Thursday, February 22, 2007

February 20, 2007

I would like to express my appreciation for John Klemack of FOX 13 and Gephardt of KUTV/2 in airing the TV spot regarding Comcast terminating customer Internet accounts this past Tuesday. I believe it's important people understand what they really purchased from the company. BTW, I've had a busy week. I've given a few interviews with several journalists this week about the situation. As the articles are published I've asked for copies so I can keep track of what's going on and make people aware here and via direct email when I feel it's appropriate. So far I've found articles from the UK to Australia about this. Sitemeter has been very helpful these last couple weeks in tracking this :-)

So after watching the TV spots, I began thinking about several people in my neighborhood who regularly download over 200 Gigs and above month after month and I've warned them to be careful as they will be on the radar if it hasn't happened already. Since I'm no longer in the top .01%, they are next :-)

At the end of each TV spot, I began thinking about Comcast's copy/paste response which they provided to everyone including the Mayor of my city (more on that later). Comcast says we use 100 times more than the average Comcast user. We are in the top .01 percent. Comcast gives the following examples of what that means:

According to Comcast, the top .01 percent download something like

256,000 photos or
30,000 songs or
13,000,000 emails

(does this sound familiar to anyone?)


So this means 99.99% of their average users use 100 times less than my family which means:

2560 photos a month
or 130,000 emails a month (yes, that's 130 thousand emails a month for the normal Comcast user)
or 300 songs a month

Some basic assumptions I made to fill in the gaps. In my wife's business she creates photos and mp3's using “The Gimp” for photos and “SonicFire Smart Sound” for Royalty free music (I highly recommend it btw). So here are some averages we've seen after 5 years in business. I also generated a text email with 3 paragraphs and saved it to the hard drive.

avg song around 4-6 Megs for mp3
avg jpg = 512 k (and they do go much higher)
avg bmp = 1m (same here, this is a low number)
avg email = 10k

Ok. So that means

2560 Jpgs = 1.31 gig
2560 bmp = 2,.56 gig
300 mp3s (at 6 Megs size) = 1.8 gigs
130,000 emails (at 10k) = 1.3 Gig

So according to Comcast, 99.99% of their customers hardly use their Internet connection for anything but the most basic of needs. Multi-Media includes anything dealing with video, audio and photos. According to the letter FOX 13 posted from Comcast's spokesman Ray Child:

“99.99% of our customers use the service as intended, which includes using it to download and share video, photos and other rich-media. Customers are notified of excessive usage typically consume more than 100 times the average national Comcast Bandwidth usage”.

(transcribed by me from the FOX 13 TV spot):

So no Internet TV, no Internet radio, and not a lot of photos or graphics. If you hang around YouTube or Spikedhumor as we frequently did, you will surpass the average which they say 99.99% of their customers use. If these numbers are typical as Comcast claims, then Comcast customers are using the service for basic email and web browsing. Movies downloaded from Zudeo.com, Walmart or Amazon.com will in a day consume more than their average customer. If you don't purchase and download movies from those services then DSL and wireless provide far cheaper solutions with adequate bandwidth.

Now the translation to what we do according to Comcast, they say we download:

songs = 180 Gigs
jpegs = 131 Gigs
bmp = 256 Gigs
email = 130 Gigs

So yes, we fully use the 6 Meg pipe we purchased and those numbers make sense. Streaming TV from Portugal or Internet radio takes more bandwidth than you normally would see :-)

Something else I noticed, we don't see anything in the agreement which states we purchased High Speed Internet with "acceptable use" of 40, 60, 80 gigs or more (hint hint). If this is what Comcast is selling their customers then it would be reasonable to advertise those limits and provide a solution so their customer can make an informed choice to meet their individual needs.

Here is a comment I recently received from a member of my local Linux Group (SLUGG):

- A 1600x1200 (3 Megapixel) digital photo as a JPG is about 1.3MB average in my experience.
- A 128kbps MP3 file is about 1MB per minute, so a 3:30 song is 3.5MB
- The average email is probably what, 5K-10K, depending on if it is plain text, html, or both?
For the photos, 2560*1.3= 3.33GB per month
For the songs, 300*3.5 = 1.05GB per month
For the emails, 130,000*5-10K = 650MB-1.3GB per month

The only place I know of at the moment that publishes quotas on usage is UTOPIA, which is 100GB per month. 1-3GB per month is way lower than that. Even back when XMission had quotas on DSL, it was 100GB/month, not including their unmetered times or within-network traffic. That usage expectation is ridiculously low.


