Sunday, August 31, 2008

August 31, 2008

There has been quite the flurry of articles about Comcast's recent policy change regarding bandwidth. Some hail it as the greatest thing since sliced bread while others condemn it as just another way for the company to force their customers to use less bandwidth. Some are asking if 250 gigs a month is enough.

Comcast says that 99% of their customers use the internet well under this limit. Personally I dispute that unvalidated statement. When my families Internet was terminated for 12 months we started asking around and noticed two others in our neighborhood ALSO were terminated within a couple months. Those are odds I'd love to take to Vegas.

Will this be a good thing for Comcast customers? Time will tell. I have several questions which I haven't found answers to. Perhaps someone here can answer them.


First, Will this limit include Comcast traffic as well as Internet traffic?

Second, Will Comcast customers be able to validate they are using that much traffic when they get "The Call"?

Third, if more than 250 Gigs per month are consumed, is there a higher tier available with more bandwidth?

Fourth, In the event of a mistake, what process is in place to challenge Comcast's findings. Is there an escalation process basically?

Fifth, how much really is too much bandwidth?


Unless Comcast answers these questions I don't see how much has changed other than the bandwidth limit is now stated like all other ISP's. Also, in today's age of Internet Innovation, we see full HD movies coming to the web browser. That's right, Internet providers don't have just P2P and downloads to worry about. From what I'm hearing, P2P has leveled off last year and HTTP traffic is the growing problem.

I decided to check and was stunned to learn TV shows such as Heroes, South Park and other's are all available online. And this was from companies such as NBC.COM, South Park Studios and so on.

Internet bandwidth usage will ONLY increase in the coming years.

Speaking of which, I was pleased to hear our Government is beginning to realize just how badly America is in need of a national broadband strategy. I haven't heard much from the Republican side regarding what they plan on doing however the Democrats seem to be coming around to the idea that it should be treated like Infrastructure.

The Democrats' position on broadband is to treat it more like critical infrastructure--like roads, bridges and the water supply. From the Party Platform: "We will implement a national broadband strategy, especially in rural areas, that enables every American household, school, library and hospital to connect to a world-class communications infrastructure."

It continues: "In an increasingly technology-rich, knowledge-based economy, connectivity is a key part of the solution to many of our most important challenges: job creation, economic growth, energy, health care and education."


At the current rate, we won't catch up to Japan for about 100 years without help.

"We need high-speed Internet for our homes, schools, hospitals, and workplaces," the authors of the report recommend. "Speed defines what is possible on the Internet. It determines whether we will have the 21st century networks we need to create the jobs of the future, develop our economy, and support innovations in telemedicine, education, public safety, and public services to improve our lives and communities."


I recall a speech by President Bill Clinton regarding NAFTA. He mentioned we will be transitioning to a technology economy in the years to come. That was over a decade ago! Without the infrastructure in place, I wonder how we can expect to complete that move? BTW, I've been searching for a reference for that statement. If anyone has found one please share :-)

One more comment about broadband. It seems Comcast isn't alone with the 250 Gig monthly limit. Seems Qwest 'may' also have set limits as well.

We’ve wrote before that ISPs are looking for new ways to manage their network by introducing bandwidth caps and metered plans. Although we’re not in favor of it, we have to applaud Comcast for being open about it. Most other ISPs have similar policies, limiting their unlimited services, but they seem to get away with it. One of these ISPs is Qwest, one of the larger Internet providers in the western United States, who forces customers to accept an invisible 250 GB cap.



Indeed, as we have said before, ISPs should think ahead. To most “normal” customers 250 GB may sound as a lot of bandwidth, but this might be totally different in the future. Making an online backup of your harddrive is pretty much impossible with a bandwidth cap like this, so will HD-streaming. It hinders innovation while it’s ignoring the real problem. ISPs should invest in their network instead, but I guess it’s not only the entertainment industry that finds it hard to adapt to technological change.


So we have a new (capped) future before us. Seems Internet Providers are deciding to limit innovation rather than build out their Infrastructure. I have yet to hear what happened to the NII money from 1994. So after a brief search of tools to monitor usage, I came across this article. Some of the tools looks decent enough.

Personally I like vnstat for linux. It was nice to see Ubuntu had the package already available. After a minute of setup I can see hourly, weekly, and monthly totals. It even gives a 'guess' of what my total consumption of the month may be. I recommend vnstat. And especially if you want a GUI there is PHPvnstat. Creates a nice web page with some nice graphs.

Speaking of Ubuntu. I was surprised to hear of Comcast giving the cold shoulder when a customer mentioned they were running Linux. I'm glad they are running ok now but the response was inappropriate.

the support agent refused to give her the case number, restating the fact that Comcast does not support Linux. He even went as far to say that the company supports Windows, Mac OSX, and even Unix (note that both Linux and OSX are a form of Unix), but not Linux. Needless to say, Mrs. Gorman was not pleased with this response. I would not want to have been the Comcast employee during the resulting conversation. For the next several minutes, she chastised the employee about the evils of discriminating against a customer due to their choice in operating system. Once thoroughly chastised, the employee was more forthcoming with the case number.


