Telecommunications Policy

Sadly Comcastic!

Mere loathing won't fix bad broadband policy.

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Let me make it perfectly clear: I hate Comcast. The years I was sentenced to the company's crappy CATV and broadband service were long, brutal, and demeaning. And that was just the time spent interacting with Comcast customer service.

Still, contrary to much of the recent vilification the company has received, Comcast has a hint of a justification in attempting to "shape traffic" on its network by throttling bandwidth hogs. More importantly, Comcast's misdeeds do not necessitate—as many have assumed—some sort of federal solution and associated broadband policing.

First, Comcast was absolutely wrong not to inform its customers that file-sharing apps like BitTorrent would be disrupted by active Comcast intervention. That is a deceptive business practice, plain and simple. However, there are still sound reasons for the traffic shaping goal—which the AP hysterically labeled "data discrimination"—that require no ill-intent to explain.

Any network—roads, broadband, canals—has peak usage times. The provider of that network wants to maximize the number of customers they can charge to use that network, of course. But you cannot attract customers unless you promise some reliable level of service and try to smooth out usage peaks and valleys.

Applied to the world of Comcast, who are often trying to service many customers through one access point, one or two BitTorrent or Gnutella freaks can eat away at the access promised to other customers. Comcast would have to be suicidal not to take note of this fact and try to address it.

This is not "data discrimination," but common sense. Likewise it is common sense that consumers would not actually benefit by turning broadband access into a quasi-public utility via a declaration that Internet service is a common carrier, with absolutely no differentiation in the traffic carried, and answerable only to regulators on that count.

Think about the kind of consumers we want to be—captive or coveted? In the old telco common carrier model, consumers had no choice in provider, and only scant choice for services. Maybe a choice of Bakelite handset color if they were lucky. Contrast that with today's hypercompetitive cell phone market, where consumers are courted by providers with hundreds, if not thousands, of options to reflect a user's needs.

This brings us to the major confusion with data discrimination/Net neutrality thinking: Bits may be bits, but users are not users. We should not mistake the binary, on-off nature of digital communication for the end result, which is the untold number of different ways that this means of communication can be used.

Old dial-tone voice service did only one thing, so it was fairly easy for regulators to handle. You either were able to make and receive calls, or you were not. Then the government decided that long distance calls should subsidize local service, and that was that. You heard a dial tone when you picked up your receiver, and that was your expectation as a consumer of telephone service.

A broadband consumer expects—what, exactly? Low-latency for gamers. Reliability for businesses and home offices. Upstream vs. downstream—which is most important to you? Downstream for most folks, but not all. Not someone trying to push a 15 megabyte Power Point presentation through 48K. Is voiceover IP a priority for you? IP TV?

A federal "Civil Rights Act" for Internet bits couldn't possibly address all of these competing uses for broadband service.

In fact, the best solution to providing competition and making broadband consumers coveted by providers does not lie in federal legislation; it is found in breaking the monopoly service providers like Comcast have with local governments. If we are really worried that consumer data will be discriminated against, then the best response is to ensure that consumers have multiple choices in local service providers.

Failing that, local governments can and should negotiate levels of service requirements into their franchising agreements with providers like Comcast. Such requirements have long been a part of cable TV franchise agreements, and explain why Comcast or Time Warner will roll a truck for reports of snow on your basic cable tier. But report flaky Net service? If you're lucky, they'll drop off a new modem in a day or two.

Robust and reasonable Internet service requirements would at least start to ensure that providers could not blame shoddy network performance on peer-to-peer users, or go on a witchhunt against them in order to avoid spending money on needed network upgrades. At a minimum, every franchise agreement should have some minimum up-time and advertised speed language.

Would that usher in Net utopia? No, but it would help ensure consumers get what they pay for without engaging the regulatory blunderbuss of Congress. And it would leave time for the truly important things in life.

Like hating Comcast.


Reason contributor Jeff Taylor writes from North Carolina.

NEXT: Craig Franklin and Jena

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  1. To summarize:

    1) Jeff Taylor hates Comcast. OK.
    2) Comcast should have informed users of their throttling policy. Agreed.
    3) Some kind of policy is probably necessary so that torrent users don’t hog much of the bandwidth.
    As a non-torrent user, AGREED!
    Now let the whining of torrent users commence.