I have to agree with his assessment. It sounds like Comcast needs to come up with realistic numbers of what their customers are really doing. 1-3 Gigs monthly is very low and not realistic in the least.

Oh and about our Mayor. It seems when he called Comcast he was given the impression they thought we were using our HSI connection for our business. I explained to him our business is very small and in two or three years will be using the Internet in accepting orders with video and photos. I haven't started writing the code yet but it looks like we'll be using PHP and MySQL. Occasionally a customer emails my wife for pricing information. Average is about a 12 email's for a busy month but I doubt this would be a problem for Comcast.

So how do we work with our customers? Here is our secret business model

- We receive via Fed-EX, UPS or US Post a package with negatives, photos, slides or perhaps video's
- We scan / import the media to our computers and render the movie
- We burn a DVD and create labels and/or DVD inserts
- We mail it back (insured) to the customer.

That's it. Comcast's role is... well... nonexistant.

I understand the Mayor is making a few more calls. It will be interesting to see what transpires. I'm hopeful he and the City Council will understand my situation isn't all that unusual as I've found over a dozen people in the Salt Lake Valley just in the last 4 weeks who were with Comcast. I'm also hopeful they look at bringing Utopia or something similar to our area. It won't happen this year or next year, but it will happen and people will join is en mass.

20 comments:

C-LEVEL TECH said...

Thanks for posting these numbers Frank. This is something that not even Comcast is smart enough to deal with.

u235sentinel said...

Thanks for posting these numbers Frank. This is something that not even Comcast is smart enough to deal with.

My pleasure. I figured people didn't know what Comcast was suggesting 99.99% of their users typically consume from their multi-media rich experience using Comcast HSI. Hardly enough to fill a thimball.

BTW, found two neighbors who have been disconnected by Comcast for "using the Internet too much". One lady said "If my kids are using it too much then please cancel our Internet". The Abuse Department rep I'm told said "No no.. that's not necessary, simply use less of it and it will be ok". She pushed and had the HSI terminated anyway. Beat Comcast to the punch (ROFL!)

C-LEVEL TECH said...

How are things going in your town? I'm actually waiting for a response back from the Boston Globe reporter to let me know when she's going forward with that article. I actually was contacted by another woman on DSLR and she wanted to know more of my story so I posted a response back.
She feels that I'm very brave to take on Comcast and fight them on this issue. I'm waiting for the government to contact me and they are willing to listen to my story. There will come a day with Brian Roberts and his corporate buddies will answer for this and face other angry former subscribers of his HSI. They will answer for it.

C-LEVEL TECH said...

Simply use less of it huh? How pathetic.

PC said...

These comcast people are simply assholes. I got charged $20 for fixing a problem in the connection path which was outside my apartment."We charge $20 for rolling out our truck" was the reply I got from the customercare. If they dont want to "roll out their truck', let them walk to my home, I dont care. Fuck comcast !

jestith said...

My experience closely mirrors yours with Comcast. I wrote the CEO twice, so this is happening with his knowledge and approval. But it's basically a pretty short-sighted policy because they have lost my Internet business, plus my cable TV business, plus my potential telephone business, and any stock purchases.

gramsay said...

Hello,

Way to go. Good research and analysis. Eventually I hope Comcast will end that despicable practice. To think that they would disconnect a "paying" customer. That's like a TV station cutting off their channel to you because you watch that channel too much. Comcast = absurd.

Now I see someone else is having issues with Comcast.

From my experience I have been with cable broadband for 2 years with Adelphia and had no problems in South Florida (West Palm Beach) paying $42.95 a month after the intro-period of 4 months at $23.95 was over.

Recently Comcast bought Adelphia. Bye-bye Adelphia. Then I get a brochure in the mail from Comcast introducing themselves to the area with a list of their services and prices.

Then I was shocked to see that the rate for cable broadband "ONLY" users went up from $42.95/mo to $57.95/mo. An whopping increase of $15/mo or 35%. What the ??

Now if you have cable TV and broadband then the broadband rate stays the same at $42.95.

Why, why, why are they punishing broadband "ONLY" customers ??

Again, Comcast = absurd.

So the thing to do now is to add cable TV and the lowest/basic form to your existing broadband which still yields about $57/mo.

