There has been a lot of noise made about how ISP like Comcast and others need to institute caps on their service and what caps they do put in place are more than fair. This is a point of view that I have personally argued against in many places as being detrimental in the long run for technology as a whole. One of the points I have made is that even Comcast’s cap of 250 GB would end up being to small in this day and age of increasing streaming of video and the push to live in the cloud it would become quite apparent just how small it is.
Well we have a story today out of Seattle about game consultant Andre Vrignaud who suddenly found himself without any internet service from Comcast because he had gone over the 250 GB cap not once but twice. Here’s the really bad part though – Andre is now banned from the Internet for a year due to this so-called transgression; and to add insult to injury Comcast blamed him for misusing his internet access.
So what lead to this transgression?
Well as Andre wrote in his first post on the matter:
This stuff is valuable to me, and I recently purchased a three-year subscription to Carbonite so I could back all of this content up to the cloud. I also recently saw Amazon’s announcement of being able to upload unlimited M4A/AAC tracks to their Cloud Drive service, and decided to upload my library there so I could access it when on the road. And it turns out uploading all of this content to the cloud triggered Comcast’s bandwidth cap and caused me to be cut off from the internet – again. It was never clear to me that Comcast measures both upload and download bandwidth, and I suspect many people are going to be surprised by this in the coming years, especially as the cloud continues to become more and more a part of our lives.
In other words Andre was using the web the way that we are all being told that we should be using it but as he found out the hard way that 250 GB cap that Comcast has on it top tier consumer access counts the traffic both ways – up and down.
Now more than a few people have pointed out that Andre should have been using the business class service from Comcast which doesn’t have caps but does have its own inherent gotchas as Andre pointed out in a follow up post
Looking forward, I’ll first say that I’d be hesitant to use Comcast for anything ever again for obvious reasons. However, the marketplace really isn’t competitive in Seattle for what I define as highspeed (>10 Mbps) broadband – Comcast is the only real gig in town. So I decided to look into what a Business plan would cost me if I were to choose that option.
Comcast Business has four plans:
- Deluxe 100/10 – 100 Mb down/10 Mb up for $395 a month
- Deluxe 50/10 – 50 Mb down/10 Mb up for $195 a month
- Premium 22/5 – 22 Mb down/5 Mb up for $105 a month
- Starter 12/2 – 12 Mb down/2 Mb up for $65 a month
The only plan that’s even close to my $60/month 15 Mb up consumer plan is the Starter 12/2 plan for $65 a month. So at first blush I’d be paying slightly more for slightly less speed, but no data caps.
But wait – it’s “new service” with “specialized hardware”, so they can’t just turn on the plan. Instead I have to choose from a plan commitment tier. If I commit for the shortest period of time (one year), my install/setup fee is $199. If I go and commit to three years with Comcast Business, they’ll reduce that fee down to $49.
All right – so let’s discuss what the hardware is. The sales rep suggested that no matter what tier I really want I start with the Deluxe 100/50 plan so I get the “higher-end hardware” – which I can keep even if I call and downgrade to a different tier the day after the install. That set my spideysense off, and so I pushed a little bit on what exactly this “higher-end” hardware is. Turns out it’s a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. Ok… but I already own my own modem, a Motorola SURFboard eXtreme Broadband Cable Modem-SB6120, and I don’t want to lease another.
Sorry, that’s not an option.
But it doesn’t end there either:
Now, let’s say all this hasn’t put me off from coming on board, and I want to sign up for the Starter plan and pay more for less service, all to remove an arbitrary data cap. Can I?
Nope! Turns out that once Comcast has cut your broadband account for violating their data cap policy you are verboten from being a Comcast customer for 1 year. That’s right:
After being cut off from Comcast’s consumer internet plan due to using too much data, I’m told I’m ineligible to use Comcast’s recommended solution, their business internet plan that allows the unlimited use of data — solely because I made the mistake of actually using “too much” data in the first place.
As the sales rep said in my Google Voicemail message, “what’s interesting is that if you would have started off on the business side of the house, since we don’t have a cap limitations [sic] you would’ve been fine.”
Now, explain to me how caps are a benefit to anyone but the companies seeking to increase their bottom line without doing anything to make the service better for the consumer.