  2. Much of the problem with Comcast and other cable (& phone) providers is the monopoly status they’re given by communities. Any company should be allowed to enter any market upon posting a timely completion bond (so that, if they go under, the sidewalks can be put back.) Do this, and let the cable companies and telcos compete head to head, and I suspect throughput issues will sort themselves out quickly.

  3. I have comcast and, except for a couple of short outages in the last couple of years, have no complaints about service.

    But then, I’m not trying to stream Gone With the Wind on a regular basis.

  4. End the government-sponsored monopolies on cable and internet providers, and there are no problems.

    Internet providers in the US are a joke compared to the rest of the world. The speeds are far slower, the bandwidth is far lower. The monopolies are what caues this.

    (and yes, I use torrents. I use torrents for completely legal stuff. I only run the torrents at night, so I’m generally not slowing down the system, thankyouverymuch)

  5. If you’re lukcy, they’ll drop off a new modem in a day or two.

    How fortutious! I’m the first one to catch a misspelling!

  6. Comcast is going to catch hell for this, because they are interfering with people’s downloading of porn. Not recommended.

  7. As long as they are a monopoly, and as long as they enjoy the competitive advantage of previously having been a monopoly, they are benefiting from that gov’t sponsored exclusivity. Part of the deal is that they have rules imposed on them intended to mimic the free market. Regulations never do a good job of this, but if the market had developed from the first instance as a competitive market, there wouldn’t be these silly restrictions on usage. It smacks of Compuserve 1992.

  8. As a business practice, they shouldn’t sell “5 megabit downstream service” if what they are really offering is “5 Mb downstream service provided you don’t actually use it too much”. The difference between the two shouldn’t be buried in the fine print either. But, if that’s the reputation they want, go for it.

    I’m a bittorrent user. I visit thepiratebay.org often, but I NEVER EVER download anything that is not legal to download in the U.S.

  9. Sorry, but what Comcast was doing wasn’t as simple as throttling bandwidth hogs. If it was, I don’t think you’d hear nearly as much about it. Bandwidth throttling is a fairly common practice and it’s a decent compromise when network resources get scarce.

    What Comcast was doing was different. It looked for P2P traffic on its network and placed forged data into that stream to make it stop regardless of whether their network was heavily burdened or not. This doesn’t affect just Comcast users either, it affects anyone in the P2P network that has just one Comcast user as a member.

  10. This is bogus. You pay for bandwidth. Comcast counts on you not using what you pay for. It doesn’t matter what application your running. Bits arebits. What matters is how many bits your pushing through the pipe. They need to change their pricing plan, not “shape” traffic.

  11. The first thing I see wrong with this piece is that Mr. Taylor is conflating Net Neutrality with traffic shaping. No one is arguing that network operators shouldn’t be doing basic QOS stuff and prioritizing certain types of traffic over others. Almost every netowork admin does that.
    Net Neutrality is about prioritizing certain destinations/sources of traffic over others or degrading other sources (Like say if Comcast decided to make any data coming from AT&T lower on the priority rung).

    The other issue I have with the way Comcast goes about these things is the lack of transparency. They advertise “always on” or unlimited internet usage, and then say things like “as long as you don’t use too much” in the fine print. They don’t tell you how much is too much until after you have gone past their arbitrary threshold at which point they tend to just shut you down and push you towards their commercial service. They justify this by stating that “if we told everyone how much data is too much, everyone would max out data usage up the the threshold”.

    And what’s going to happen when Video On Demand usage spikes and broadcasters start streaming more programming (already we are seeing most major networks have most of their shows full episodes available for viewing on their websites)? Is Comcast going to limit the number of shows I can stream as well?

