Comcast, Time Warner to test bandwidth restrictions

Both Comcast and Time Warner Cable plan to kick off bandwidth usage restriction trials tomorrow, according to Reuters. Comcast will try to cope with heavy bandwidth users by reducing transfer speeds during peak hours, while Time Warner will implement all-out bandwidth quotas.

Reuters says Comcast’s trials will begin in the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and Warrenton, Virginia areas. Heavy bandwidth users will face reduced file transfer speeds during “congested periods,” although Comcast hasn’t told the news agency any specifics—namely the extent and the frequency of those speed drops. Comcast is also trying to decide whether to limit transfers for all users to 250GB per month. On the upside for net neutrality proponents, the company “will stop distinguishing the type of activity or services that are considered bandwidth hogs.”

Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable will start its own bandwidth management experiment in the Beaumont, Texas area. New subscribers there will have to pick services with different speeds and matching bandwidth quotas. For instance, Reuters says a $29.95-a-month plan with a 768Kbps (96KB/s) download speed will have a 5GB monthly limit, whereas a $54.90-a-month, 15Mbps (1.9MB/s) service will feature a more ample 40GB quota. Users who go over those limits will have to pay $1 for each additional gigabyte of bandwidth used.

Comments closed
    • Anonymous Hamster
    • 12 years ago

    A bandwidth limit is not the same thing as a transfer quota limit!

    I’m fine with having my bandwidth (transfer rate) capped at what I signed up for, but I wouldn’t be happy with a transfer quota (byte limit) capped at some arbitrary amount, beyond which I’d have to pay big bucks for more.

    I’ve already been bitten by the cellphone plan minute quota, and there’s no need to repeat this awful customer experience with my ISP. Phone minutes and data transfer are very different things to measure and bill.

    What happens when Microsoft decides to push a 300 MB service pack to every machine you’ve got running?

    With a transfer quota, I won’t notice a thing until I get hit with a big bill.

    Under a bandwidth (rate) limit, things might just slow down a bit, and if it bothers me, I can change what I’m transferring.

    • Mithent
    • 12 years ago

    This is nothing new in the UK. Here, all the cheaper plans offer under 10GB/month (some as low as 1GB/month). Generally the ISPs have a more expensive plan that’s “unlimited”, but which always states “subject to fair usage policy”, where you’ll either find a limit or a clause that lets them cut you off if they arbitrarily think that you’re using too much. “Unlimited” can actually mean as little as 12GB, though sometimes it’s in the hundreds of gigabytes that no-one would realistically be hitting unless they BitTorrent 24/7.

    • Spotpuff
    • 12 years ago

    5gb/month? Holy crap.

    Hell, even 40gb/month is restrictive. Yeesh.

    • Krogoth
    • 12 years ago

    The only reason that customer-grade FIOS services do not currently have capping is because the userbase is too small at the moment. Once, it starts to pick-up. I am very certainly it also start seeing capping. It will probably be far more generous as the technology’s infrastructure can handle more bandwidth from the ground-up.

      • indeego
      • 12 years ago

      Just the opposite. The problem is the aggregation of bandwidth being used. The more bandwidth, the more potential for the ISP’s core routers getting floodedg{<...<}g

    • The Swamp
    • 12 years ago

    Ha, I sent this story in.

    Going back to the metered internet is such a huge step backwards. It was unlimited all you could eat internet that really caused its use to explode in the last 12 years. You no longer had to keep an eye on the clock the entire time you were logged in. For the first time, you could surf as long as you wanted without feeling guilty about it.

    This is another artificial scarcity engineered and designed to make something cost more for no other reason than to squeeze an extra buck out of their customers. This is the last thing any of us on here would ever want. If Cox starts this crap up, I’m switching to DSL.

      • Krogoth
      • 12 years ago

      It is precisely that very demand that is cause of the metering system.

      There is not enough bandwidth to go around for everybody who has a broadband connection for 24/7, full utilization.

      You want bandwidth? You got to pay up, it is simple as that. There is still “unlimited” bandwidth services, but you have pay for it.

