Comcast Shutting Down Big Downloaders

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.

News source: MSNBC

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

AMD opens door to ATI Linux drivers

Next Story

Microsoft Teams with Siemens VDO Automotive

68 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Has anyone tried calling them and asking, "What is your bandwidth useage cap? If my internet gets shut down for reaching and exceeding this 'invisable' cap that was NOT clearly defined in my contract, I will start a class-action lawsuit and make it worth my time. Just thought I would let you know."

I know that Cox Communications has similar bandwidth limits. I've never experienced one myself, but a friend of mine got his Internet shut off by them for a while because he was using too much bandwidth. That's actually why he's now using a DSL service because he can use as much as he wants there. As far as he knows...

This is just one more way of Comcrap to force you to watch their movies on their on demand video service and watch their crap programming. If folks started downloading movies and such from Amazon and other companies or even started using IPTV more and more, were would Comcrap get their revenue from?

They are terrified of new technology like that. This is the same company that refuses to upgrade there network until a competitor comes along and kicks them in the nuts. This whole new marketing thing with the 20 megs downloads (certain files) is a joke, it's only a damn proxy server farm.

I currently have comcast (acutally I am just 5 miles up the road from the Lady that got cut off) and while Comcast doesn't give you any guidance on what their limits are, I have never had any problems. I download all the movies, music, and games that I want (which probably at most adds up to about 100 GB a month).

I ZeroArmy's post showing 4 times that for the month of August, you guys need to get a job or go to school or something because that is nuts! (This coming from a loser that spends most of his free time on a computer).

I'm glad I'm using FIOS now, having used Comcast and having used SusCom before Comcast bought them out I can tell you Comcast sucks, the week comcast took over we had service interruptions constantly, then they somehow lowered our connection speed, took a call to CS to "fix" it. Now I'm on FIOS everything just works and slightly better than what Verizon claims, my Ex is still on Comcast, she has no other options where she is, and now for some reason her connection randomly drops for up to an hour at a time, they claim they don't know what it is now, even after giving her a new modem because she had the "old" one from SusCom. If I could get her to move to where I'm at she could dump comcast and get better service

This is using Comcast.

I did get a bandwidth warning call in March, I think I was around 300GB at the time. I've gone over that with no call for some reason.

Where is the source at? "http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20633771/" returns a 404 and there is not mention of any similar stories when I perform a search of msnbc.com


... so, wtf is up?

I guess they're false advertising for "unlimited internet"

If Charter Internet ever started doing that, I swear I'd contact some of my radical muslim friends and have them blow the nearest Charter building up. (Glaff, all that just for internet)

Friend of mine signed up for it when they were still Adelphia, he was told no limits, no bandwidth caps or anything. They breach that they'll catch hell. Grandfather clause ftw.

Just another way for Comcast to take your cash, if I gotta pay $50 for 6MBPS service, Im going to tap it for all its worth, and if they shut me off because of it, Ill just take my business elsewhere

I just started working for a company that sells the hardware that cable companies use in their infrastructure. With posts like this.. I always hear "They just need to upgrade their system or increase their speeds". Actually, the problem is that the big companies like ComCast, Cox and the rest are probably already running 1Ghz equipement...which is the fastest available.

Where they are having problems is HDTV, VOIP and highspeed data all in one transmission line. It has really become a interesting situation for the cable companies as they are continuously having to re-evaulate their structure to make room for all this high bandwidth data. I hate to say it...but things are probably not going to get much better in the near future.

They are working on new compression scheme's, but its all still in the works. The best option in the very near future is going to be IPTV. Basically, this technology is based on the On-Demand system that cable companies utilize for PPV movies and shows. Instead of the cable companies having to transmit all 100+ channels to every house, it will be an on demand system for all your tv channels. You click on a channel and it will start broadcasting to your house..therefore freeing up all the bandwidth that all the unwatched channels would use.

Now dont get me wrong..I am not in favor of what ComCast and other cable companies are doing. They should have a user limit defined in their contract..not some magical number they can determine at anytime if they are going to start shutting off peoples connections. I for one hope I am not one of the victims.

It's sad because all this news about comcast makes it clear to me Ill have to choose wisely on were I move because there are isp's like this that monopolize certain areas and I'm a huge bandwidth hog.