    Essentially though, the problem is one of disclosure. I’m all for not regulating, but Comcast won’t disclose their usage limits so that the consumer can make an informed decision. If Comcast would tell their customers at sign up time that they may arbitrarily shut data downloads whenever they feel like it for whatever reasons, things like this wouldn’t be an issue because people who do lots of downloading would avoid signing a contract with Comcast. Instead they sign you up pretending that “hey its unlimited” and then after the fact say “ohh you want to actaully use it in an unlimited manner?? Sorry you cant do that”

  12. Comcast does not have a monopoly. There is DSL, cable, satellite, dial-up, wireless, BPL. And then there is the library. Radio Shack does not have a monopoly on consumer electronic sales just because nobody else has opened a Best Buy in your neighborhood or because somebody elses store sucks.

  13. Jesse Walker-

    Setting up your own wireless network is easy and you don’t have to pay your cable company a monthly fee for hardware rental. That doesn’t excuse Comcast, but if you really want cable internet, the lack of support for wireless networking with macs shouldn’t be an issue. Just buy a $50 netgear wireless router. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons not to use Comcast as your ISP.

  14. Dave: After my Comcast experience I looked into my other options. I set up our own network in a fraction of the time it took me to deal with Comcast. In the meantime, I’ve happily stuck with DSL for Internet access.

  15. Essentially though, the problem is one of disclosure. I’m all for not regulating, but Comcast won’t disclose their usage limits so that the consumer can make an informed decision. If Comcast would tell their customers at sign up time that they may arbitrarily shut data downloads whenever they feel like it for whatever reasons, things like this wouldn’t be an issue because people who do lots of downloading would avoid signing a contract with Comcast. Instead they sign you up pretending that “hey its unlimited” and then after the fact say “ohh you want to actaully use it in an unlimited manner?? Sorry you cant do that”

    This is the crux of the matter for me. But that’s really a matter of whether the contract is enforceable and whether it can be equitably estopped, I suppose. Of course, it’s also a matter of a lone consumer trying to fight the Big Bad Corporation and its lawyer platoons.

    Right now, the biggest problem is that the only practical alternative to Comcast for many users is DSL, which is no picnic.

  16. “Comcast does not have a monopoly. There is DSL, cable, satellite, dial-up, wireless, BPL.”

    I’m sure the folks in Eustis, Florida will be surprised to hear that. Hell, I lived in NYC for 8 years and had access to exactly one provider: Verizon DSL. Yeah, I know, satellite. Just like Ferrari is Hyundai’s competitor because they’re both cars.

  17. It’s not as simple as you make it sound. As a previous comment noted, Comcast is interfering with people who aren’t even using their network (read up on how torrent technology, and comcast’s methods, work). Bittorrent tech isn’t limited to illegal files; I believe Microsoft and Blizzard and other reputable companies use the technology as well.

    As long as Comcast and others are granted monopolies by governments, this is going to be an issue. At my previous location, I had no other choice for broadband. Now, my legal or otherwise torrent downloads are interfered with by comcast, even though I’m no longer on their network. No good. I can’t escape their silly tactics just by signing up with a different ISP in a completely different part of the country…

  18. Ugh …

    “DSL” != Internet access

    They are completely separate things. In most cases you get your internet access from the same provider as your DSL. In my case qwest terminates the DSL line and I my ISP is someone completely different (because I can’t stand quest). In most locations (not all I agree) there are at least 2 or more ISPs now available. That will increase over time (wimax, municipal wireless, etc)

  19. UNDERMINING NET NEUTRALITY

    Blaming bandwidth hogs for congestion by content identification doesn’t pass the laugh test any more than blaming SUVs for consuming too much gasoline or fatties at McDonalds for consuming too many burgers and fries.

    Part of the issue indeed is kilo-byte peak use and kilo-byte second total use, which if priced individually to users looks like corresponding units of kilowatts and kilowatt-hours of electricity, independent of how it’s used in various applicances, etc.

    Likewise, internet content is irrelevant to the cost of service. Ten thousand emails can impose the same cost as one digital movie.

    Broadband providers initially oversold maximum capacity limits to users because only a small percentage used it to the max. That’s changed and they’re starting to ration it arbitrarily, based on bogus content arguments.

    When SUV drivers buy more gas and fatties eat more burgers and fries, they buy more gallons and sandwiches and bags of it at the same unit price – not more units AT HIGHER UNIT PRICES along with restricted access as asserted necessary for “bandwidth hogs” by Michael McCurry, a PR hack behind this ridiculous propaganda.