        • The Swamp
        • 12 years ago

        As long as it’s reasonable. The problem comes when the metering is draconian. Does anyone remember the Compuserve days when it was something like $8.50/hr.? That was the metered internet in the bad old days.

        I think it’s just more corporate greed. The oil companies are breaking everyone’s backs as they smash profit records every quarter. If Big Oil can do it, why not other service providers? Isn’t that what Time Warner is thinking? If oil companies can bleed the cow, why not them too?

        DSL is going to explode if cable companies start draconian capping.

          • Krogoth
          • 12 years ago

          Very well, the market will ultimately decide whatever “draconian” caps will live or die.

          However, do not delude yourself from thinking that DSL and FiOS services will never adopt similar measures in order to combat the problem of not having enough bandwidth for every customer for 24/7, 100% utilization.

          IMHO, Comcast’s current cap is very reasonable.

            • MikeA
            • 12 years ago

            I find that highly unlikely, the singlemode optical fiber FIOS uses has a theroetical infinite bandwidth, and even pratically they are barely scratching the surface of its potential. Bandwidth usage could increase a 1000 fold and they should still be able to deal with it.

            • Krogoth
            • 12 years ago

            Wrong, FiOS itself has limitations, but the celling is much higher then copper-based solutions.

            It is another matter for ISP to upgrade their infrastructure for it and laying down the wire itself. FiOS availably is currently very limited in the USA.

            • Mithent
            • 12 years ago

            The problem is not the bandwidth of the link to the ISP, it’s the fact that the ISP has to pay for their own internal infrastructure and transit to other networks; hence the link speed that they offer you can be as high as the connection technology allows (since this is a big selling point), but their network couldn’t cope if all their customers actually used their connections at the speeds that are available.

            If they have 10,000 customers with 25Mbps lines, their network would have to cope with 30.5GB/s (250,000Mbps) if they all use them fully at the same time. The fastest available backbone connection is under 40,000Mbps; this kind of load would clearly be unsustainable. Large ISPs usually have backbones of around 10,000Mbps.

            • MikeA
            • 12 years ago

            FIOS’s current BPON technolgy splits 622 mbps downstream, and 155 mbps upstream among 32 users on a single wavelength. This can eventually be increased to 10 gbps with 10-GPON, and additional wavelengths can be used with WDM, (some current fiber optic systems use over 100 and there is no theoretical limit) over a single fiber strand. This will of course require continued investment in there infrastructure, but this is chump change compared to the intial massive investment to lay the fiber. If they are not prepared to make the investments neccessay to relize the full potential of the fiber why would they make the much larger intial investment in the first place?

        • designerfx
        • 11 years ago

        Please, it’s always been oversold, the question is “how greedy are you/how far are you going to oversell before you up your capacity” and for TW, it’s something like 86% oversell at least according to what they say. So “6/7 people are oversold”.

        Sometimes, people need to realize what the statistics really mean.

    • cegras
    • 12 years ago

    $54.90-a-month, 15Mbps (1.9MB/s) service will feature a more ample 40GB quota.

    Nice. Even rogers up here is better than that.

    • todd
    • 12 years ago

    So the cable companies figure to force their customers to pay more, for less. Reminds me of those commercials.
    I’m sure they’ll say this is how they are going to pay for network upgrades.
    Who is going to believe that?

      • MadManOriginal
      • 12 years ago

      The same idiots who thought they’d put their 1996 Telecom Act tax breaks which they simply pocketed in to infrastructure.

      These companies need to face the fact that they aren’t high-growth any more like they have been for the last 15 years and that their sales and revenue growth just won’t continue like it had during the coming of the Internet. They are utilities now and ought to behave as such.

    • todd
    • 12 years ago

    DSL users don’t share the wire with neighbors. Therefore no need for DSL companies to limit usage.
    Note to self: Buy stock in telcos and satellite quick. Send rest in peace card to cable companies.

      • Krogoth
      • 12 years ago

      (nitpick) they still share bandwidth at the ISP site with their fatter connection.

    • Lazier_Said
    • 12 years ago

    They already do have bandwidth restrictions, they just don’t publicize them.