Something needs to be done about this... If they're in violation of the TOS, the ISP's should be enforced to far more clearly state what the "real" limits are. Usually there's something ambiguous in fine print, but they should be legally required to more clearly state the actual, clearly defined, terms visibly for the customers to better be able to compare ISP's against each other. This will be more and more pressing to have done right as these services and broadband TV becomes more and more common.

i hate comcast, especially the fact that i'm stuck with them, seein as they are the most affordable cable service in my area, Miami, Fl.

Why is the Washington Post/MSNBC only getting to this story now? Folks have been talking about it for YEARS on various Comcast forums. And you really do have to be egregious about your downloading. HUGE amounts. I love these people in the interview who claim to be doing very little with their connection. Of course they are.

Well with most ISP's the claim in the TOS that they have the right to cut you off at anytime if they don't like something.

Of course not in those exact wording, but actually very close.

You're right, and I think that's what needs to be changed, by law if necessary. They need to be more precise (what warrants cutting off in the exact number of bytes per duration?), and not have it in the TOS fine print either. It needs to be as clearly printed as what connection speeds they offer, right there on their web site. Anything else will only facilitate in giving ISP customers a harder time to properly choose a service because they're trying to hide vital information. This will only keep getting a bigger and bigger problem the more high bandwidth sites become common. If they already have problems with customers using YouTube heavily, imagine what will happen once broadband TV sites become more common, and new, more "mature", sites in Joost's wake are launched.

The biggest ISP here in Norway, Telenor, tried to limit P2P to 80KB/s each way from 17.00 in the eveing to 01.00 early morning. But a huge uproar among online news and forums like http://www.diskusjon.no/ made them turn.

Lately this monopolistic ISP have disconnected themselves from Norway Internet eXchange, also to a huge uproar. They say it's "OK" because they have private peering to most other norwegian ISPs. Local internet experts, for instance Gisle Hannemur Professor at UIP, say its a step towards a tiered internet that might get worse then TV. If you dont pay Telenor, you dont get good line to Telenors customers.

Before this they tried GB capping, capping your line to 64kbit if you downloaded more then 5GB/month, which also didnt work out due to a huge uproar in the media and forums.

I remember content providers wanted money from the ISPs a few years back because they didnt get enough income from ads. I guess it has turned. Telenor want money both from their subribers, and the content providers.

i think alot of the comments above have a good point ... to sum it up screw comcast! lol.

if cause ill bet they pretty much just screwing with people, i hope they get sued cause they are not clearly stating any limits in the service when they clearly say it's "unlimited".

and this "your usage effects other users" is a bunch of crap... cause even if that is true... it's probably not even "noticeable" to the effect where the users it's supposedly effecting would even notice a performance drop in there internet connection.

but the way i see it, is if comcast really has a problem with this... why dont they just drop the speed and then that would make it so people cant go off on it.... but if they did that people would complain that the speed droped and the price is the same or comcast could not advertise there "fast speed" claims. lol

but me personally i used to have comcast (had it since like 2000 (which was when it was first introduced into my area) to like mid 2005 or so) and even though the overall service was good. i still think they where way overpriced for what you got... cause about a couple years ago when i ditched comcast high speed internet service i was paying roughly 45-50 dollars per month... now i heard it's 60 or close to that per month. it just aint worth it! ... cause you can get DSL in my area for MUCH MUCH MUCH cheaper and it still allows me to do pretty much what i did on comcast for a fraction the cost... and even though it's only 384k (40KB/s) plan for 15 dollars per month so i do have to wait for some loading etc ... it's overall ALOT better than comcast is "bang for the buck" wise ... and i look at it as it's only 5 dollars more per month than most decent dialup companys for like 5 dollars more than i was paying for dialup and it's litterally 8 times the speed... so in other words it's pretty much stupid to get dialup if u have 15 dollar a month dsl in your area.... but anyways, even if i wanted more speed i could double the speed what i have now for only 5 dollar more per month (20 dollars) and when u start getting near those 25-30 dollar plans on the DSL i have it's FAR better than comcast is... because the wait times aint much longer than comcasts are and it's roughly half the price.

and also, in comcasts commercials about there "claims" as to "dsl is the slowest internet etc, you just cant buy a slower internet etc" those are 100percent lies cause ANY dialup is slower than even the slowest dsl which i have.... seems like if someone wanted to they could get comcast in trouble for basically flat out lying. (im sure alot of people seen those commercials ;)

but im glad i read this article as i say screw comcast even more now! ... they aint getting a dime from me.

