not mean they use it lightly; they are the biggest bandwidth users in terms of video. I have several friends whom are Deaf/Hard of Hearing and they use this technology as an integral part of their lives.

    Are we asking the Deaf/Hard of Hearing consumer to pay more for the bandwidth if it was ever implemented or Comcast sends them a letter outlining they will be terminated just because they use such bandwidth and cut them off of the means of communication?

    I just had to put this one in the soap box because it is one thing that no one has ever thought about. I am sure Comcast has not even thought about the Deaf/Hard of Hearing users when they complain of someone using “too much bandwidth”.

  9. bravo369 says:

    ” was told I was in the “Top 1/10th of 1% of all Comcast users “

    wouldn’t someone always be in that top 1/10th of 1%? if he cuts down on his bandwidth, that just means someone else will take it place and the cycle starts over. stupid if you ask me.

  10. Hellblazer says:

    If you’re dumb enough to pay comcast for anything then you deserve whatever shit they decide to shovel in your direction. There are other alternatives for internet service — USE THEM. If there isn’t another alternative available to you — GO WITHOUT.

    Either one is preferable to dealing with comcast.

  11. B says:

    @MitchV: The internet isn’t a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. Of course, in that analogy, the OP is paying for a larger pipe, but only allowed to use the same amount of water.

  12. tripnman says:

    @bravo369: If they keep pushing for the “by the byte” billing plans, they will have to log and show data transfers, just like your cell bill shows minutes used. It will happen, sooner rather than later.

  13. acknight says:

    The phrase “excessive usage” and the threat of termination indicate that a limit has been breached.

    If you cannot quantify that limit, then it should (if not already) be illegal to hold someone to a policy that they can not and will not reveal.

  14. kahri says:

    @buzzybee: I don’t think that’s what is at issue here.
    The problem is Comcast refuses to tell him what the ‘cap’ is that he has supposedly surpassed. Then threatening to cut services if he doesn’t lower his usage below a mystery number.
    I would switch to whatever else is available: satellite, FIOS, anything. It’s just bad business to treat your highest tiered customers that way.

  15. sgodun says:

    There’s only six FAQs in the “HOT” section that the link points to, not 11.

  16. IssaGoodDay says:

    Call up Comcast to cancel. They will transfer you to retentions. Tell them the only reason you will stay is if they remove the “invisible cap” from your account and give you truly unlimited access :-P

    Not that it would work… It just might be fun.

  17. zimzombie says:

    @MitchV: It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes!

  18. B says:

    @zimzombie: Jinx. you owe me a coke.

  19. highmodulus says:

    Begin the Comcast bashing.

  20. Buran says:

    @BPorche: I’m hard of hearing and I don’t use Comcast (thankfully I don’t live in their area) but I find text-based IMing very useful…

  21. Buran says:

    @Hellblazer: The Internet is no longer a luxury, so that doesn’t work so easily.

  22. mgy says:

    I wish OP would track his usage to give us a general idea of exactly how much he’s using. Not that I want to bash him, but because I’m interested in seeing how much usage constitutes being in the top 1/10th of 1% of all users.

  23. SportsCentre says:

    I asked Cox if they had a limit on the amount of downloads you could make. I was told there’s no hard limit, but if you make an excessive amount, you could get flagged for suspicious activity or something like that.
    I asked the CSR if he could ballpark what that amount is, and he answered, “oh, don’t worry, it’s like, gigs.”
    Boy was I relieved! Who could possibly download “gigs” in a month?!

  24. rabiddachshund says:

    From the Faq: “Currently, the median data usage by Comcast High-Speed Internet customers is approximately 2GB each month.”

    “a…customer who uploads or downloads 1,000 pictures in a month may use 10GB.”
    That’s such a ridiculous statement I can’t even wrap my head around it long enough to do the math. Do they really think that a picture is 100MB? No wonder they hit the 2GB cap pretty quick.

    Based on Comcast’s current policies, here are a few examples of activities any one of which represents excessive use in one month:
    * Sending 20,000 high-resolution photos,
    * Sending 40 million emails;
    * Downloading 50,000 songs; or
    * Viewing 8,000 movie trailers.


  25. kahri says:

    @BPorche: you bring up a great point. Not all bandwidth is used by kids downloading torrents. Besides the deaf/hard of hearing, other treatments use video through the web, as well as online courses which require you to download gigs of video and text, plus countless other legal uses. And Comcast would no doubt sell those customers their highest tier.
    Another thing (to continue my rant), I looked up the FAQ and under “What is normal or typical use?” it says “Currently, the median data usage by Comcast High-Speed Internet customers is approximately 2GB each month.” Really, I just downloaded 2 movies I bought on itunes last night. I must be the new 1/10th of 1% for this month.