    What they’re really trying to do is create a “fast lane” like the “HOV” lane for cars with more than one occupant. That will become the “everything package” just like Cable TV, just like the internet service you have now.

    Except the price will likely triple – just to continue to get the broadband service you have now. From that ceiling price maximum, just like Basic Cable, one can dial down to service at today’s prices, for example, that restricts email to 10 sends and receives per day, eliminates access to all streaming media and provides Wikipedia only on Mondays and Wednesdays for letters A thru K.

    Net neutrality is what exists now due to prior regulations associated with common carriage. It’s taken for granted. Attempts to undermine it are driven by the two dominant cable and DSL providers (the latter going fiber as they cut the copper cable behind them) with existing market power to prevent competition which would preserve, not erode net neutrality.

    In other words, net neutrality was originally regulation designed to substitute for the absence of competition, i.e., voice grade telephone service could not be manipulatd by the provider. Today, net neutrality has become a standard for competitive outcomes.

  20. It’s somewhat unfair to compare phones to internet, because:

    A: Computer technology is moving so quickly that providers will be able to keep up with increasing bandwidths.

    B: Unlike the golden age of telephones (if you want to call it that), there is an increasing number of options available for service. Satellite DSL, WiFi (some towns are installing city-wide wifi), etc. You are not forced to use the “Ma Bell” equivalent.

    Now obviously, changes to service should be made clear to the customer, although I remember seeing some language in the contract (you know, those things you don’t read when you sign up) that pertains to this situation.

    Anyway, the point is that if you’re unhappy with your service, you have options.

    As far as whining about torrent users, yes, I use torrents. But that is because I pay for a service and expect to get what I pay for. I even pay for the “Power Boost” bandwidth upgrade.

    If you want better service, buy it. It’s called a free market. If you can’t afford it, tough titties, you don’t have an inalienable right to internet and most public libraries provide access.

  21. i use bittorrent….if i gobble up to much data charge me for it….if you restrict it without that option I will find a competitor who will give me that option.

    Why do we need the federal government involved again?

  22. Internet providers in the US are a joke compared to the rest of the world. The speeds are far slower, the bandwidth is far lower.

    Unfair comparison #2.

    I’d wager that our service is slower because the U.S. has a far higher percentage of citizens that own computers than most other countries.

  23. tim: Sorry. I meant I stuck with DSL as opposed to switching to cable.

  24. Actually Taktix… the reason for our slower broadband uptake is how frigging big the U.S. is… And how low our population density is.

    Back to the issues with the Comcast issue. There are two major issues: first is the marketing selling unlimited bandwidth while having quotas that cause additional fees, or slowdown of service; second is the forged packets, the issue with BT wasn’t that they were throttling it, they were sending kill packets to both ends of the connection to reset the connections (to explain in a horrible analogy, this would be like the phone company deciding you were talking on the phone to someone they didn’t like, and hanging both phones up every couple of minutes).

    Nephilium

  25. I agree with the article. However, it is my understanding that Comcast is breaking the TCP protocol, and it really shouldn’t be doing that.

  26. w00t! Hotbutton issue. I agree that Comcast has a right to shape its traffic. However, I want to address something that’s being overcomplicated:

    A broadband consumer expects-what, exactly? Low-latency for gamers. Reliability for businesses and home offices. Upstream vs. downstream-which is most important to you? Downstream for most folks, but not all. Not someone trying to push a 15 megabyte Power Point presentation through 48K. Is voiceover IP a priority for you? IP TV?

    I know a little something about this because it’s my profession. It’s my bidness, this thing we call computers and networks.

    Almost all of the above requires one thing: bandwidth. The customer may want to do different things WITH that bandwidth, but in the end, what the consumer wants is quite simple: better bandwidth. Let’s break it down:

    Low-latency for gamers. Requires high bandwidth.

    Upstream vs. downstream-which is most important to you? My answer is “yes” Give me more bandwidth.

    Is voiceover IP a priority for you? Requires higher bandwidth

    IP TV? requires even higher bandwidth.

    All of the new emerging services that we can get out of our internet are the direct result of increased bandwidth. Bits ARE bits, and the faster you move them, the more suff you can do with them.