Of course the best choice is to dump Comcast.

Does anyone else have this issue in the area ?

I'll be first in-line to petition against that rate increase since it smells illegal.

Peace,
GR

Chad said...

It is unfortunate that Comcast disconnected you. I recently went off Comcast since they could not get my internet connection to stay up. I have since moved to Sprint Broadband. Wow what a difference in customer service! Sprint actually cares that you are a customer and the speed is very incredible. Pricing is right in line as well. Comcast should open its eyes and see that there are more options now than before and the competition is rising. Thankfully we all have other options!

Lorraine said...

I too had Comcast for about 4 years. My son would come over to use my computer maybe once or twice a week for a period of approx. 2 or 3 months. I also got THE PHONE CALL from Comcast. Called Verizon the next day to hook up with them and dropped Comcast. Also my son is now out of state anyway so it's just my daughter and I using our laptops. Class action lawsuit? I'm interested.

micaman said...

Thanks for the information!

This is hardly an acceptable business pratice and Comcast should get ready for the fall-out.

There seems to be something in the water with these big corporations that causes them to build up a customer base, only to STOMP ALL OVER THEM IN THE END.

Even still, if they have their own internal secret service watching customer's bandwidth, WHAT ELSE ARE THEY WATCHING? And what's with this 99.99% ratio they use to decide what is normal? What about businesses that use broadband with a router & hub to run 10 stations? What about the websites run from home that are hosted by Comcast's bandwidth?

WHY ELSE HAVE HI SPEED INTERNET?

Where do they get this idea that they can tell us, in 2007, that we are using TOO MUCH BANDWIDTH? The whole world is using too much bandwidth - that is what the "big boxes" (and big brother) wanted us to do. Shop online, bank online, talk online, send photos online, buy STUFF online, watch TV online and whatever else we can...ONLINE (requires lots of bandwidth).

They made it this way, and that's that. Now, WE WANT OUR BANDWIDTH.

If Comcast is reacting this way, I think we are about to see some Comcast back-tracking with their stocks, P&L reports, along with other serious money troubles. Give it a little time, and I think we will see this happen.

It's a good thing our city's leaders did not contract out our WATER SUPPLY TO COMCAST! I can see it now..."our policy is to allow two sips of water per person, per quota, per sector, and according to our fresh water sipping policy on page 5,876 of the water bylaws."

Really, COMCAST, GET WITH IT!

Zaibatsu said...

@splitt3rxx

Try 5 HD movies at 40 gigs a pop in raw BluRay 1080p format. I'm not doing it, but I'm sure that there are people out there.

Compared to the beefy options in the UK, South Korea (100 Mbps) and Japan.

Our broadband sucks in the US just blows.

Now even with a commercial comcast account, and lets say you do HD video editing for a living. Sending content back and forth between your home office and a client for review. Well, it takes forever.

I just won't call it abuse, heck when cellphone came out, I got the max plan because I like to talk, it cost a small fortune a month but well, I hate to worry about the minutes.

Fast forward to present day, I have unlimited national and international calling, I never hit the top on my cell plan and and

4umfacade said...

Thank you, OP, for revealing the unbridled corporate greed of Comcast! I have not heard of bandwidth monitoring in my area, but am sure it's on its way with the congestive bottlenecking traffic during peak hours. They oversell their shares and instead of honoring the contracts, change them as they please never once considering strengthening the backbone of the whole operation. They raise rates at their whim and use the old fashioned "you have to make an appt w/ the cable guy" as a threat if you need to adjust service. Take the day off, they never show, and somehow they never needed access inside your home anyway (which we already knew, right?).

20 year customers of the monster in our area, we had them as Omnicom, Harron, Adelphia and Comcast-maybe left one out. They still have some time before their exclusive deal is up in this area...Oh, WOW, I cannot WAIT for them to have competition - WOW could use it, too. ATT has already responded to the greed with fantastic offerings (for much less bandwidth and a 2 year contract) >>> We live in SE MI and had digital cable TV - $8 difference from analog now! and Comcast "high speed internet" which we signed up as soon as it was available. We have NO premium channels and do not pay extra for "higher speed" internet. Over $120 a month! $120 A MONTH!