  26. axiomatic says:

    I too am a “Premium” speed Comcast subscriber and think that this is some serious bullshite.

    The fact that the “Premium” speeds get you to the cap faster is UNEQUIVOCAL BULLSHITE and Comcast better stop pissing off customer who pay them more.

    They need to first clean out the “regular” paying customer who hit the cap THEN move on to the “premium” customers. I have a feeling that Comcast financial department would agree with me too.

    @Hellblazer: Lastly, Hellblazer Comcast is the only game in my neighborhood and no I can’t just not subscribe. My wife and I both work from home for a major PC/ Server manufacturer. VPN access to the corporate net is essential. So I find your suggestion unrealistic and geared towards luxury internet use and not business use.

  27. vinhpoo says:

    Just read an article in the NYTimes the other day and they addressed this. Apparently Comcast is going to a 250gb/month cap so that they’ll have a number they can give people who ask. They’ll then charge a certain amount per gb after that (don’t remember the exact number, sorry). The article also said Time Warner is going to a 40gb/month cap.

  28. Morac says:

    I noticed that according to Comcast’s FAQ, “the median data usage by Comcast High-Speed Internet customers is approximately 2GB each month.” Downloading two demos off of PSN or a couple of movies off of Amazon Unbox will exceed that.

    Personally I’ve gone over 2 GB in a single day. I’m not sure the maximum I’ve ever downloaded in one month (though I just added firmware on my router which keeps track of that now), but I’d say I’ve probably exceeded 20 GB in some months

    Considering Comcast is thinking about implementing a 250 GB/month cap, one would think that anything under 250 GB would not be considered excessive. I still don’t understand why Comcast can’t tell you have much you’ve downloaded in a month unless they don’t actually know.

  29. blackmage439 says:

    I really don’t understand what the harm is in posting these ethereal usage caps. Heck, it would give companies another thing to compete for. It would be something like this:

    Imagine both Verizon and Comcast have a 3Mbps, $40 per month, internet plan. Comcast offers a usage cap of 90GB per month, while Verizon offers a cap of 100GB per month. Whose plan would you buy?

    Besides, I believe it would be beneficial to each party (consumer & company). Sure, there are people out there who don’t give a flying f%^&, and would download all they please, advertised limit or not. However, there are those, like me, who would actually try and work towards the greater good, and monitor our usage.

  30. thegirls says:

    In some neighborhoods, you don’t always have a provider choice.

    Check out this WaPo article:
    article/2007/05/20/AR2007052001724_pf.html –

  31. SacraBos says:

    @bravo369: My thought exactly. Every month they appearently have to terminate the top 1/10 of 1% of their customers. Which is probably bleeding less customers than Sprint is.

  32. SkokieGuy says:

    Please no Comcast bashing. We now know that it’s Peter’s fault. As he indicated in his post “I was having a direct negative impact on 99.9% of Comcast’s 14 million nationwide customers”

    Some day, all of life will be just as Comcastic!

    Traffic Ticket: You were speeding, (how fast) I can’t tell you. (what’s the speed limit) That’s proprietary information.

    Insurance: We are denying your clam (why) We can’t tell you. (what’s covered) That’s proprietary information.

    School: We’re sorry, you flunked and cannot graduate. (why) We can’t tell you. (can I get a transcript of my grades) We are unable to provide that at this time. (did any other students flunk) That’s proprietary information.

    Guantanamo Bay: You’re under arrest (why) We can’t tell you…………

  33. EyeHeartPie says:

    I think the Comcast bashing was well under way before you made your comment :p

  34. @buzzybee: Actually, I thought the speed at which one can download WAS a download cap.

    How about this. Any of you who are still Comcast customers decide on a time, say, 9 PM EDT this coming Friday night, which ought to be close to peak demand time, and just throw several metric kiloshitloads of stuff into your download queues. Everybody, all at once. I think some of NBC’s stuff is downloadable ([]). Update your WoW. Put Windows XP SP3 in there too. Bring the whole motherfucking network to its knees. Post a message to every blog you read and spread the word, starting with this one. That’ll learn ’em.

  35. golfinggiraffe says:

    It’s interesting to note one thing: if the limit is based on using more than 99.9% of other users, if everyone stopped using their connection for whatever reason, if you downloaded even one byte you’d be screwed over. And I doubt that Comcast would be nice enough to be reasonable about that.

  36. golfinggiraffe says:

    @sgodun: try reading a little better. the faq for bandwidth limits is the third item on that last. click on that and you will see eleven items, not all of which even have answer.

  37. SacraBos says:

    FTA: It’s amazing that Comcast admits that 1 user with a premium account can have a “direct negative impact on 99.9% of Comcast’s 14 million nationwide customers”.

    1 customer can bring down Comcast.

    And I thought losing a war for lack of a nail was pretty bad.

