Comcast Caps Residential Internet Use At 250GB Per Month

Comcast has set 250 gigabytes (GB) per month as the limit for residential Internetsubscribers' data usage, effectively quantfying the threshhold for "excessive use."

Comcast has for several years contacted the heaviest users and warned them they needed to upgrade to a commercial service or cut back usage below that threshold, the company says, but it had not informed them of what the threshhold was.

Comcast says that to exceed that 250 GB threshold, a customer would have to 1) send 50 million e-mails; or 2) download 62,500 songs; or dowload 125 standard-definition movies (it did not say how many hi-def downloads that 250 GB would represent); or upload 25,000 hi-res photos at 10 megs per picture.

The announcement comes three weeks before Comcast must report to the commission on how it has managed Internet traffic and how it will better inform customers of that network management, the result of an FCC finding Comcast had violated the FCC's open access principles, including by not sufficiently informing customers about its network management practices.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas would not comment on whether Comcast would offer up this new policy as an example of better communications with subscribers, only saying Comcast is evaluating the FCC's order and "exploring out options."

Douglas says Comcast has been thinking "for a couple of years" about defining the threshold.Comcast says the policy change, in the form of an amendment to its Acceptable Use Policy, takes effect Oct. 1.

Comcast made a point of emphasizing that this was the same system of warning its heaviest users it has had inplace and that the only change was establishing the limit that would trigger the warning and informing customers of what that limit was.

Could Comcast move to a consumption-based model for Internet pricing? "That is not what we are talking about today," said Douglas, "but yes, that is something we have looked at."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.