I was amused at least. You have to go higher up the food chain until you found someone who understood how lame that statement was. For the record, I ran Linux on the Comcast network for years without issue.

Speaking of which, I've been running Ubuntu on my new computer for the last few weeks without issue. The P180 Antec case, Artic Cooler CPU fan and 120 mm case fans make this computer whisper quiet and yet it's very powerful. I'm running several programs in WINE including Counterstrike Source, Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty 4. All run just great on my Nvidia 9800 GTX with their proprietary driver. The ONLY problem I've had is chatting in my steam friends list. I'll have to work on that. Otherwise I highly recommend scrapping Windows and moving to Ubuntu.

One more note. I had to share this article with you :-)

It's funny to see Comcast's numbers have changed.

* Send 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email)
* Download 62,500 4 MB songs (at 4 MB/song)
* Download 125 standard-definition movies (at 2 GB/movie)
* Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (at 10 MB/photo)


What I want to know is how many gigs is that in DAT cartridges ;-)

Ok I'm kidding. Still it's unrealistic. Standard definition video's isn't the future boys. Everybody is going high def. And 2 Gigs a movie is low from what I'm seeing.

18 comments:

Bill McGonigle said...

While it's good they won't cut you off, Utopia will run you $90/mo for the 'Comcast' package. 250GB doesn't seem all that bad in that light.

kc7zax said...

Which is on par with a regular price from Comcast. And that is if you choose the 100GB 10/MBit option. Choose the 500GB 50/MBit option and save money.

RD said...

mstar offers umlimited utopia access with a 15meg down/ 15meg up line for 40$ a month, where are you getting you 90$/Mo number?

and Xmission has a 50meg down/ 50meg up option for 60$/Mo with a 500Gb month cap, but thats hardly comparable comcast cant offer those speeds.

Jesse Harris said...

Comcast has left a lot of vagueness, to be sure. In addition to the questions you've asked, they haven't laid out what happens when you go over. That leaves me with the impression that it's a soft cap and we'll still be right back where we were, trying to figure out what invisible line in the sand we crossed.

I do know, however, exactly how much traffic I use. I use ClarkConnect for my router and it gives me detailed stats as to just how much traffic I push over the NIC. Last month was a heavy downloading month for me. I downloaded a bunch of alternative OSes to test in VirtualBox, grabbed some large OS patches, downloaded several games from GameStop, ran nightly differential backups of my critical data and watched an entire season of Lost in HD from ABC.com... and I barely broke 41GB. I feel like a power user, yet I couldn't even consume a fifth of what Comcast will be allowing as of October 1. That really put the cap in perspective for me.

u235sentinel said...

Bill McGonigle said...

While it's good they won't cut you off, Utopia will run you $90/mo for the 'Comcast' package. 250GB doesn't seem all that bad in that light.


Are you sure about that? It shows $60 a month for their 500 Gigs a month package not $90. I'm sure someday Concast will catch up with their competition and offer 50 Meg down packages for residential use.

Right?

;-)

u235sentinel said...

RD said...

and Xmission has a 50meg down/ 50meg up option for 60$/Mo with a 500Gb month cap, but thats hardly comparable comcast cant offer those speeds.


what's really amusing is Concast offers faster speeds (not 50 meg up /down) but all that means is you can hit your Invisible cap..... I mean your cap faster now...

What a nice company. And they are giving free wii's out too. Get them before they are all gone ;-)

Bill McGonigle said...

Yep, you're right, I missed the 500GB option. Sweetness.

Cold Chilli said...

I'm still surprised that comcast isn't endorsing or encouraging software to monitor your bandwidth. Or god forbid publish their own stats. It has to be some kind router based software since I can't install an application on my Wii, Vonage, iPhone or XBox to tell me how much bandwidth I'm using.
I don't like the secrecy and lack of appeals/escalation. Why not charge me more when I go over? Why cut me off for a year? why not make it lifetime!?
If someone does get cut off what are the chances of them wanting to come back to comcast?
If I get hit again I don't have an alternative in my neighborhood. AT&T isn't sending DSL into my house.

If they would cut me off and I since I have Vonage could that be determine to be anti-competitive? since they also sell Voip? Not to mention On-Demand vs Netflix downloads?

JTRockville said...

Here's an interesting revelation about Comcast's former super-secret cap. Apparently Comcast would cut off the top 1000 subscribers every month, regardless of how much data they transferred. Florida slapped them with a $150,000.00 fine.


Fla. Agreement Sheds New Light On Comcast Cut Off Policies by Art Brodsky

rj said...

Saw an article today linked on /. about a small town getting SUED by a local ISP because the town voted to build their own FTTH infrastructure after the ISP refused.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080723-telco-wont-install-fiber-sues-to-keep-city-from-doing-it.html

BadTux said...