  38. B says:

    @SkokieGuy: That kind of thing could never happen in this country….

  39. mgy says:

    Median usage is 2gb a month? Who are these people? Do they even turn their computers on?

  40. coan_net says:

    I now have comcast since they bought out insight in my area – and got a similar thing from insight.

    Comcast can solve this issue (for me and I guess may others) very simply: Tell us what the limit is.

    If Comcast says you should not upload more then XX a month (a day/hour/etc…), it is easy enough to put a tool in place to limit that to what comcast wants.

    But Comcast will tell us once when we are over, threaten to discounted us if we go over again…. but WILL NOT tell us what the number is that takes us over?????

    I’ve read somewhere else that they mostly look at upload amount – so I’ve basically been a VERY big downloader, and not as much uploading…. and I have not gotten a call from Insight/Comcast since.

    …. but still would be nice to know what that limit is instead of me just guessing what might and might not be acceptable in their eyes.

  41. Juggernaut says:

    @SkokieGuy: You’re right!

    Waitress: You used to much sugar/catsup/? (how do you know) I can’t tell you. (how much is too much) That’s proprietary information.

  42. coren says:

    @MitchV: Actually, the tier’s for Comcast provide you with a faster download speed and upload speed. Most people are never able to take advantage of the maximums, but they do provide better upwards limits.

    That said, I find it hard to believe one person could be adversely affecting the entire country. Is that really how Comcast works?

  43. ezMoney258 says:

    Interesting how this works in the US. I find download limits ridiculous, but have to live with them in Belgium. Here you get higher limits if you have a higher connection speed, additionally, at any point in time can I see how much for that month I have used of my 30Gb limit and I can by blocks of 5Gb extra download for that month if I need / want to. Also, you are not cut off if you exceed the limit, they just throttle you down to 256kbps until the end of the month. For some “slower” connection subscription, unlimited really means unlimited, as you can never exceed x GB based on your speed of connection. Pretty neat and very transparent!

  44. thegirls says:


    Your example:
    Guantanamo Bay: You’re under arrest (why) We can’t tell you…………

    Actually, this one’s true…oops!

  45. Anks329 says:

    Some people brought up a great point of deaf/hard-of-hearing people using a lot of video; another missing piece is people using the Yahoo Voice Messenger to talk with family members around the world. A lot of people that I know spend hours on end talking with family all around the world with Yahoo or MSN or similar products. They’ve got to be using a significant amount of bandwidth as well.

  46. NW says:

    until they actually implement the supposed 250GB cap, using their own FAQ math, it would appear that the cap is 200GB:
    1) 1,000 pictures = 10GB
    2) excessive use = 20,000 pictures
    Therefore, excessive use is (20,000 pics/1,000 pics)x10GB = 200GB

  47. mike says:

    @AraCBR: I’m assuming you mean “worst company” award.

    No, they can’t get it. I have Ticketmaster beating them out in the next round!

  48. Norskman says:

    I honestly believe Comcast doesn’t know. I’m convinced that when a company stonewalls like this it’s because they don’t have the info and they know they should. Admitting they don’t have it means they can be sued for enforcing a cap they can’t verify.

    Their whole system is bullshit. In today’s day and age you can kill that median of 2GB in no time. Any savvy household with a couple of computers, a couple of computers running various apps and maybe an IPhone or two running off the wireless router and you’re done.

    It would be so funny to watch Comcast try to explain why they don’t have the answers and why they are enforcing a cap they can’t establish or justify.

    This company is an evil, soul-sucking pile of crap and I hope they fall head first into some sort of scandal soon.

  49. weakdome says:

    All I can say is… Peter’s right bicep must be HUGE.

  50. Norskman says:

    Oops, that sentence should be “a couple of consoles, a couple of computers running various apps…”

  51. weakdome says:

    For all that Comcast is evil and horrible and all that,
    They provide a FREE connection (to use however you like) if you are a School. (at least in our area).

    None of the other providers (in our area, that I know of) do that.

    Although, it is funny when Verizon calls and asks “How much are you paying for connectivity? We’d like to make a counter-offer”.
    Apparently, they can’t compete with “free”.

  52. I picture the “Maximum Bandwidth Usage” meeting looking just like the DirecTV commercials showing “Cable Corp Co.” in their boardroom.

    PRESIDENT: Internet usage is up – we don’t want to upgrade our systems to support the additional use – how can we solve this without spending money?

    VICE PRES: When I was in business school…I mean, read about business school…ina book, I learned that we should just penalize our best customers.

    PRESIDENT: I’m listening.

    VICE PRES: We’ll just call the top tenth of 1% of internet users, and tell them to “cut it out” or we’ll cut off their service!

    VP OF FINANCE: But won’t the next tenth then just move up and take the place of that tenth we cut off?