    I got a warning call from Comcast I had used “too much bandwidth” last month and they would cut off my service if I didn’t “use less.”

    They wouldn’t tell me how much I had used, or what the limit was, or offer a way of checking to see how much of my cap I had used.

    This is an improvement in all respects.

    • cygnus1
    • 12 years ago

    at 15mb/s you could knock out 40GB in about 6 hours…. what’s the point in a connection that fast if you can’t use it for 98% of the month. bandwidth doesn’t cost nearly that much, their caps are ludicrous

      • Krogoth
      • 12 years ago

      Good luck, trying to find a real server that allows you to download at sustained15MB/sec. Secondly, I doubt that a mainstream user going to be downloading 40GB with a couple of hours either.

      Bandwidth actually costs quite a bit of $$$$. It mostly from operational and support costs. Dedicated services are very expensive for this reason.

        • cygnus1
        • 12 years ago

        Yeah, ‘dedicated’ bandwidth with an SLA is expensive. but we’re not talking about ‘dedicated’ bandwidth, we’re talking about ‘best effort’ bandwidth with no promises on performance other than a max speed

        all i was saying is that these caps are ludicrous and this is going to cost them customers

        • Byte Storm
        • 12 years ago

        l[

    • Krogoth
    • 12 years ago

    I don’t see the big deal thing with bandwidth caps as long as they are generous.

    Comcast is pretty darn reasonable. I cannot say the same for Time Warner (5GB is too limiting these days).

    • shank15217
    • 12 years ago

    You know the TOP 5% of users are also the most vocal of all their users. Since when does sending electrons over the wire cost more money.

      • Krogoth
      • 12 years ago

      It requires electrical current to deliver the data over copper or power the lasers that are used in fiber optics. That is not really what cost is from.

      It is entirely from cost of maintaining, supporting the networks, adding more pipes to meet increasing demand and to grow into areas that have economic potential.

      Bandwidth simply costs $$$$$. It is supply/demand.

        • shank15217
        • 12 years ago

        What a poor excuse, if the network is at capacity then use traffic shaping to decrease total bandwidth usage to reasonable levels, why expose this to the customer with higher prices and complicated billing? I thought Comcast wanted to offer 16Mbps downloads and faster uploads, how does usage capping achieve that?

          • Krogoth
          • 12 years ago

          It is simple economics at work. Again, Supply/demand.

          There is *[

            • shank15217
            • 12 years ago

            I use tomato firmware’s bandwidth tool and I have been seeing my bandwidth usage for the last 3 months. I download iso, do regular surfing and watch youtube. My monthly bandwidth is 15GB and I am the only user. Imagine a family of four or 3 college roommates sharing a connection, its very easy to legitimately reach 40GB a month especially with 2-3 computers in the house. Also think about broadcast traffic and viruses and botnets constantly probing networks and its easy to see that in an always on type connection its not really appropriate to usage cap. I would be far more supportive if if these companies said that higher speed services will cost more and change their pricing tier to support those costs. All I want is a hassle free internet connection with net neutrality, is that too much to ask?

    • albundy
    • 12 years ago

    yay, no termination fees if they change your contract. I’m on earthlink which is TW’s slave these days, and is not mentioned. When push comes to shove, might as well go with FIOS. Comcrap on the other hand must be the worlds worst ISP.

    • FroBozz_Inc
    • 12 years ago

    250GB / Month is ALOT of Pr0n.

    Time Warner’s plan needs to fail horribly though.

    • VILLAIN_xx
    • 12 years ago

    i will never stop loving this picture.

    §[<http://cache.gizmodo.com/assets/resources/2008/03/comcastbt.jpg<]§

    • bogbox
    • 12 years ago

    I paid 9$ for a complete package internet , tv + hbo, phone and mobile minutes inclusive (1000), and a 5mb/s max + unlimited download over the internet and 10 mb/s in my city (for more 8gb will shrink the speed 2mb/s )
    i love my provider:d

    • onlycodered
    • 12 years ago

    What in the heck is TIme Warner thinking?! 5GB and 40GB caps?! I’d use over 40GB in a week or two! This actually makes me wish I had Comcast now. Hopefully they’re testing goes horribly and they increase the caps.