I was wondering why in the heck we had this...from time to time calling and arriving at the same conclusions, fogging the memories in between as the pain of being screwed so badly is something I want to forget... Ah yes, the service call... We work CONSTANTLY... Even if we are home... AND if you disconnect the TV, then the internet - paying JUST $42.95 monthly like gramsay said, jumps to a whopping $62.95! Because it is part of a deal! No it is NOT. It was not signed up as a deal... If we wanted higher speed internet that would be $70.95 a MONTH - plus whatever Comcast wants, of course...Even listing my own Surfboard on their pimped out list in the billing. So then the TV doesn't sound so expensive, right? Not if you need the bandwidth - and of course we do.

FINALLY, I got someone at Comcast to admit in anger that they still have $10 TV access for Channels 2-22 and obtaining that option should keep our internet at the low low price of $42.95 a month. I had to set an appt. My husband took the day off. No one ever showed up. Thanks, Comcast. We should sue for the day's pay. I knew that would be the result. But did someone need to be here? Of course not! They did cut down our service anyway...I hauled the (badly functioning) digital box back to their local stop on their late night, standing in line with people who were just crippled by this monopoly in our area. All of us having to rush after work on their only late day to give them back their stuff or they will charge us. The lines echoed, "well, you didn't have any trouble putting it ON my bill", "I have measured the download rate! I have screenshots! This is false advertising! You are charging me a higher price and it is not faster!", "How much do I need to pay to keep the cable on?", "Yeah, here ya go, here's my grocery money, but the kids have to do homework, right?" and then there was me.

I pondered giving the bulletproof window a piece of my mind and then I thought...Our economy is the worst in the country right now...Hard to wrap your mind around that...Maybe these people just need a job. So I walk to the window and smile politely and ask if I put the box in this side or that side. He directs me to the right side, but does not return my smile. So I decide to tell him:

"We have been your (cable) customers for 20 years and you will not let us have the deal that you give new customers, is that true?".

"What deal is that?"

"$99 a month for cable, internet and phone."

"Yes, that's true. Existing customers cannot have that offer."

"That really sucks. I can't understand why you are punishing us for being great customers over so many years."

"What do you want to do, Ma'am?"

"Downgrade. I want to downgrade to the $10 (loudly) TV option that you never tell anyone about so I can keep my internet at the already outrageous $42.95 a month. My husband missed a day's pay and no one showed up, but the channels are adjusted down, so I guess no one really needed to be there. Do you need anything else from me?"

"No. Here ya go."

"Do I sign it?"

"No, that's yours."

"I need proof or some record of what my bill will be."

"You will get it in the mail after."

"But the bill is a PRE-pay."

"That's how it works. Can I help who's next in line?"

"Ok, great. You know what? I feel GREAT! The $10 TV is the BEST deal if you NEED internet and don't watch TV much (loudly for the line). Hey, thanks for your time! BUH-bye!"

If they start to DC people for overuse of bandwidth in this area (obviously metro-Detroit area)...well, they already have the bullet proof glass...I hope that's enough. I hope they are not foolhardy enough to provoke their customers further. I said a prayer and a block of ice fell from the sky on my windshield! Last week it was 70 degrees... wth?

I know this is long and I'm sorry, but so grateful for the post! Have to add that Comcast is hiring here and as AWFUL as the economy is at this time (it will change like the weather), no one is beating their door down! My department is consolidating (or whatever), but I am not sure I could bring myself to sell Comcast.

I think a class action is an excellent idea, OP. You're my hero! Read the updated reply at Ziff-Davis where Comcast replies...

Thanks again!
-4um or against um

rp2000 said...

Thanks for the analysis and putting up the blog. I had the same experience with Comcast.

My family had been customers of Comcast for about 3 years. I live in Palo Alto, California. I telecommute and used Comcast for personal use (along with my wife and kids) and for connecting into my startup company's data center. In my business, I use virtual machines which can be very large objects (a couple of Gigs).

I got a call in February by the Comcast abuse dept that I was using too much bandwidth; I asked how much I should reduce by, but did not get more than a fuzzy answer after asking a few times for more detailed guidance. I then thought I significantly reduced my bandwidth by traffic shaping the apps that I thought were using the most bandwidth. About a month ago I got a second call and had my service suspended for a year; not only that, but I was told I could not get a business account for a year and there was absolutely no recourse to appeal the decision.

I have since switched over to DSL, but am interested in the best way to protest this action by Comcast, which I view as unfair, arbitrary and unprofessional. I view Comcast's behavior as abusing their near monopoly status.