    VICE PRES: Yes. Then we’ll cut them off.

    VP OF FINANCE: What then, the next month?

    VICE PRES: If there hasn’t been enough change, we’ll cut off serice to the top 1% altogether!

    PRESIDENT: Wait, won’t we run out of customers at some point?

    VICE PRES: Do you want to spend money or not?


    VICE PRES: Okay, let’s do it!

  53. ousterj says:

    I was driving down the Freeway the other day when a Cop stopped me and warned me “You’re driving too many miles. Slow down or we’ll take away your car.”

    I pointed out that there was no posted limit on miles and asked what was a reasonable amount of miles.

    “I can’t tell you what the limit is, but we’ll tell you if you drive too far.”

    I asked for some way to find the speed limit and to measure my miles traveled.

    “You were traveling more miles than 99.9% of the drivers here, so just slow down and travel less.”

    It really didn’t matter since my Comcast car had no speedometer or odometer and I couldn’t measure my speed or miles traveled.

    I think the Cop’s name was Franz Kafka.

  54. I actually didn’t see anybody else say it, but….SUE THEM.

    Sure, they’re “providing” a “service” (for which you pay them good money), but they’re also responsible for GIVING you the service you pay for. If you do anything at all vital with your Internet access, I would continue to use it as normal, let them cancel it while refusing to tell you why, and then sue them for damages. (I actually got Comcast to fix a problem once by pointing out that I use my Internet access for school, and if I flunked a course because of it, they would be responsible for refunding my tuition. They folded FAST.)

    Of course, the OP and others could simply threaten a suit and that might work, but eventually someone needs to really sue them so that they can be forced to either a) stop capping or b) come clean about what the caps are. This either-and-both shit is ridiculous.

  55. @ousterj: Nice! Kafka is pleased. ;)

  56. @weakdome: Verizon freely provides as a public service backbones to the Baltimore County Public School System. Anything else?

  57. Now then, how about an FTC investigation? That is their job isn’t it? Government should be… oh wait.

  58. @Papa Midnight: Someone has to report it through the right channels. Maybe this is the guy.

  59. Coelacanth says:

    @weakdome: Yes, that may be a really nice added PR bonus (with a real value to public schools), but I honestly think that giving away their connectivity to schools and offering a very low-tier service is peanuts.

    Compared to everyone else, and schools’ tendencies to use extremely restrictive firewalls, to the revenue they’d receive from residential subscribership, it’s just a gimmick that allows some executives to sleep soundly at night.

    General comment:
    “Excessive bandwidth” problems happen at many universities, but the difference is that many of them can document bandwidth use real statistical evidence.

    For example, a friend of mine received a notice many years back, claiming that “excessive use” meant being above 2 standard deviations from the average. Even though it was also a “moving target,” just like Comcast’s, they displayed historical graphs showing what usage trends. If a cash-strapped college can provide that level of detail, surely a large corporation could.

    Oh wait, that means that they’d have to put somebody in charge who’s intelligent enough to provide that capability, and have CSRs who were educated enough to explain the logic!

    ISPs need to get it together…

  60. BearTack says:

    What does your state Public Service Commission think about this?

    Comcast, like other companies that use land based lines that use the public right of way, is regulated to one extent or another by the States and localities. Just cutting off a paying customer, without evidence of criminal behavior, is generally frowned upon by regulatory bodies.

  61. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    @Hellblazer: For where I live, it’s Verizon or Comcast for internet access. I swore off Verizon. Why? Well, both have CSR’s that lie to me, but only Verizon had EXECUTIVES that lied to me. And I when I say executives, I mean people who have their names on Verizon’s Websites…not random ‘supervisors.’

    Comcast has its issues, but a few calls to the PUC cleared that up (took some time though).

    No internet is NOT an option. A wireless card for the laptop [via ATT or someone else] is too much for me, but I’ve seen their prices drop. Comcast for me until something else becomes viable.

    Off topic and IANAL – but record ALL your customer service related phone calls (make sure it’s legal in your state and circumstance).

  62. itsgene says:

    Cable companies, being monopolies in the counties where they do business, are usually required by law to provide free service to schools, libraries, and government buildings. They don’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts, they do it because that’s a cheap price to pay to protect their monopoly.

  63. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:



    The PUC does not regulate internet over cable lines. Not even phone service over cable lines. My situation had me have TV and internet with Comcast…so the PUC at least listened….and after some persistence they ‘suggested’ to Comcast what they should do.

  64. pullshot says:

    I have been running a little Comcastic experiment for the last 3 months in an attempt to pinpoint their “moving target” bandwidth limits.

    Below is my bandwidth usage for the last 3 months:
    February – 64GB
    March – 83GB
    April 117GB

    So far, I have not received ANY scare-tactic notices from Comcast…so I will probably kick my bandwidth usage up to about 140GB this month ;P

    Just a note: This is for the Denver-Boulder metro area, as I have heard they have different “moving targets” depending how densely populated the area you live in is.

