Comcast Bandwidth Limits Anger Observers


Watching Comcast feint and jab against its customers, the FCC and Net Neutrality advocates is fun. Its next move -- after it was batted down by the FCC in its frontal assault on peer-to-peer applications from BitTorrent and others -- is to limit all its customers at 250 gigabytes per month. The rule will take effect on Oct. 1. http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10028506-2.html


Though that is a tremendous amount of bandwidth -- the company's site features a listing of what can easily be done in that amount of capacity, starting with 50 million e-mails -- the move has inspired the expected level vitriol from Web-savvy observers.


For instance, this post at Computer Reseller News called the move "the equivalent of flipping the bird" to a big swatch of users. The writer, Stephen Burke, put it this way:

This is the work of executives that are completely out of touch with the technology landscape and the up and coming cloud computing consumer that wants to do anything and everything on the Web from paying their bills to storing any and all of their photos, music files... etc.

A similar, if somewhat more temperate, response came from a blogger at Hot Air. While granting that a 250 GB cap will not impact many users, the writer says that if taken at face value the move is odd, since costs for bandwidth-expanding gear are dropping, making it possible to handle the issue in other ways. Comcast's hidden agenda, he concludes, is to do what it wanted to do in the first place to BitTorrent -- reign in file swappers and peer-to-peer users on the network without running afoul of Net Neutrality rules.


Comcast would likely agree with that assessment. Nobody is begrudging Comcast the right to exercise reasonable network management. It may be attempting to do it without going into too much detail about its network. There are class action suits on the topic of whether it told its customers the truth in its bandwidth pronouncements. Setting a blanket limit on bandwidth use could obviate the need to provide enough information to justify more agile control technology -- explanations that could be useful to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits.


Observers agree that there is a hidden agenda. GigaOm's Om Malik thinks that Comcast is trying to protect its video-on-demand initiatives from Internet-based movie download sites such as Hulu, NetFlix and Amazon-On-Demand. He points to the Comcast graphic and agrees that many things that are possible without breaching the 250 GB line. However, the limits become more of an issue when high definition downloads are considered. He excerpted an earlier post he wrote that suggested a two-hour movie could use 8 GB and sporting events even more. Thus, the limits may eventually impact normal users -- and push them toward Comcast's services. Malik expects others providers to follow suit.


The bottom line is that it is getting almost as much entertaining to watch Comcast's corporate maneuvering as the programming on its cable systems.