Comcast takes byte out of bandwidth hogs

Beginning Oct. 1, notorious telecom giant Comcast will enforce a bandwidth usage cap of 250GB per month on its residential customers. Customers whose monthly data transfers surpass that threshold twice within a six-month period will have their accounts suspended for one year. Comcast equates 250GB of data to 60,000 songs or 125 standard-definition movies. The majority of ComcastâÄôs Internet subscribers use less than 3GB of bandwidth per month. While the cap appears generous and necessary âÄî Time Warner and Frontier cap individual bandwidth usage at 40GB and 5GB, respectively âÄî customers should think twice before sending their cable provider any thank-you notes. A common misperception is acting in ComcastâÄôs favor: bandwidth caps are appropriate means of combating the bandwidth hogs slowing down the Internet for the rest of us. But Comcast is pulling the wool over our eyes when justifying its cap as necessary to thwart what they deem âÄúexcessive use.âÄù Bandwidth caps fail to address the central problem, namely that through deliberate oversubscription and failure to increase bandwidth capacity, the Comcast customer is now perennially plagued with Internet speeds far lower than those advertised. Instead of imposing limits on consumers, why not invest in more efficient infrastructure? Furthermore, caps do not address the problem of peak usage. The âÄúbandwidth hogsâÄù downloading hard-drives full of movies impede othersâÄô speeds much less than someone watching streaming television episodes at 8 p.m. âÄî though the former would be far more likely to surpass the allotted 250GB. Contrary to some reactions to ComcastâÄôs announcement, the sky is not falling on the Internet as we know it there remains legitimate reason for concern. For thrifty college students with multiple housemates sharing one Internet subscription, even moderate BitTorrenting and YouTubing poses a threat. And what seems a moderately reasonable cap now could come around to bite consumers later, especially if ComcastâÄôs cap fails to keep pace with advances in technology, like the shift from standard-definition video to more bandwidth-intensive HD formats.