-Rich

u235sentinel said...

rp2000 said...

Thanks for the analysis and putting up the blog. I had the same experience with Comcast.


Your welcome. I wanted to see some real numbers and felt I wasn't going to get this from the company. So I used their examples with real world numbers. I'm fairly confident I'm close to what they are attempting to say.


{snip}

I got a call in February by the Comcast abuse dept that I was using too much bandwidth; I asked how much I should reduce by, but did not get more than a fuzzy answer after asking a few times for more detailed guidance. I then thought I significantly reduced my bandwidth by traffic shaping the apps that I thought were using the most bandwidth. About a month ago I got a second call and had my service suspended for a year;


Yup. I've come to the conclusion this is normal for the company. I would have been VERY surprised had they not terminated your account. That would have been inconsistent with their history.

not only that, but I was told I could not get a business account for a year and there was absolutely no recourse to appeal the decision.



Yeah, We even upgraded to a business account. I'm told it was on for about 10 minutes before the Abusive... errr I mean Abuse Department terminated it... again.

I have since switched over to DSL, but am interested in the best way to protest this action by Comcast, which I view as unfair, arbitrary and unprofessional. I view Comcast's behavior as abusing their near monopoly status.

The only way to make a difference it to tell everyone you speak with about your experience. Contact the FTC, FCC, the AG in your state and so on. Talk to your City Council and express your outrage.

I'm also encouraging people to push for fiber to the house Utopianet if you are in Utah or Verizion's FioS. I'm sure there are other companies offering fiber but these are the two I'm very familiar with.

This is the only way to push Comcast back into reality. Competition will force them to either take a class or two in customer service or oblivion.

It seems sad we don't have more controls over monopolies these days.

I've written letters to Representatives, Senators and other's in Government with my story. It's interesting to see how common it is.

Good Luck with your battle. I hope you have better success then I in getting your local Government to turn off the Comcast Monopoly.

tooto said...

Just for comparison, in the UK it is very common for ISPs to have different prices for specified download limits, and therefore have to specify how mush you have used. (look at this: http://www.freedom2surf.net/adsl/homeuser.php?is=m1hbb ) and as a relativity heavy internet user our maximum usage has tended to be 5Gb/Month, which we only passed twice...

Although if they don't specify a limit, then they really should honour your usage.

Scott said...

In response to gramsay.......as far as broadband only, the cable company has to put a filter outside your house to filter the video. This filter runs $175-$200 (cost to cable co.). I work with a cable company we that for customers and charge them the same monthly price, however we do charge them for the filter.

Jonathon said...

Back in 2002 Comcast had a page on their website stating what the download limits per month for each type of usage was.

The only limit I remember was Usenet, which was 1 GB per month.

cwells said...

This must be a Utah-specific thing. I routinely download *tons* through my Comcast connection (Portland, OR). My *uploads* are much more than 10GB a month (I have several colocated servers and routinely upload and download backup images). Frankly it wouldn't surprise me if I exceeded 100GB/mo on a routine basis.

I wonder if Comcast's Utah/SLC network isn't quite up-to-snuff and they are trying to compensate.

I hope they don't start this brain-dead policy here as I don't know where else I'd go for internet access. I *won't* use Qwest for anything, ever (I wouldn't call 911 on a Qwest phone if my head was on fire), and Verizon hasn't exactly been an outstanding citizen either, what with their jumping into bed with the NSA and all. To date, Comcast has been the least ugly of the bunch.

wrieken said...

It really is too bad.

As everyone in the industry knows that Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts is a CRACKER JACK box leader.

Comcast should have fired this guy long ago. Comcast will suffer and it is his fault all the way. Of course this guy doesn't care about either the customer or the company. Yet another Cracker Jack CEO that will get a large payoff when the company dumps him. That is if he doesn't crash the company first. Stock holders take notice, this guy is going to trash your stock portfolio.

Good thing he thinks Verizon's FiOS efforts will fail. With leadership like that Comcast is out the door for sure.

Perhaps you guys should get your mayor to call Verizon? If you do ask for FiOS.

Have a nice day.

D.

the1maxim said...

We just got a call from Comcast in the last week citing excessive bandwidth usage. We were told we had to cut our usage by at least half but weren't told what our limit was. We were also told this was our one and only warning and that next time our account would be terminated without notice and we'd be blacklisted from Comcast for an entire year!