    In case you were wondering, I use a little program called Bandwidth meter.

  65. womynist says:

    This is like going to an “all you can eat” buffet and then they ask you to leave because you’ve been there for 3 hours and eaten too much food. Unlimited means unlimited. Where’s the confusion?

  66. WingZero987 says:

    @SkokieGuy: You’re my hero. Seriously.

  67. crichton007 says:

    Sounds to me like more users need to use more bandwidth in order for the current heavy users to not be heavy users any more.

  68. Canoehead says:

    My brother was telling me that in Toronto, Rogers Cable has decided to severely throttle any encrypted traffic. Basically, they started by throttling anything that looked like a torrent, so all the smart kids started encrypting so Rogers couldn’t tell what the data was. So naturally, Rogers started to throttle anything encrypted. Too bad about folks using work VPN or anything else encrypted.

  69. tape says:

    @rabiddachshund: I’m pretty sure that 2GB would get used up pretty quickly by just having a computer on and idle.

  70. trujunglist says:

    2 gigs per month?
    How is someone supposed to stay under that? That seems ridiculously low, and the only way to not hit that is to basically spend about 15 minutes a day doing not much of anything.
    I could easily download 2 gigs in a few hours (I could probably only upload that much in a day though), and I don’t really even download all that much or have WoW or Skype or XBox or whatever new fangled stuff is out there these days. Thankfully Time Warner doesn’t have such insane policies.. yet.

  71. sogmasta says:

    To be honest, Comcast’s little *overage* nonsense doesnt stick (for now). I’ve gotten a couple of those myself and I’ve NEVER been cut off. I’ve only seen Comcast charges go up but currently I’ve never seen or heard of anyone getting cut from comcast due to unusually high traffic.

    Basically what I’m saying is that this is an empty threat because they know that they can’t enforce this “rule” without writing it out (which would spell hell for them right now with fios getting stronger all the time). Plus, the legal issues would be ridiculous.

    If i were this guy, i would just keep going on about my buisness until comcast institutes its new 250 gig cap

  72. LionelEHutz says:

    If they are selling their service as unlimited bandwidth/downloads then they should be giving the customers what they are ordering and not hide behind their incomprehensible TOS BS. Alternatively, they should tell you what your limit is in plain English when you order the f-ing service. Really, it’s not that hard to be honest.

  73. Cyfun says:

    So let me get this straight: The cap is defined by the national average monthly downloads of the Comcast customers? So if all the other customers started downloading 200gb per month, and your usage would then be considered average, Comcast would be happy?

  74. Hellblazer says:

    @Buran: Not easily, no, but it DOES work. I’ve been without TV and without internet in my apartment for more than a year now, because my only option is comcast. I check email and do other internet-related activities from work or from public terminals in the library, and I keep my Netflix subscription flowing at a steady clip.

    Comcast is an awful service provider with even worse customer service, and it would take pretty extreme circumstance for them to ever get another dime out of me.

  75. highmodulus says:

    @EyeHeartPie: Darn it, always last to the party!

  76. BrockBrockman says:

    I absolutely, totally, whole-heartedly agree that Comcast is screwing around, mis-advertising, and our guy is at least entitled to an explanation, and should no longer be hassled.

    But I wonder how much bandwidth does constant use of “Slingboxes, Xbox Marketplaces, WoW updates, Age of Conan install downloads, iTunes, Amazon Unboxes” add up to, without the torrents? I’m guessing a LOT of torrenting is going on here. For the sake of this post, though, I will assume that all of these torrents are legal :)

  77. Scuba Steve says:

    “that she was going to bring the issue up with marketing.”

    I’m sure that’ll happen. Who trains these people? If anyone assures me that they’re going to do anything after they hang up the phone, I immediately assume they’re lying with the express intention of getting me off the phone as soon as possible.

    The resolution of a problem is incidental to the actual job of a customer service rep: to get you off the phone as soon as possible.

    Anyone who says they’re out to help people are lying, they don’t have the power to truly help people. Comcast would go out of business if that were the case.

  78. kahri says:

    Wait! What about “Comcast Games On Demand”, “Comcast Video Email”, “Comcast Rhapsody Unlimited”??????
    All are Comcast Download services.

    I found the rhapsody “unlimited” service to be ironic.

  79. ndjustin says:

    Ok how about this:

    Comcast rep claims 14million customers, says he’s in the 99.9% of usage or in their math, 1/10th of the 1% ((14,000,000 * 0.01)* 0.1) = 14,000 users.

    So they hope to terminate up to 14,000 users a month?

    I’m sure the average bill is around $100, that’s 1.4 million in a month of lost business.

