All About Comcast

P2P Bill of Rights Deep-Sixed
After about three weeks, Comcast has abandoned their proposed P2P Bill of Rights in favor of collaboratively developing best practice guidelines within the Distributed Computing Industry Association. As I’ve said before, I’m glad to see them openly discussing these issues. Though, I’m not sure Comcast’s Net non-Neutrality stance has changed… Actions speak louder than words and it appears they’re still throttling BitTorrent traffic.

Pondering Bandwidth Caps
According to DSL Reports
, Comcast is contemplating a monthly bandwidth cap of 250GB for residential broadband customers. Exceed the limit, and pay an overage fee, with periodical “slip up” forgiveness. Frankly, I think this would be a good policy change… when compared to their current opaque black ops methods. Though, I say that having no idea how much data I move in a given month and just prior to launching a several day ~40GB Mozy online backup. Supposedly a 250GB threshold would only impact 0.1% of Comcast customers.

SDV Shenanigans
Less clear than Cablevision’s SDV customer outreach, Comcast appears to be going down a similar path in southwest Florida. I haven’t confirmed this notice and it’s rather brief but, if accurate, probably indicates regional adoption of switched digital video (SDV):

Our records indicate that you have a Motorola Cable Card(s) that will no longer be compatible with our upgraded cable network as of May 31, 2008. Exchange your Motorola Cable Card(s) into an office today and we’ll give you HBO free and a converter free for 3 months.

No mention which specific portions of the channel lineup may impact this TiVo owner and no mention of the forthcoming tuning resolver… Just trade in your CableCARDs or else (FUD). I’ll wait for confirmation before providing additional commentary.

15 thoughts on “All About Comcast”

  1. The comcast bandwidth thing really concerns me, more because it sounds like a monopoly issue. I use Vonnage instead of comcast for phone, and Amazon Unbox instead of cable TV. I can really see comcast sitting there saying “oh you hit the bandwidth limit, you should try paying twice as much for our lower quality services… since that’s your only choice”

  2. Hmmm. I love the speed of Comcast (10+ Mb/s down lately, and nearly a megabit up), but I’m nervous about the cap thing. I probably don’t (knowingly) pull down all that much, and I don’t do P2P on my desktop, but I have no idea what my VUDU box is consuming.

    Once I measure how much it costs me to leave VUDU on all the time, I may decide to plug it into a $10 timer and only let it run a few hours a day. This would reduce my peak TOU power usage and may reduce bandwidth consumption.

  3. The whole SDV thing is a total ripoff on the public. The whole point of the cablecard rules was so the cable companies would have to open up their monopoly. Now they are using SDV to take away content from people who want to go outside their network. They may be working on a converter for TiVo, but it doesn’t address the needs of other companies who have included CableCard support in their products. It’s bad enough that they use their video fees to subsidizing their boxes, but it even worse that they withhold extra channels and VOD as a way to discourage competition.

  4. I am physically ill from reading this post. It’s well written. Lots of link outs, “meaty”. The author even tries to be positive, in the fact of such outright heinousness, and that’s to be comended.

    What makes me throw up is the assumption Comcast is entitled to dominion over me, like I am some medieval serf who says “thank you” for the cold gruel thrown my way by the wealthy Monarch Comcast! Grrrrrrrrrrrr! The Consumer is not subservient to Comcast or any other goods/service provider – Consumers are EQUAL players. If anything, as a collective Consumers are the masters of commerce.

    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    – Dylan Thomas

  5. You’ve got to wonder about the ‘neutrality’ issues here. Comcast offers tons of On Demand video programming, and while you pay for some of it, there’s lots of free stuff. I could be watching lots of those programs, chewing up bandwidth (for video programming). But if I choose to download similar content from an alternate provider, then Comcast thinks they can limit or charge me for that ‘privilege.’

    Sniff, sniff, what’s that I smell, a lawsuit?

  6. I’m a Comcast Customer in SWFL and got one of those notices. Evidently, it’s not related to SDV; they’re switching from Motorola hardware to Scientific Atlanta equipment. This is supposedly because the Comcast sub-region I’m in used to be operated by Time Warner, so it needs to sync up with the other Comcast regions in the area (what they call “Classic” Comcast).

    The funny thing is that I used to live two miles from where I am now, and there I had SciAtl CCs. When I moved, my existing cards were not compatible so I needed to switch to the Motorola hardware, and now I have to switch back.

    Plus, did I mention channel lineups and pricing is completely different? But I digress… it’s Craptastic!

  7. I’ve recently chronicled my dissatisfaction with cable monopolies. My market was part of the Comcast/Time Warner swap in Texas…customers here were literally traded like commodities without any say in the matter. There’s something wrong with an industry that has the capability to do that.