Instead of Comcrap disconnecting users that went over their 'invisible' cap... They should instead limit everybody's downloads to their cap... I'm sure people would LOVE their 38.5KB/s upload/download cap. (Assuming the 100GB/month limit said by a previous poster.)

Oh wait... Comcast only has their fast packages as a GIMMICK!!? Wait just a moment...

>.>

comcast probably thinks if they give you an exact number on what the limit is, then people will feel obligated to reach it as close as possible every month to "get their moneys worth". and therefore it could cause more bandwidth usage on the network, compaired to having an invisible limit which will cause people to download less due to fear of going over an unknown number.

That doesn't seem quite legal on Comcast's part if that procedure is not in the contract or if they can't even tell their customers how much is too much and then just cutting the connection. =| I can understand their concern but this is absolutely the wrong way to go about it.

Glassed Silver said,
HAHAHA... comcast sucks anyways xD
omg... thats ridiculous...
stop advertising it as unlimited then? HAHA

Glassed Silver:mac

Find one place that says its unlimited internet usage... there are none, we looked in the past... only unlimited access... aka we dont block sites

The problem is not the limit, it's that it's a secret limit.

If they say "you're limited to xxGb", then users can monitor their traffic and respect the limit.

Furthermore, it makes it impossible to be an informed consumer. If you have two ISPs in town, and they offer a different, but defined ceiling, that makes a difference in who you'll sign up with. If you're trying to compare unknown limit A with unknown limit B, you can't. I expect the real reason they don't do defined limits, is that the first company that says "20G limit", their competitor can immediately respond "well, we have 30/50/100/true unlimited", and they don't want to give competitors a weapon.

However, if they just say "you're not allowed excessive usage", it's a complete non-starter. There's no quantifiable definition of where 'excessive' begins-- it's very relative-- and home users don't have the information and technical facilities to verify weasel language like "your use impacts quality of service for others" Should I ask my neighbour if his service feels sluggish while I'm downloading the latest Slackware ISO?.

Finally, it makes it easy to have wide arrays of "tiered" limits if there's nothing in writing. I'd bet that the limit is set higher if most of your traffic is on their own properties (ad revenue) and lower for things like heavy VoIP use (then they can't sell you other services!). I'dm also be unsurprised if it varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood-- lower limits where there's less competition, or in poorer neighbourhoods where you're less likely to have heavy network users.

So basically if you were to use your comcast internet to view legal hidef web content via the internet, you'd go over the limit pretty fast.

This is starting to look like our politicians and regualatory agencies (FCC) are going to have to step in. Contracts needs to be made clear of limits - if any. Companies should also allow for true unlimited packages at affordable rates.

This isn't a question of oohhh, it fun to download a lot. Its a question of being left behind. People are using the Internet for work, education, networking, reaching others. Limiting this access defeats the purpose of the Internet. What's then the point of expanding high-speed to all communities - to stop people from being left behind - if limits are being imposed.

IMO, caching servers used to be popular back in the day of high-speed and patches of OSes, software could be downloaded from the caching servers. Why not reinstitute this idea. Wether you use Windows or OS X, there can be hundreds of Megs of patches a month.

Plus, if you look at webhosting, you can get 1 TB of traffic on your site for $10 or $15 a month. Internet unlimited is $40 a month. Can't convince me a large tier provider w/ Cable TV as a major revenue source can't afford for customers to have 1 TB a month. Thats a excess ton of bandwidth, but gets to my point.

this is BS.
if there is really nothing in theiur contract or TOS, sue their @$$.
if they told us how much we can download, that'd be fine.
i was ****ed when they capped torrents upload, but this is just retarded.
anybody actually know what the official speeds are? i know its 6mb/s dl, but what about upload?
how do i know if FIOS is in my area without calling somebody up?

welcome to the digital era. when the tv transmitted digitally (and why not) movies from hollywood (aka really big files) they will have 200 times the traffic they have now (per user).

this girl has a great point. Rogers in Canada is unlimited, and people still get letters about excessive downloading, but now Rogers has added to their contract how much is too much.

So much for this "Unlimited" service BS

wait is downloaders that they are kicking off or is it uploaderS?