      • Krogoth
      • 12 years ago

      Mr. pirate eh?

      I find it hard to believe for any legit user to use up 40GB of bandwidth within a week for non-business purposes.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 12 years ago

        I live with 5 other people and we share one connection. I think we use about 2 gigs worth of bandwidth on perfectly legal activities.

          • Thresher
          • 12 years ago

          Whether you are or aren’t using it for legal purposes isn’t the concern of your ISP, or it shouldn’t be. Is the phone company interested in whether or not your conversations are all legal? Nope.

          That’s the whole concept behind common carrier.

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 12 years ago

    I understand limits on usage (in the dial-up days, many services only let you connect for a certain number of hours). However, I have two possible complaints. 1) Are they still advertising this as an “unlimited service,” and 2) For people who signed a year long contract (or maybe even longer), is their service getting changed in the middle of their contract?

    • Heiwashin
    • 12 years ago

    I’m curious what speedmatters.org has to say about this. From what i’ve watched of them they haven’t made any comments about companies trying this yet.

    *edit guess it’s time to start emailing representatives?(for ya’ll, that 5gb limit is atrocious. Goodbye to steam at that rate.)

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 12 years ago

    Some have made a good point. I wonder if they could add select websites that don’t count towards your quota. Steam and JungleDrive are good examples.

    • StashTheVampede
    • 12 years ago

    As a TW user, already on the 15Mb/sec plan, I’m a bit miffed at the LOW 40GB/month number. It’s pretty damn easy to get a few DB/day. With online rental and backup solutions looks MORE attractive, that 40GB can be blown through in no time, flat.

    What this really does is SELL their current VOD system: you pay nearly the same price as AppleTV/Netflix/Xbox/whatever and it DOESN’T count against your monthly usage.

    I’d really like to get into some online backup solution (supporting Mac/PC, etc), but with these limits (incoming), I’m not so sure I’d want to subscribe and blow through my first month of 500GB worth of home movies.

    • SNM
    • 12 years ago

    5 GB/month….? Augh! Good thing I don’t have that quota here or it’d take me multiple months to get hold of anything over Steam or Direct2Drive…

    Does anybody know how much bandwidth gaming actually uses up? I bet I hit 5 gigs just from multiplayer games a couple hours a day.
    EDIT: Not to mention bye-bye JungleDisk backups. 🙁

      • ludi
      • 12 years ago

      Don’t take this the wrong way…but use a little math and a little common sense. There are 1024kb in 1MB, 1024MB in 1GB, and 2.5GB in an hour according to what you propose for game bandwidth use:

      1024 * 1024 * 2.5 = 2,621,440kB/hour

      There are 60min in 1hr, and 60sec in 1min.

      2,621,440 / 60 / 60 = 728.2kB/second sustained transfer rate

      Does that sound like a sensible figure?

        • SNM
        • 12 years ago

        A couple hours a day, I said. Since you’ve so kindly run many of the numbers for me, I just need to divide 728 by 20 or 30 to get they very, very small ~36kb/sec — which I’m quite sure modern first person shooters much exceed.

          • eitje
          • 12 years ago

          i think you’d be surprised!

          turn on your network perf monitors (assuming you’re playing those modern-day FPSes in Windows) and check it out!

          • Byte Storm
          • 12 years ago

          To my knowledge the average speed of an FPS is around 10 kBps

          10 kBps * 60 s * 60 m = 36000 kBph = 35.16 MBph

          40GB / 35.16 MBph = 1137.66 Hours = 47.40 Days

          So just one single person gaming will not exceed that limit, be mindful these are worst case transfer rates, they are probably slightly smaller.

            • SNM
            • 12 years ago

            I’ve never been one for buying the expensive broadband service — I’m fine with whatever’s ~$25/month, which is likely to have a 5GB monthly cap.

          • ludi
          • 12 years ago

          Oh, I see what you’re saying. At first it sounded like you were claiming you could hit that 5GB in one gaming session.

    • swaaye
    • 12 years ago

    I’ll switch pretty quick away from Time Warner as soon as this crap hits home here in WI. I’ll accept a slower connection before I pay them $50/mo for less of the same service.