  80. maztec says:

    At least you don’t have them calling you monthly to complain that you don’t have cable television and that they may need to discontinue your account if you don’t subscribe soon, because they no longer offer “internet only” packages.

    I just respond with, “No problem, cancel my account when you need to, I’ll get DSL.” Too bad DSL service sucks in my area.

  81. saphyrre says:

    I wonder how many people posting here realize that reps have no idea what the usage cap is.. And even more interesting, the “abuse” reps don’t know either. Simply because there is not a fixed amount, it all depends on the node. If the node is overloaded (4-500 people), the cap might be as low as 100GB. For other areas, it can be as much as 250GB.
    As for the rep that said that “she never heard of it”, billing/sales people have no idea what they are talking about. Really. Some of them are nice people, but completely ignorant when it comes to technical stuff. J
    And from what i know (and saw in SVP:) most of the nodes are overloaded (nothing new here, most of the cable companies do that); it makes sense for them to turn off service for whoever uses too much bandwidth.
    Simple as that.

  82. u235sentinel says:

    doesn’t surprise me. Concast did this to my family in January 2007 and we’ve considered suing but over what? Breach of Contract?

    And would we want to go back with such a sad company anyway? They are the worst I’ve seen in my experience. They won’t even deal with their customers cept with disdain. What kind of lousy company is that?

    This is why I’ve been advocating for competition in the US. Not just two companies but three or more providing similar services and speeds.

    After a year or working with politicians and representatives plus other companies (such as Qwest and utopianet), we’re beginning to see this in Utah. And about time too.

    Concast is a dinosaur. Let them fall apart.

    I feel for you dude. Once you get the call, you are gone. I have YET to see one person who hasn’t been booted after receiving the call. I would be surprised if he’s still online after 30 days.

    Oh and forget trying to find someone at Concast who cares. In their mind, you should use the Internet for email and browsing web pages with minimal multimedia. Otherwise you are a bad customer.

    That’s Concastic!!

  83. thegirls says:

    Good point.

    I have several friends that are hard of hearing or completely deaf (Gallaudet University is close by). One if them has just accepted a job w/Sorensen Relay Service, which provides video relay communication through a high-speed line.

    I’m gonna if anyone has had any problems w/this.

  84. JustThatGuy3 says:


    They typically lose about 2.5-3% of their internet subscribers per month anyway (people move, people drop broadband, people shift to DSL), so an additional 0.1% really isn’t much of an increase.

  85. ComcastCorp says:

    Peter – Sorry to hear about the confusion you’ve experienced. Comcast does not offer “unlimited” service and we have not used that term in our marketing or advertising for many years. As to the FAQs, thank you for pointing that out. I have escalated that to be fixed. However, you can also access the same FAQs at []

    They are pretty straightforward and we provide examples of what it would take for someone to use an excessive amount of bandwidth such as sending 40 million emails per month, downloading 50,000 songs per month, etc. Typical customers use about 2 GB per month.

    -Charlie Douglas at Comcast

  86. Brothernod says:

    I don’t think threatening to cancel your service is really going to be a threat. Didn’t some cell phone company recently walk you through canceling your account if you made to many roaming calls?

    It’s the same situation. If you are using a proportionally unusual amount of bandwith, you are costing them more to keep than the customer using 2gb a month just doing windows updates. They’d rather all the torrent junkies leave cause their profit on 2gb a month customers is huge.

    Of course I don’t see the point in them rolling out 100MBps DOCSIS 3.0 if they’re going to cap people at 250GB a month. Seems like a wasted investment, and if I were one of their investors I’d probably take serious issue with how the company was handling themselves recently.

    Now as a Comcast customer I’d be pretty pissed about this stupid invisible cap too. If they are the only broadband provider in your area can you sue them for canceling your service without giving you just cause (since they won’t prove you’re over the cap) or will their EULA with some generic line about them being able to revoke service for any reason be a sufficient clause for them. I would think if they were the only broadband vendor in an area they would have to have some standards of service to meet.

  87. Coles_Law says:

    Wow. My local ISP gives you more bandwidth and a greater download limit with the higher tier. If you go over, it’s something like $2.00/10GB.

    2GB/month for a median seems about right. I’m on the lowest tier, have a 1 GB limit, and only exceeded it once (curse you, Portal).

  88. Coles_Law says:

    Wow, right after the Comcast guy too. Not intentional.

  89. Flynn says:

    @ComcastCorp: Wow. 2GB? So, I guess if I were a Comcast customer and I decided to download Fedora 9 today at release, that 4.2GB would basically mark me with the big red ‘D,’ huh?

  90. Mr. Gunn says:

    It shouldn’t go without notice that the people who use the most bandwidth are your biggest fans, but also the most likely to complain when they’re cut off.