    Having said that, I believe, very grudgingly that Comcast has a right to watch how the bandwidth is being used and throttle it to keep their network robust and not allow one person’s FTP music sharing darknet and streaming video screw up their neighbors porn viewing experience.

  27. Having said that, I believe, very grudgingly that Comcast has a right to watch how the bandwidth is being used and throttle it to keep their network robust and not allow one person’s FTP music sharing darknet and streaming video screw up their neighbors porn viewing experience.

    Well sure, but then Comcast should not sell it as “unlimited access.”

  28. Isn’t it true that increased bandwidth contributes to global warming? Are gamers responsible for toasting half of San Diego? I have a computer model that says they are.

  29. Low-latency for gamers. Requires high bandwidth

    Bandwidth and latency aren’t equivalent, and having high bandwidth (a local issue) is no guarantee of low latency (an internetwork issue). The latter breaks TCP over fat pipes. Throughput is reduced by high latency even on high BW connections.

    Is voiceover IP a priority for you? Requires higher bandwidth

    Requires high availability (QoS), which is not directly connected to bandwidth. Sure, increasing BW is (usually) a way to increase your share, but it’s still subject to jamming without QoS.

  30. Please people stop confusing latency with bandwidth. Comcast’s “blocking” has little to do with either in any case.

    The product they use help shapes the connection graph for bittorrent, and a few other protocols. On average it provides a better experience by coercing clients with full copies to send to others within comcast’s network. The result is faster transfers most of the time for comcast users.

    Most of the time.

    It can be a problem for less popular torrents. The technology can easily be made smarter, or better yet ISPs can work out a hinting protocol for clients to query the ISP with.

    As for breaking TCP? Sure. Lots of devices do, sending a reset so happens to be the most sure-fire way for a client application to respond with a quick disconnect. The “right” way, with an ICMP message, is not often used and results in applications accumulating half open connections with long timeouts. With the myriad of home firewall appliances and filters, a reset will almost always makes it way to the client. I’ve personally written applications that do this very thing, intercepting and redirecting or disconnecting traffic.

    As for the spoofing angle of this story, injecting traffic by a third party, this is done all the time with network caches. Just as network shaping is done with DNS dolling out least-cost IP addresses to direct clients to “closer” servers. Ad-networks, seach engines, any busy site has some mix of these technologies.

    Drawing any sort of “network neutrality” line in the protocol-sand is too difficult to be effective considering how much is already not “neutral” and is better because of it.

  31. Please people stop confusing latency with bandwidth.

    I’m not, I’m trying to simplify something that’s being overcomplicated. And, bandwidth does have an effect on overall latency. The bottom line is, the slower (longer) it takes to get your data from A to B, the worse your experience is going to be. Whether Comcast doesn’t increase its bandwidth, but decreases the latency of its equipment, the result for the consumer is the same: a faster, more robust connection (read higher throughput), end of story.

    It’s been noted that most customer premise equipment has lousy latency which is why they don’t see the throughput their network (or ISP) claims it can deliver.

    And on the QoS issue, yeah, fine, except what is QoS in the end? Anyone? Beuller? Anyone? Traffic “shaping”. To wit:

    Quality of Service (QoS) refers to the capability of a network to provide better service to selected network traffic over various technologies, including Frame Relay, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), Ethernet and 802.1 networks, SONET, and IP-routed networks that may use any or all of these underlying technologies. The primary goal of QoS is to provide priority including dedicated bandwidth, controlled jitter and latency (required by some real-time and interactive traffic), and improved loss characteristics. Also important is making sure that providing priority for one or more flows does not make other flows fail. QoS technologies provide the elemental building blocks that will be used for future business applications in campus, WAN, and service provider networks.

    All this is with the full understanding that yes, Comcast is taking a rather ham-fisted approach to its QoS, er, traffic shaping which I have a problem with.

    Do note that in the above description that the goal of QoS is to make sure that other flows don’t fail due to the prioritization of a given protocol. “Fail” is the watchword. If you have limited bandwidth, at some point, you are robbing Peter to pay Paul (did I mention my wealth is intangible?), so to speak. If you prioritize traffic in a way that doesn’t cause other real-time streams to “fail”, but may cause other traffic that isn’t real-time dependant to slow down (bittorrent), have you not acheived your goal?

