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Shutting Down Big Downloaders Comcast Cuts Internet Service to Bandwidth Hogs

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Shutting Down Big Downloaders Comcast Cuts Internet Service to Bandwidth Hogs

Old 09-07-07, 04:21 PM
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Shutting Down Big Downloaders Comcast Cuts Internet Service to Bandwidth Hogs

Shutting Down Big Downloaders
Comcast Cuts Internet Service to Bandwidth Hogs

By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 7, 2007; Page A01

The rapid growth of online videos, music and games has created a new Internet sin: using it too much.

Comcast has punished some transgressors by cutting off their Internet service, arguing that excessive downloaders hog Internet capacity and slow down the network for other customers. The company declines to reveal its download limits.

"You have no way of knowing how much is too much," said Sandra Spalletta of Rockville, whose Internet service was suspended in March after Comcast sent her a letter warning that she and her teenage son were using too much bandwidth. They cut back on downloads but were still disconnected. She said the company would not tell her how to monitor their bandwidth use in order to comply with the limits.

"You want to think you can rely on your home Internet service and not wake up one morning to find it turned off," said Spalletta, who filed a complaint with the Montgomery County Office of Cable and Communication Services. "I thought it was unlimited service."

As Internet service providers try to keep up with the demand for increasingly sophisticated online entertainment such as high-definition movies, streaming TV shows and interactive games, such caps could become more common, some analysts said.

It's unclear how many customers have lost Internet service because of overuse. So far, only Comcast customers have reported being affected. Comcast said only a small fraction of its customers use enough bandwidth to warrant pulling the plug on their service.

Cable companies are facing tough competition from telephone giants like AT&T and Verizon, which are installing new cables capable of carrying more Internet traffic.

The cable companies collectively spent about $90 billion in the past decade to improve their networks. And on cable networks, several hundred subscribers often share an Internet connection, so one high-traffic user could slow the rest of a neighborhood's connections. Phone lines are run directly to each home, so a single bandwidth hog will not slow other connections.

As Internet users make more demands of the network, cable companies in particular could soon end up with a critically short supply of bandwidth, according to a report released this month by ABI Research, a New York market-research firm. This could lead to a bigger crackdown on heavy bandwidth users, said the report's author, Stan Schatt.

"These new applications require huge amounts of bandwidth," he said. Cable "used to have the upper hand because they basically enjoyed monopolies, but there are more competitive pressures now."

To trigger a disconnection warning, customers would be downloading the equivalent of 1,000 songs or four full-length movies every day. Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas declined to reveal specific bandwidth limits.

"It's our responsibility to make sure everyone has the best service possible," he said, "so we have to address abusive activities so they won't damage the experience for other customers. "


Companies have argued that if strict limits were disclosed, customers would use as much capacity as possible without tipping the scale, causing networks to slow to a crawl.

Some customers are unaware they are using so much capacity, sometimes because neighbors are covertly connecting through unsecured wireless routers. When they are told of that possibility, many curb their use after an initial warning, Douglas said. Others, however, may be running bandwidth-hungry servers intended for small businesses from their homes, which can bog down a network serving a neighborhood. Comcast said it gives customers a month to fix problems or upgrade to business accounts before shutting off their Internet service.

Joe Nova of North Attleboro, Mass., lost Internet service after Comcast told him that he was using too much bandwidth to watch YouTube videos, listen to Internet radio stations and chat using a Web camera. He and other customers who complained of being shut off said they were not running servers from their homes.

"Sure, I'm online a lot, but there's no way I could have been consuming that much capacity," Nova said.

Other Internet service providers, including Time Warner Cable, Verizon and AT&T, say they reserve the right to manage their networks, but have not yet suspended service to subscribers. Smaller Internet service providers RCN in Herndon, Leros Technologies in Fairfax and OpenBand in Dulles said they do not cap bandwidth use.

Some AT&T customers use disproportionately high amounts of Internet capacity, "but we figure that's why they buy the service," said Michael Coe, a spokesman for the company.

Cox Communications, which provides Internet and cable services to parts of Northern Virginia and Maryland, said the bandwidth demand on its network has doubled every year for the past six years. It has boosted its speeds twice in the past 18 months to keep up and offers tiered service plans for heavier users, spokesman Alex Horwitz said.

"We don't spend a lot of time enforcing [bandwidth] caps, but we contact customers when their usage is egregious enough for it to impact the network," he said. "Instances are few and far between."

When Comcast canceled service to Frank Carreiro, who lives in a Salt Lake City suburb, he started a blog about the experience. His wife and six children then relied on sluggish dial-up Internet access until a phone company offered DSL service in his neighborhood.

"For a lot of people, it's Comcast or it's nothing," he said.

Bob Williams, director of HearUsNow.org, a consumer Web site run by Consumers Union, said the vagueness of Comcast's rules is "unfair and arbitrary."

"They're cutting service off to the people who want to use it the most," he said.