  8. I’m very interested in the SW Florida story. My in-laws got hooked up with a Tivo HD this past Christmas in Bonita Springs. They’re driving to MA for the summer this weekend, so it looks like they could find a unusable Tivo when they get back to FL in the fall. Great.

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to switch to DirecTV and not ever have to deal with these Comcast yahoos?

  9. Joseph,

    If this is indeed the case, a head-end swap out, then at least their ‘incompatible’ statement is true – but overall it is still FUD as they make it sound like CableCARD users have no choice but to switch to a STB. When all they really should need to do is swap Motorola cards for SciAtl cards.

    A dirty trick.

  10. Megazone:

    Agreed. Far be it from me to defend Comcast, and this mailer is FUD-filled. At the top, it basically says you should bring your CCs down to the office for a swap, which you can’t actually do since anything involving CCs requires a truck roll. Then half way down the card they dangle a free converter (albeit for 3 months).

    IMHO, they’re using this as an opportunity to get as many CCs out of the field as possible.

  11. Not sure about this cap thing. According to the broadbandreports story, uploads aren’t counted, so those backups I do of my 160GB iPod classic to Carbonite won’t count. But if I lose my disk drive and restore my 160GB music collection off Carbonite one month, that would use 2/3rds of my bandwidth. At full bandwidth this would be done in less than a couple of days (not), and I’d have to be very careful with my internet usage for the rest of the month.

    Like others I wonder if this cap is an issue if you try and switch from Comcast’s TV services to online. Say you use Apple TV or XBox 360 to watch all the shows you want. The average american watches 4 hour and 35 minutes of TV a day. At 6Mbps, which I think is what one of these devices uses for HD, thats over 12GB per day. Or 86GB per week. Or 346GB a month. Which would exceed the cap.

    Lets try web surfing. The average page is apparently now something like 320KByes, up three fold since 2003. So you’d have to read 781,250 pages. Probably not an issue any time soon.

    Assuming you are talking 192Kbps MP3’s, the average MP3 takes up about 5MB. So 250GB is 50,000 songs. Or about 3 months worth of continuous music? Probably not an issue. Streaming continuous music from or whatever wouldn’t get you close either.

    Ditto phone calls. Not bandwidth intensive enough.

    But that video thing…

  12. Staying in my parents house for a bit. My Mom has junky Comcast DVRs, both are inconsistent in operation, and it feels like stepping back into the dark ages from my usual TiVo experience at home. My uncle finally gave up on them and went with Embarq DSL, has been happy ever since.

    I have BrightHouse in the Central Florida area. A few weeks ago I received a letter from them stating they would start using SDV over the summer. It politely said that TiVo may or may not have the SDV attachment ready, and that they would be happy to switch me over to their DVR so I could still record all the channels.

    Dirty pool if you ask me . . .

  13. Regarding the bandwidth cap, they should be careful setting a hard upper limit. Much like the Alternative Minimum tax’s 30-some thousand dollars per year income was going to target the extreme (ultra rich) when it was created in 1969 but then included more and more average users (middle class) due to rampant monetary inflation over time, so too will a 250GB cap aiming at the extreme impact more and more average users as time passes and “bandwidth inflation” due to bigger downloads, higher resolution versions of youtube-type video, etc., become the norm.

    This is why they don’t have a solid upper bound now and they can never tell you exactly what the limit is. They want to target the upper percentile and that depends on the overall bandwidth use (or bandwidth supply if you want to continue the monetary analogy) of everyone.

    This upper limit could be changed easily enough, but it might also be a lame ploy to squeeze extra fees out of more and more people as using more and more bandwidth becomes the norm. It’s a plot worthy of government! They know full well they are going to continue devaluing the dollar (or encouraging larger downloads), so any taxes (or “overage fees”) based on hard numbers will grab more and more people as time passes.

    Anyway, a few months ago I was able to get a warning from Comcast for downloading several hundred GB in a month by using a download manager and All perfectly legal. My father wanted to watch a lot of old out-of-copyright movies and I’d make DVDs for him after downloading them from

  14. This whole cap issue is so absurd. Comcast sells you a product that is “the fastest internet” (until FIOS came out) and “unlimited,” then when people buy this product and start using it in the way it was intended, they come back with “well, we didn’t mean UNLIMITED unlimited, we meant ‘reasonably’ unlimited.” Who decides reasonable? They do! Maybe they should have either 1) anticipated the growth of data utilization and put a cap on it in the beginning, or 2) expanded their system to meet the needs of their customers as that need grew.
    Too bad in many parts of the country, not only is Comcast the only option for cable TV, but also the only option for high speed internet. Shoudn’t the Public Utility Commisions step in and apply some regulatory oversight?

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