  32. comcast is the worst company i have ever had to deal with.

  33. Danny | October 25, 2007, 1:17pm | #

    If you’re lukcy, they’ll drop off a new modem in a day or two.

    How fortutious! I’m the first one to catch a misspelling!

    It’s not a misspelling. Only if your name is “lukcy” will you get a new modem in a day or two. The rest of us will wait the usual three weeks.

  34. My problem with Comcast is not that they are acting as a free-market entity, but as a monopolistic one. In my county, as in many others in the U.S., ONE cable provider is an exclusive franchise to provide cable service, and Comcast is it.

    Sounds OK, until you realize, Comcast gets to pick and choose its customers. And for the last 15 years, they’ve chosen to wire only new construction. So if you didn’t have cable by 1990, you will NEVER get it in my county. And that means almost 40% of my county is without cable service and will always be.

    I’d love to send Comcast $140 a month for digital HD cable, telephone and high-speed internet. Every year for 11 years I’ve begged them to simply turn on the cable that ends at my mailbox so we can start paying them. And every year, they decide not to take my money.

    I WISH Comcast would act like a free-market entity – then the threat of competition might actually make them offer service to all potential customers!

  35. I figured I’d chime in, since I actually helped implement the bittorrent “shaping” that’s taking place.

    1. Bandwidth is NOT just bandwidth in cable. Upstream and downstream bandwidth are very different things in DOCSIS. Bittorrent (and other filesharing) takes lots of upstream, and on cable, upstream (to a certain extent) is shared. Web surfing doesn’t need much upstream, but if the shared bandwidth for 150 subs is all being monopolized by five who are filesharing, the 145 web surfers will suffer.

    Also, we can’t just throw money at increasing upstream. We only have only so much frequency available, and we’ve got lots of products coming (more HD and VOD, especially) vying for that frequency. There are solutions on the horizon, especially moving unpopular channels to switched digital so they’re not on the plant unless someone is watching them. But those solutions are expensive and a ways off, and they’ll piss off customers, too (wait until you hear the screaming from Tivo lovers with dual-cablecard boxes when we tell them their expensive box won’t work and they have to get a newer one… a newer one that hasn’t even been invented yet).

    2. I agree that prioritizing traffic would be better than just killing bittorrent connection indiscriminately. Unfortunately, it’s much easier (read: cheaper) to run a piece of hardware that analyzes traffic coming off an ethernet tap and sends TCP resets… the alternative is to run the hardware “inline,” where traffic actually flows through it and each packet is marked individually. At the speeds and amount of traffic we’re talking about, that takes some serious CPU power. Also, this leads to a another point of failure (another 2 points of failure if you count the extra cable necessary). More points of failure equals more downtime, and that costs money, too.

    3. Illegal or legal bittorrenting… it doesn’t matter too much, they both chew up upstream bandwidth. In fact, I think we (Comcast) are a little pissed at the Blizzards of the world for “stealing” our bandwidth (it’s not cheap) to distribute their software, rather than buying their own.

    I feel your pain, I’m a customer as well as an employee, and I do a lot of torrenting. It sucks that an ISP has to break a protocol this way, but it is technically necessary, and the decision was driven by a commitment to providing the best experience to the most customers.

    Perhaps the upstream shortcomings will be the end of cable as a medium for data distribution… we’ll just have to see if everyone moves to DSL because of this.

  36. I WISH Comcast would act like a free-market entity – then the threat of competition might actually make them offer service to all potential customers!

    I’m not sure if Comcast has a choice. Often times, municipalities only allow one franchise to operate. It’s a public/private partnership…for the children.

  37. Anonymous Comcaster:

    Thanks for your excellent perspective-providing post.

  38. Thanks for your excellent perspective-providing post.

    Splitter!

  39. I hate Comcast because they have sucky service and ridiculous rates, thanks to their local monopoly. Luckily, Verizon decided my ‘hood was wealthy enough to be worth installing FiOS in, so hopefully soon Comcast will be kicked repeatedly in the nutsack with steel-toed boots.