Schatt, the ABI Research analyst, said he expects cable companies to spend about $80 billion over the next five years to increase network capacity. In addition, they may acquire airwaves at an upcoming federal auction and could lay fiber-optic lines over their existing cables. Switching to digital-only programming could also help conserve capacity.

Comcast, Cox and Time Warner say they have more than enough capacity to meet demand and are adding new technologies to strengthen signals. Bruce McGregor, senior analyst at Current Analysis, a research firm in Sterling, said the bandwidth bottleneck is not yet a crisis for cable companies, but it could intensify with competition from phone companies.

Companies like Comcast "need to address people who are major drains on the network" without angering consumers, he said. "They're not the only game in town anymore."

Glad I dont have Comcast but I wonder if others will follow them?
Old 09-07-07, 04:25 PM
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That's Comcastic!
Old 09-07-07, 04:38 PM
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Shit, if i'm paying $40 a month for service, you can bet your ass i'll be a downloadin' mofo..
Old 09-07-07, 05:00 PM
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Comcast cuts Internet service to bandwidth hogs

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20633771/

Shutting down big downloaders
Comcast cuts Internet service to bandwidth hogs


The rapid growth of online videos, music and games has created a new Internet sin: using it too much.

Comcast has punished some transgressors by cutting off their Internet service, arguing that excessive downloaders hog Internet capacity and slow down the network for other customers. The company declines to reveal its download limits.

"You have no way of knowing how much is too much," said Sandra Spalletta of Rockville, whose Internet service was suspended in March after Comcast sent her a letter warning that she and her teenage son were using too much bandwidth. They cut back on downloads but were still disconnected. She said the company would not tell her how to monitor their bandwidth use in order to comply with the limits.

"You want to think you can rely on your home Internet service and not wake up one morning to find it turned off," said Spalletta, who filed a complaint with the Montgomery County Office of Cable and Communication Services. "I thought it was unlimited service."

As Internet service providers try to keep up with the demand for increasingly sophisticated online entertainment such as high-definition movies, streaming TV shows and interactive games, such caps could become more common, some analysts said.

It's unclear how many customers have lost Internet service because of overuse. So far, only Comcast customers have reported being affected. Comcast said only a small fraction of its customers use enough bandwidth to warrant pulling the plug on their service.

Cable companies are facing tough competition from telephone giants like AT&T and Verizon, which are installing new cables capable of carrying more Internet traffic.

The cable companies collectively spent about $90 billion in the past decade to improve their networks. And on cable networks, several hundred subscribers often share an Internet connection, so one high-traffic user could slow the rest of a neighborhood's connections. Phone lines are run directly to each home, so a single bandwidth hog will not slow other connections.

As Internet users make more demands of the network, cable companies in particular could soon end up with a critically short supply of bandwidth, according to a report released this month by ABI Research, a New York market-research firm. This could lead to a bigger crackdown on heavy bandwidth users, said the report's author, Stan Schatt.

"These new applications require huge amounts of bandwidth," he said. Cable "used to have the upper hand because they basically enjoyed monopolies, but there are more competitive pressures now."

To trigger a disconnection warning, customers would be downloading the equivalent of 1,000 songs or four full-length movies every day. Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas declined to reveal specific bandwidth limits.

"It's our responsibility to make sure everyone has the best service possible," he said, "so we have to address abusive activities so they won't damage the experience for other customers. "

Companies have argued that if strict limits were disclosed, customers would use as much capacity as possible without tipping the scale, causing networks to slow to a crawl.
There's more but that's the gist of the article. When you pay for unlimited internet access I think you should be able to sue the company if they disconnect you when you use what they think is too much of an "unlimited" service. Thoughts?
Old 09-07-07, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
When you pay for unlimited internet access I think you should be able to sue the company if they disconnect you when you use what they think is too much of an "unlimited" service. Thoughts?
You can.
Old 09-07-07, 05:07 PM
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AKAIK most of them no longer advertise Unlimited Access for this very reason.
Old 09-07-07, 05:10 PM
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Already a thread in the appropriately named Tech Talk: http://forum.dvdtalk.com/showthread.php?t=511288
Old 09-07-07, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20633771/

There's more but that's the gist of the article. When you pay for unlimited internet access I think you should be able to sue the company if they disconnect you when you use what they think is too much of an "unlimited" service. Thoughts?
I think Comcast should cap your bandwidth and let you out of your contract if you don't agree.

Also, I really dislike the attitude of people who really believe that unlimited means 'unlimited'.
Old 09-07-07, 05:14 PM
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I know that I'll be bringing this up next time they ask me why I don't switch to them from my DSL.