Cablevision was capping uploaders on the normal package. But since we got the speed bump from 15/2 to 16.5/2 there have been no reports of capping.

The boost package the download max was taken away so that the max download speed is whatever the top speed of the docsis 2 technology allows . Also there has been no reports of boost customers being capped for uploading.

Why in the world would a company kick you off for downloading too much?

VErizon fios is not any better. They have good service but they wil lovercharge you and bill you for services that you dont have,. it has been all over the news so dont start saying how fios is your savior because they are just as bad.

majortom1981 said,
wait is downloaders that they are kicking off or is it uploaderS?

Cablevision was capping uploaders on the normal package. But since we got the speed bump from 15/2 to 16.5/2 there have been no reports of capping.

The boost package the download max was taken away so that the max download speed is whatever the top speed of the docsis 2 technology allows . Also there has been no reports of boost customers being capped for uploading.

Why in the world would a company kick you off for downloading too much?

VErizon fios is not any better. They have good service but they wil lovercharge you and bill you for services that you dont have,. it has been all over the news so dont start saying how fios is your savior because they are just as bad.

Comcast counts COMBINED up and down as your limit... the limit is 100GB invisible cap... but I've seen people get kicked off for as little as 50GB in my area... because no one else on their node uses that much they take the top 1% of the nodes and claim them as excessive... its a complex process... I hate it and they need to state in black and red what is not allowed... none of this "if we determin to be a detrement to our lines" junk they pull in the TOS now... I alctually got kicked off Comcast for doing work from home! yeah work!... they claimed it wasn't allowed on a residential service and I would need the $99 a month business plan... well im not a business, I am an employee that works from home over our VPN... and their home service even says "work from home" in its advertisement... yet they said that wasn't the case what ever... moved on to Verizon DSL then to Fiber optic internet all within the last year... although the fiber kinda stands out... its the only black line coming into the house that has a bright florescent orange sleve...

I have switched from Comcast to FiOS: so far very good. My parents also had comcast for 10 years or so, but lately connection was VERY bad, so I switched them to twice cheaper and suposedly slower Verizon's DSL: (no FIOS in their area). Since I switched them, they were very happy about internet, no interuptions, and internet bandwidth tests show even higher speed than so called 6mbs comcast internet.
My uncle also ditched comcast as TV cable provider last month.

Brandon, is right. If there is nothing in the contract, it is breach of contract. I am surprised that the ISPs aren't using this as an excuse to have tiered usage packages where they charge you more, the more you use it. There could be a flip side to this; if comcast is complaining that these people slow the network down for other users, why don't they do something to speed up their network?

I think there might be something in the contract about "interruption of service due to excessive bandwidth usage over time" to protect themselves from lawsuits like that, but the problem is that they aren't bound by law to be specific, and also move that out of the contract / fine print to make it more accessible for their customers. It's so clearly a part of the process where you pick ISP's, so it should be right there on their web page.

Glad I have DSL, where my connection isn't shared. However, one thing that has dawned on me the last day or so, is when I get an apartment, will I be "stuck" with cable (comcast is the only one here now, since they switched with Time Warner), or will I have the option to get DSL in the apartment. I'm sure it'll vary, but thats something thats very important to me. I'd rather stick with DSL than have to deal with this bs, since I do a lot of downloading on a regular basis.

DSL is no more or less "shared" than cable. You've bought into a lie perpetrated my DSL marketing stooges. Get educated. If you do a lot of downloading, the only reason you might be "safer" than cable is that DSL is so much SLOWER than most residential cable providers that you are unlikely to bump up against anyone's bandwidth cap. :)

For example, my TW/RR cable is almost SEVEN times as fast as my AT&T DSL used to be...for only $10 more per month. Be thankful you have a choice. Many people don't. I compared apples to apples (since I can get both in my apartment) and TW/RR blows AT&T DSL away in speed, lag, uptime, etc. No comparison.

excalpius said,
DSL is no more or less "shared" than cable. You've bought into a lie perpetrated my DSL marketing stooges. Get educated. If you do a lot of downloading, the only reason you might be "safer" than cable is that DSL is so much SLOWER than most residential cable providers that you are unlikely to bump up against anyone's bandwidth cap. :)

For example, my TW/RR cable is almost SEVEN times as fast as my AT&T DSL used to be...for only $10 more per month. Be thankful you have a choice. Many people don't. I compared apples to apples (since I can get both in my apartment) and TW/RR blows AT&T DSL away in speed, lag, uptime, etc. No comparison.