  40. This thread is a trap designed to catch nerds and all of you have been caught!

  41. This thread is a trap designed to catch nerds and all of you have been caught!

    I cop to it!

    Hey, that’s an original Lord of the Rings replica sword!!! That’s mint in box!!!

  42. “3. Illegal or legal bittorrenting… it doesn’t matter too much, they both chew up upstream bandwidth. In fact, I think we (Comcast) are a little pissed at the Blizzards of the world for “stealing” our bandwidth (it’s not cheap) to distribute their software, rather than buying their own.”

    But its my bandwidth too — I paid for it.

    Now, fine, if my 1TB per month of uploads is killing my neighbors effort to e-mail his kid’s pictures to grandma, then give me some limits. Tell me where the line is so that I can monitor my data use on a per day/time basis and be a good neighbor.

    But Comcast won’t do that. They have a line you can’t cross, but they won’t tell you what it its. Its the TSA model of doing business — you’re subject to special scrutiny, but they won’t give you any details.

  43. Why is this difficult to understand? Comcast sells you bandwidth, they tell you you get xMbs, I can’t exceed it, period. So if their network slows because I’m actually using the bandwidth I’ve payed for THATS THEIR FAULT. How can this be looked at (especially here at REASON) any other way?

  44. Not that enough hasn’t already been said in this thread, and I am in fact a whole day late to this party, BUT:

    I would draw your attention to the difference between consumer grade and industrial grade inet access; namely that businesses pay a much higher price for DEDICATED bandwidth that comes with a SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT. The going rate for 3 Mbps of business inet (2 T-1s) is about $500/month, compared to $40/month for your 3Mbps residential Comcast connection.

    So in other words, if your life depends on continuous throughput, pony up.

    And by the way, Comcast is hardly a monopoly provider. I’ve got a Sprint card on my laptop for $60/month, and a $20/month AT&T plan on my smartphone. And there’s always DSL, as well as other wireless resellers.

    Consumers get jaded so quickly! Recall that it was only a few years ago that we were paying $21.95/month for ~39Kbps dialup.

  45. Comcast, and every other ISP, has to manage its network. Yeah, some people take up too much bandwidth using P2P applications and if they do then P2P traffic is sometimes delayed. The majority of users have to be protected and if that protection means a relative minority of Internet traffic is sometimes delayed, then that’s fine by me.

  46. WHAT? – Ed says why your point of view is wrong: you haven’t paid Comcast for a dedicated, guaranteed amount of bandwidth. That 8 megabits/second you’ve been advertised is a maximum. Guaranteed bandwidth at that kind of speed would be very expensive, way more than the 50 or 60 bucks you’re paying your ISP.

    Perhaps this is Comcast’s fault. Our advertising on the subject of bandwidth has been misleading, making customers think they’re getting more than we can possibly give them.

  47. There’s a blowoff comment about the “former” lack of competition, but in most markets, there is still little or no competition in the broadband market. My home city has fortunately switched to Time Warner (from Comcast, which was horribly unreliable and had terrible customer service and field support), but other than that, I have no other options outside of having a T1 run to my home (at outrageous cost). The best case scenario I have seen here in greater Cleveland was four options– two cable companies, a phone company offering DSL, and nother company offering “naked DSL.” That was the exception, though, not the rule.

    Also, someone else points out– “unlimited, alway-on Internet! 5mb/s!” are the rallying cry of marketing. There’s one really huge asterisk needed in there, obviously! Comcast still won’t tell you what your “monthly quota” is, but they’ll shut you off if you exceed it for “unusual activity.” I could try to amass a copy of every Linux distribution out there in DVD and CD .iso format, which is perfectly legal… and I would still be shut off/

  48. “And by the way, Comcast is hardly a monopoly provider. I’ve got a Sprint card on my laptop for $60/month, and a $20/month AT&T plan on my smartphone. And there’s always DSL, as well as other wireless resellers.”

    Wow, that must be nice. I forgot that only us unenlightened hicks live here between Cleveland and Erie, PA… with limited cell coverage, long CO distances for DSL, and a single cable provider.

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