On a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend, Comcast released its latest volley against its customer base, announcing a 250 GB monthly download limit. According to reports, after the first violation, you will get a message from your friends at Comcast warning you about your dastardly behavior (aka using the service you are paying for) and any subsequent violation of the limit would result in suspension of service for a year (or the less publicized punishment where you get sent to Dean Wormer and put on double-secret probation). This is a thinly-veiled continuation of Comcast's attack on P2P traffic.
Earlier this year, reports such as this one from Information Week began to surface that Comcast was blocking legitimate P2P sites such as BitTorrent in violation of federal rules. Information Week's Richard Martin wrote at the time:
Comcast has been accused of violating federal regulations regarding "reasonable network management" by jamming users attempting to share files via the BitTorrent protocol over its cable modems. Net-neutrality activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free press say that amounts to discrimination against specific applications -- something FCC chairman Kevin Martin has said is verboten.
Comcast of course denied the practice and said it was "delaying," not blocking the traffic, but the FCC wasn't buying that line and on Aug 1 voted 3-2 ordering the ISP to stop blocking its customers from sharing files and videos online. 28 days later Comcast defined, or according to them, hard-coded, the 250 GB limit, into its customer policy.
The announcement, even though it was tucked in before a long weekend in the US, prompted some harsh responses. As you would expect customers are angered that Comcast, a major ISP would place limitations on the amount of data moving across the network. Some have argued that the average consumer never exceeds the limit, so there is little to worry about, but the whole promise of broadband has always been the ability to download larger and larger files.
As my friend Bill Swallow pointed out, what does this mean, for instance, to Netflix customers, who are downloading movies, sometimes HD, which by their nature are large files? This is a legitimate and reasonable use of network resources, yet Comcast instead of welcoming this usage is putting a cap on it. Steve Burke wrote on ChannelWeb yesterday upon hearing the news, the announcement is effectively "flipping the bird to internet age consumers."
It seems ridiculous on its face that Comcast would choose to punish violators of this artificial limit, rather than using it as a business opportunity to charge additional fees for exceeding the limit, a move that would likely be much more palatable consumers. Instead, they inexplicably choose to kick sand in the faces of its own customers. It's stretches the limits of incredulity, and I expect come Tuesday, Comcast's short-sighted executives are in for a backlash they hadn't expected.