    I’ve suspected that this would happen though. Around here, they’ve gone from 3m/384k to 7m/512k in the past few years. Now they want to step up to the “next level” but not have to worry about actually upgrading their infrastructure if people actually use the full potential of the line. So, the “upgrade” will combine the sweet excitement of more speed with the inability to download as much as you did years ago and cost more too. Bullshit, it is.

    Here’s to hoping that TW isn’t as much of a monopoly as they seem to be and other companies can come and beat their attempt to totally control their users.

    • ew
    • 12 years ago

    I’m OK with Comcast’s plan. They won’t be distinguishing between types of traffic and they won’t be completely cutting people off or charging them more money. It should also improve service for non-hogs. Of course it all kind of depends on what qualifies someone as a hog.

    • MarioJP
    • 12 years ago

    Does this mean like services like steam will be out of business if such limits were to be placed?

    • hans
    • 12 years ago

    Why on earth would you want a 15Mbps connection if you can only download 40GB a month? I’m pretty sure I use that much just in regular browsing and downloading apps, never mind any p2p.

      • Price0331
      • 12 years ago

      Same here, playing any mmorpg really adds up as well.
      (If you have ever used a packet editor and seen all of the data that is.) 😉

        • Meadows
        • 12 years ago

        It hardly adds up to much. Seriously.
        Same goes for browsing, unless downloading attachments or programs is classified as part of browsing for you.

          • Flying Fox
          • 12 years ago

          You watch enough HQ youtube and listening to streaming video/audio. They are all in a “regular” browser.

            • madgun
            • 12 years ago

            Even watching an HD video with a bitrate of 1.8MBps cannot add to 40Gb in any way possible, even if you’re watching it 8 hrs a day.

            • Byte Storm
            • 12 years ago

            My suggestion is to do the math.

            1.8 MegaBytes per second * 60 seconds = 108 MegaBytes per Minute
            108 MegaBytes per minute * 60 Minutes = 6480 MegaBytes per hour
            40000 MegaBytes / 6480 MegaBytes per hour = 6.17 Hours

            So if you are right and it is 1.8 MegaBytes per second, a little over six hours, and your screwed.

            Now if it was in Megabits per second, well…

            1.8 Megabits per second * 60 seconds = 108 Megabits per Minute
            108 Megabits per minute * 60 Minutes = 6480 Megabits per hour
            6480 Megabits / 8 (bits in a Byte) = 810 MegaBytes per Hour
            40000 MegaBytes / 810 MegaBytes an hour = 49.38 Hours

            Which is still fairly easy to hit for some people out there

            Just a side note, I LOVE my FiOS connection.

            Edit :: sorry forgot a couple things 😉

            • shank15217
            • 12 years ago

            You forget some people share a connection, its perfectly legal. Putting a bandwidth quota isn’t gonna stop the bandwidth hogs. This is a ridiculous move and will fall flat on its face because there is no way for a lay-user to monitor their aggregate bandwidth usage.

    • tfp
    • 12 years ago

    Does anyone know how you would check your usage on comcast service?

      • berky2755
      • 12 years ago

      I’m in the Chambersburg area, so this will affect me and I did not receive any info in the email sent from Comcast about how to check your usage. Don’t know if it’s even possible.

        • tfp
        • 12 years ago

        Great system then… I looked around on the comcast page and went into the help feature and couldn’t find anything.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 12 years ago

          Yeah, I can’t find anything on Comcast’s site either, though they’re STILL trying to get the Insight –> Comcast thing down here straight. Parts of their website say they don’t even service Pekin, yet here I am paying a Comcast bill every month.

    • Hdfisise
    • 12 years ago

    Nasty amount of money per GB once you go over. Can easily see loads of complaints about incredibly high bills.

      • BKA
      • 12 years ago

      Kind of like cell phones when they first became popular, compact and affordable. The per minute overage was insane and caused some high bills for some people.

    • Antijr
    • 12 years ago

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

      • bthylafh
      • 12 years ago

      Thank you, TR, for stopping page-widening attacks.

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