The cap just went into effect in my region. So I went to the comcast.net website to see how much bandwidth I'd used this month, to know whether I should cut back or not, and... nothing. After further digging around, I found that Comcast is well aware that they have no mechanism to provide their customer with any information about how much of Comcast's service they've used during the month. Instead, they say this:

Q: How does Comcast help its customers track their usage so they can avoid exceeding the limit?

There are many online tools customers can download and use to measure their consumption. Customers can find such tools by simply doing a Web search - for example, a search for "bandwidth meter" will provide some options. Customers using multiple PCs should just be aware that they will need to measure and combine their total monthly usage in order to identify the data usage for their entire account.


Uhm... they don't, in other words. They measure your usage, but you're just going to have to guess, they won't help you, they won't provide you with any tools for doing it, they're just gonna wave their hands and say "you're on your own" and sit back and measure your bandwidth but WILL NOT PUBLISH THAT INFO ON YOUR COMCAST.NET HOME PAGE WHEN YOU LOG IN TO TELL YOU HOW MUCH BANDWIDTH YOU ARE USING! And their advice is utterly useless for me, BTW. I use an Apple Macbook and an Apple Airport Express to access the Internet. The Macbook resets its network counters every time I close its lid to take it to work with me, and the Airport Express has no counters at all.

Yet more proof that Comcast views "service" as what a stallion does to a mare, except up the a$$, long and hard...

-Badtux the Comcraptastic Penguin

u235sentinel said...

BadTux said...
The cap just went into effect in my region. So I went to the comcast.net website to see how much bandwidth I'd used this month, to know whether I should cut back or not, and... nothing.


Doesn't surprise me. Concast has the habit of acting rather stupid when it comes to intelligent conversation. You won't find it. I've looked. It's not there.

You would think they would act like a normal company. Go figure.


{snip}


Uhm... they don't, in other words. They measure your usage, but you're just going to have to guess, they won't help you, they won't provide you with any tools for doing it, they're just gonna wave their hands and say "you're on your own" and sit back and measure your bandwidth but WILL NOT PUBLISH THAT INFO ON YOUR COMCAST.NET HOME PAGE WHEN YOU LOG IN TO TELL YOU HOW MUCH BANDWIDTH YOU ARE USING!


Agreed. Xmission (my ISP) displays my usage when I log in. How hard can it be for a larger ISP?

And their advice is utterly useless for me, BTW. I use an Apple Macbook and an Apple Airport Express to access the Internet. The Macbook resets its network counters every time I close its lid to take it to work with me, and the Airport Express has no counters at all.


How about vnstat? They have a Mac OSX source bundle available. I've been very happy with the tool and it stores the results in a locale database. Give it a try :-)

Yet more proof that Comcast views "service" as what a stallion does to a mare, except up the a$$, long and hard...

-Badtux the Comcraptastic Penguin


Service and Concast doesn't belong in the same sentence. It's a nice try with their Concast Frank. I wouldn't give odds on him solving real problems but it's a start.

u235sentinel said...

(response to the youtube profile comment)

hbeefk11379.

Here is the link to the advertisement spread around my neighborhood when we signed up is at this link

The very first line in what they offer said "Unlimited use for a flat monthly fee"

It was 5 years ago but still what everybody in my neighborhood believed until this experience.

Bill McGonigle said...

If you really want to, here's a HOWTO for Airport + MRTG. Not that you should have to...

Network Guy said...

Another question that needs to be asked is "Does the usage for the Comcast Digital Voice (VOIP phone) count toward the 250GB limit?"

Is so, it is in direct contradiction to the statement of "Unlimited local and long distance calling".

u235sentinel said...

Network Guy said..

Another question that needs to be asked is "Does the usage for the Comcast Digital Voice (VOIP phone) count toward the 250GB limit?"

Is so, it is in direct contradiction to the statement of "Unlimited local and long distance calling".


Call me a cynic but I'm willing to put money down that Concast's "unlimited local and long distance calling" has limits.

They just won't tell you what those limits are. After all, why are you spending soo much time on the phone. You should be walking around talking to people outside. Meeting them face to face. Not calling them on the phone.

That's because it's Concastic!

kristjin said...

Did you ever find the Bill Clinton speech you were looking for?

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1584/is_n37_v4/ai_14276333

u235sentinel said...

kristjin said...

Did you ever find the Bill Clinton speech you were looking for?

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1584/is_n37_v4/ai_14276333


I"m looking through those articles and haven't quite found what I'm looking for. I've been researching through several avenues but still nada.

Basically I thought Bill Clinton said in one of his NAFTA speeches that America will need to move more towards technology to be competitive in the world economy. Or something like that.

The idea is with NII already draining Americans pockets for fiber to the home and the infrastructure isn't being built, how are we supposed to compete with crappy copper wires while the world is installing fiber?

I did notice several links there so I'm still digging.

I really appreciate the help!

Thanks!