    In other words, they’re that influential super-user who probably directly influences the decision of dozens of other people, and indirectly maybe hundreds. Seems like it would make sense to write-off the extra cost as a marketing expense to me.

    If it’s really an issue where they’re affecting the local network, but you can’t give them a number because you don’t want to be accused of capping, then give an approximate number. 50000 songs/month at 3 MB/song = 150 GB. Why not just say approximately 150 GB?

    There’s either a good reason for this that I’m too dense to grasp, or somebody’s playing corporate double speak games.

  91. Mr. Gunn says:

    BTW, I’ve heard the argument that if you ballparked a number, you’re giving them implicit permission to use that much, when you wish they’d go lower. Yes, that’s exactly what they’d do, so if you don’t like it, say a lower number!

  92. vastrightwing says:

    and you subscribe to Comcast because ….?
    A) Dialup isn’t available.
    B) DSL isn’t available.
    C) Satellite isn’t available.
    D) WiFi isn’t available.

  93. DeltaPurser says:

    Can someone please tell me what the h*ll you’re downloading that is taking up so much bandwidth?!?!?!

  94. KarmaChameleon says:

    @DeltaPurser: Do you play any online games? Updates and patches are a regular fact of life when you’re a subscriber, and those files are almost always huge. I play FFXI and WoW and thank my lucky stars my ISP doesn’t pull this shit.

    It’s not always people downloading movies.

  95. cyberscribe says:

    Dump Comcast.

    Cast a “No” vote for their policies (in a way that they can’t quite ignore totally) by using the only clout that you really have: your wallet.

  96. u235sentinel says:

    For those who say Concast never provided Unlimited use, I have news for you. When I signed up, they did.

    And you can view it here

    Very clearly Concast advertised on their older web pages “Unlimited Use for a flat monthly fee”. That’s what I bought when I signed up years ago.

    I guess I should have sued. But it’s so much more fun to simply bring in competition and watch their stocks go down :D

  97. obbie says:

    @Comcast: suck my left nut. im sick of your bullshit.

  98. Breach says:


    Unfortunately since Comcast buys up local providers, it is very difficult to get something else usually. My option is Comcast or *shudder* Qwest.

    It is all about bandwidth, you can think of it as extra pipes to the same reservoir. You can move more water but you empty it faster.

    Comcast really should decide what the crap it actually sells. And if you are paying for higher tier you should be allowed Unlimited service. You cant tell me that 1 guy who actually uses what Comcast makes available has a major impact on the other 80-90 percent of users that cruise the web and nothing more.

  99. mikecolione says:

    All cable companies and wireless companies advertise “unlimited access”. Unlimited access means just that, you have unlmited access, not unlimited usage.

    I’m not taking their side, but as long as they play with words, they’ll get around any court system.

  100. DanKelley98 says:

    Comcast sucks. I dumped their internet for AT&T DSL a long time ago after having WAYYY too many outages.

    They’re pushing their HDTV selection now, but don’t disclose the compression rate.

    They promote their “power boost”, but don’t openly disclose that its 20 seconds of a download.

    Screw ’em!

  101. Jesse in Japan says:

    He’s using too many of those Internet tubes! The Internet is NOT a dump truck!

  102. madog says:

    @mikecolione: What would the average consumer think, “Unlimited Access”, means in regard to an internet service provider though?

    “Oh wow, that means you can access ALL of the sites on the web!”

    “Oh that means I can access my internet at anytime of the day, 24/7!”

    Nope, if you advertise that then you should expect everyone, except you, to relate it to unlimited access/usage, whatever, to the net.

    The New Ford Focus! Now with Unlimited Miles!

  103. bms says:

    If they provide a number, then users will have a target to reach every day/month. This is the start of “unlimited” internet. We will see per MB/GB/TB download pricing soon.

  104. JustThatGuy3 says:


    That’s what you bought. If they’re no longer delivering that, you have the right to cancel. There’s no ETF, no cost to leaving. Every month is a new transaction.

  105. Flynn says:


    Well, besides the aforementioned Fedora distro (Linux OS), here are a few other typical uses I could see carving into that:

    – YouTube/Google Video: Now, some quick searching for YouTube videos brings up an average of 2.5 MB/min. bandwidth So, if you get sucked into watching 50 YouTube videos some day (let’s say you’re bored), at an average of 3:30 a video, that’s 437.5 MB right there, or almost 1/4 of your monthly “typicaL” usage.
    – Flickr: Ever browsed Flickr? Ever spent a few hours looking at your relatives’/friends’ pictures. I could EASILY see looking at a few hundred photos a month, which could be 200MB or more.
    – Amazon/iTunes/eMusic/whoever: Typical compression is 10-1, giving you around a MB a minute for MP3 audio. So, at 500 MB, that’s 500 min, or with an average again of 4 minutes a song, that’s 125 songs. To give you an idea…places like eMusic give you 20-50 free tracks just for joining.
    – Podcasts: grab 3-5 podcasts a week, at an average of 30MB each, and you’re starting to add up (90-150MB a week, or 360MB-600MB a month).
    – RSS: are most people even AWARE of how often RSS feeds check in? If you are obsessive and have lots of feeds checking multiple times a day, they could easily top 10MB a day total data…for 300MB a month just on news reading.
    – NetRadio: at 128k streams, that’s kbit/s. So, if you were to listen to a stream at work, 8 hours a day, every day, 5 days a week, guess what? That would be 562.5 MB a month, once again 1/4 of your usage.