Old 09-07-07, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Numanoid
Already a thread in the appropriately named Tech Talk: http://forum.dvdtalk.com/showthread.php?t=511288
Yeah I didn't see it as a "Tech" type question. I saw it as more of a business/customer relations issue.
Old 09-07-07, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Nazgul
Also, I really dislike the attitude of people who really believe that unlimited means 'unlimited'.
Why?
Old 09-07-07, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
When you pay for unlimited internet access I think you should be able to sue the company if they disconnect you when you use what they think is too much of an "unlimited" service. Thoughts?
But did they pay for it? If Comcast is smart, what it would do is just not send a bill for the next cycle, then cancel service at the end of the current billing cycle. In that case, they're not declining you service for which you paid, they're just refusing you future service.

Many businesses limit who can purchase future service based on an individual's cost to serve.
Old 09-07-07, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by matta
But did they pay for it? If Comcast is smart, what it would do is just not send a bill for the next cycle, then cancel service at the end of the current billing cycle. In that case, they're not declining you service for which you paid, they're just refusing you future service.

Many businesses limit who can purchase future service based on an individual's cost to serve.
I'm in the middle of a 1 year contract that states that they are providing me unlimited high speed internet. If they break that contract they should refund me everything I've payed up to this point and I should have every right to sue them for false advertising.

It would be like my running a restaurant that says "all you can eat" but limiting everyone to 2 plates because they are "abusing" my all you can eat policy.
Old 09-07-07, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
It would be like my running a restaurant that says "all you can eat" but limiting everyone to 2 plates because they are "abusing" my all you can eat policy.
Haven't there been lawsuits about just that?

"Yarr. Tis no man. Tis an eating machine!"
Old 09-07-07, 05:30 PM
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What's odd is that my cable company keeps increasing the download speed time - currently mine is at 15mb - but they don't seem to be changing the upload speed - mine is still only .6 mb.
Old 09-07-07, 05:41 PM
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netflix does the same thing with their "unlimited rentals"
People that rented a ton of movies were flagged and would get a rental cap where they wouldn't receive any more movies for the month once they hit the cap.
Old 09-07-07, 05:58 PM
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There is to much porn on the web, that is where the real issue is.

And to think I got a computer with 1.2 Terabytes of hard drive space and this happens!

Last edited by Lateralus; 09-07-07 at 06:01 PM.
Old 09-07-07, 06:02 PM
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Comcast is stupid for over selling their service.

Cell phone companies did this in the 90's

They are trying to fix their own stupidity with more stupidity. If I had a choice, I would leave comcast.

My contract states "UNLIMITED" as well with certain speeds as the only restriction.

I should be given a complete refund as well because there are plenty of times when the posted speeds are not available
Old 09-07-07, 08:14 PM
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what should be even more concerning to consumers is bandwidth shaping - where ISPs drastically vary speeds based on what they believe you to be downloading. you are still getting your downloads, but not as fast as you should be given your advertised "download" speeds.
Old 09-07-07, 09:44 PM
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ISP's have been doing this to a limited degree since the dial-up days. It's perfectly within their rights, but there needs to be some labeling laws so that what they're selling is accurately and fully disclosed up front.

But then that only works when consumers actually have choices =/
Old 09-07-07, 09:54 PM
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Back during my dial-up days (which ended only in 2005), I subscribed to Netzero Platinum. I paid my $9.99 each month and one day, they cancelled my service because they said I was using too much bandwidth. Yep, I was using my dial-up too much !!! Abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous. Then some months later, I get a check in my mail from a class-action lawsuit against Netzero (I guess there were a lot of angry people out there that also had their dial-up cancelled). I got about $20 back I think; not much but it was nice to know that Netzero had to pay us back.
Old 09-07-07, 11:03 PM
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Also, I really dislike the attitude of people who really believe that unlimited means 'unlimited'.
What else should it mean? Unlimited is a word with a definition, meaning no limit. So, if they say "unlimited", then there better be no damn limit.

I am on TimeWarner / Adelphia and I am do a crazy amount of downloading. It's nothing for me to download a few gigs a week. Hell, I've downloaded almost 8 gigs in the past two days alone (various Linux Distro's).


netflix does the same thing with their "unlimited rentals"
People that rented a ton of movies were flagged and would get a rental cap where they wouldn't receive any more movies for the month once they hit the cap.
Also outrageous. I got three movies in two days ago and mailed them back today. I'll do the same next week.
Old 09-07-07, 11:14 PM
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If they're going to cap how much you can download, you should at least be able to hit a website and see how much service you've used in the past billing cycle. The arbitrary way they're doing this is stupid.
Old 09-08-07, 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
Why?
Because I think for most people 'unlimited' does not mean, 'Take all that you can, even if you don't need it". However, those that do think it means 'get all you can' seem to believe it is an entitlement and their right to take whatever they want. Have you ever seen the chum bucket that is the fat wallet forums? Also, my past experiences in customer service show me that unless you spell out every policy to the letter, people will try to wiggle through any loophole to get what they want.

What was the quote attributed to Emmit Smith? "If it's free, give me three"?
Old 09-08-07, 12:40 AM
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Originally Posted by VinVega
If they're going to cap how much you can download, you should at least be able to hit a website and see how much service you've used in the past billing cycle.
My ISP does that.

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