Unfortunately you're both wrong (though the parent much less so then my quote). Cable IS "shared" and you have simply bought in to... god knows what. A cable connection can be seen as a single line running down the street, with individuals who subscribe to a cable service 'hooking in to' that single cable (hence the name). ADSL, on the other, hand has an individual line coming from each users place of residence and connecting to the exchange. Do you see where the sharing occurs? The maximum speed a cable user can obtain is directly proportion to the amount of users sharing that cable. The fact that your cable connection is seven times (I would also be curious how you measured that) faster then your DSL one simply means that: a) your phone line/exchange/rim is awful and b) you don't have very many people near you using cable.

In regard to the OPs question; if the apartment you move in to has a phone line and the building isn't too old then there is a good chance you will be able to get ADSL. As long as the hardware is in the exchange (see: central hub for phone lines in your residential area) then your phone line should support cable -- assuming you aren't too far away from said exchange, or the cabling isn't too old.

I smell lawsuits brewing.

If theres no limit in the contract, they are breeching it by shutting off service for no reason then

i'm sure it's like most isps advertise here in the uk.... it's pimped as "unlimited" but you're subject to an aup/fup (acceptable/fair use policy). i doubt they are daft enough to leave themselves wide open like that.

marc2003 said,
i'm sure it's like most isps advertise here in the uk.... it's pimped as "unlimited" but you're subject to an aup/fup (acceptable/fair use policy). i doubt they are daft enough to leave themselves wide open like that.

Yes but those ISPs disclaim how much monthly bandwidth you have, they dont refuse then cut you off when you hit the random target.

marc2003 said,
i'm sure it's like most isps advertise here in the uk.... it's pimped as "unlimited" but you're subject to an aup/fup (acceptable/fair use policy). i doubt they are daft enough to leave themselves wide open like that.

However, the service providers would sell the product as "Fair Use" and not "Unlimited".

Brandon said,
I smell lawsuits brewing.

If theres no limit in the contract, they are breeching it by shutting off service for no reason then

Dont also forget that most ISP's "Reserve the right to cancel the subscription of any customer at their discretion"

well the isp obviously have the means to measure a customer's usage. so why can't this be put in a user control panel on their website alongside a clearly defined bandwidth limit. nah, that makes far too much sense.....

...and you can't switch to them because YOUR local governments have granted these companies monopolies against YOUR best interests.

Come to Sofia, Bulgaria! My ISP (a LAN Internet connection) is 2 Mbps (2.02 Mbps, to be exact; which means you can download at 258.75 KB/sec) for only $20 a month. Unlimited downloads (and I know, especially when I had my MSDN subscription) and never a warning about too much bandwidth being used.

I just hope that such things don't start happening now that we're a part of the EU...

"The company declines to reveal its download limits."

I agree with you. How can they hold back information on how much you can use, then disconnect people for going over it?

If they reveal it, then people will be able to control their usage to keep it under the limit, and then other people will be able to do the math and see how little bandwidth Comcast really has, and how much they are overselling their capacity. As long as they keep this a nebulous figure they can slide the scale up and down at their own arbitrary convenience.

Ahem.

There are consumer protection laws against this, starting with bait and switch, and full disclosure of the terms and conditions of any contract or purchasing agreement, etc.

Make this a HUGE story. Let the world know that COMCAST is scum.

JoeC said,
"The company declines to reveal its download limits."

I agree with you. How can they hold back information on how much you can use, then disconnect people for going over it?

In NZ we have a similar situation, except they outline what the limits are per-day give a certain package, and normally if you excessively download, your speed is reduced to 64kbps till the end of the month.

Then again, we don't have flat rate accounts here, so the cost/allowance moderates peoples usage.

kaiwai said,

In NZ we have a similar situation, except they outline what the limits are per-day give a certain package, and normally if you excessively download, your speed is reduced to 64kbps till the end of the month.

Then again, we don't have flat rate accounts here, so the cost/allowance moderates peoples usage.


With Optus Cable in Australia we have a similiar problem with uploads. Theres no set limit, and the limit that Optus has decided upon is different per exchange.