    Add a few downloads here and there (software, system updates, drivers, movie trailers at HD), and it’s REALLY easy to see how regular ‘net usage could top 2GB a month, EASY. And that’s not even the “power” users.

  106. kahri says:

    @ComcastCorp: Mr. Douglas: Can you please explain how you can offer services such as “Comcast Rhapsody Unlimited” and “Comcast Games On Demand” and have a unspecified cap on your downloads? The examples you gave were based on ONE type of download where the culmination of different types would still reach the unspecified cap. For example: 50,000 MP3s in a month sounds excessive, but the same bandwidth can be taken up by only 10,000 MP3s if you also bought a couple of “Comcast Games On Demand” and sent a few “Comcast Video Emails” (not to mention the “unlimited” music download service). Point is, Comcast put the word “unlimited” on their service, not the consumer. If Comcast doesn’t want their consumers to think their buying an “unlimited” service, then don’t try to sell me with it. Comcast in general is complaining that their customers believed them.

  107. thegirls says:
  108. akechi says:

    For what it’s worth, I don’t agree with comcast’s business practices, but I think that the comcast bashing here is a bit of an over reaction. I have been a comcast customer for years and regularly pull down ~150-200 GB via torrents per month (in addition to 2 360’s, a wii, and 3 other roommates worth of internet traffic-two of them with serious WoW addictions). Besides two DMCA take down requests forwarded my way (oops), I haven’t been harassed at all by comcast. The level of service i get is well worth the ~$40 (% by 4) that we shell out for it each month.

    @Pullshot – I live in boulder, so YMMV but i think you are nowhere near being flagged for excessive use

    @Everyone who freaked out over the 2GB a month median (not AVERAGE) usage: Remember median is a very robust measurement that is resistant to outliers. For every power user who pulls down 100GB of porn per week, there are 50 grandmothers who don’t do much more that check their email. I’d be willing to bet that the average usage is much, much higher (somewhere in the 20-30 GB per month range.)

  109. aaronw1 says:

    I disagree with the execution of the idea, but comcast does really have the “best interests of their customer *base*” in mind. Note that this is different than the best interests of the *customer*. As a base example, let’s say that there is a 100MB connection feeding 10 houses. If all of these houses are generally low users of bandwidth then nobody has a problem. It’s when one user starts pulling down torrents all day and all night that now the service to the other people does go down. So, you say, why not upgrade the connection to 1000MB? Well, that’s a possibility, but that’s more expensive hardware, and in order to deploy this more expensive hardware, I need to be (somewhat) assured of the ROI on it so that I make money. It is weird with these semi-regulated companies, but as a private company with shareholders, if you’re still paying the same amount for a connection, but I’ve upgraded your neighborhood… then it’s not a good business decision.

    As far as setting a hard limit. The problem is then you get people who set their limiters to get exactly just below that number, and you may potentially lose some customers, who even though they will never approach 1/100th of the number, will be “spooked” because there’s a number out there.

    Reporting on bytes transferred.
    For better or for worse, the internet industry (as opposed to the telephone industry) has grown up *not* billing-detailed. The telcos *love* to bill for ‘things’ – see wireless minutes, bytes on wireless, long distance numbers, etc. From the ground up, the internet was not built that way, so the whole chain of hardware to collect the numbers -> software to manage the numbers -> software to display the numbers to internal users -> software to display the numbers to external users is simply not there. Even the phone company doesn’t have step 4 done with long distance minutes because there’s no competitive pressure to do so. Partly this was because for some far off COs back in the day, there simply was no collection of numbers until the CO shipped back a reel of tape to be read into the central billing system at the end of the month. But the numbers were there. The Internet culture…. just wasn’t designed from the ground up to be able to collect that level of detail.

  110. @Papa Midnight: Just as a follow-up, Verizon also freely provides services for the Baltimore County Public Library.

    MCI Communications Services, Inc. d/b/a Verizon Business NETBLK-UUNETCBLK64-67 (NET-206-64-0-0-1) –
    Baltimore County Public Library UU-206-66-216 (NET-206-66-216-0-1) –