Internet analysts are pointing to the recent Comcast cap on the most
active Internet downloader's as foreshadowing the beginning of the
end of the "free Internet."
Comcast, a major Internet provider, set off the alarm when it
announced it would limit the broadband usage of that small segment
of its customer base with a record of the largest downloads.
Commencing October 1, Comcast will slap a 250 gigabyte-a-month cap
on its residential users. Comcast states that 250 gigabytes is about
100 times the average residential usage. Typically, customers use
two to three gigabytes monthly, a spokeswoman explained, adding that
less than 1 percent of all residential customers exceed that level.
Comcast and other companies have long considered restricting their
most active users, claiming the limits were necessary to ensure fair
access to the network for all users. While the policy appears to
target download abusers and excessive users, that is precisely the
avenue providers such as Comcast are expected to take as they
incrementally broaden the restrictions. Observers compare the
restrictions to that seen in the telephonic world with Directory
First the free service was subject to a cap, then the cap became
progressively more restrictive and now all Directory Assistance
calls are expensive fee-for-calls. Internet usage is constantly
evolving as the Internet and the technology itself evolves. Web
analysts argue that an "Internet year" is just 90 calendar days.
Cisco reminded in report on usage last winter that "today's
"bandwidth hog" is tomorrow's average user."
Comcast's new restriction could segue into "metering." Earlier this
summer, Time Warner Cable began a metering experiment in Texas by
offering various monthly plans and charging extra when bandwidth
limits were exceeded. AT&T confirms it is considering a similar
pricing plan. Such plans would resemble metering plans for water,
natural gas and electricity.
Previously, Comcast had not defined "excessive use," and instead
merely asked its most active customers to restrict usage. Most did
so willingly, the company said. But those that did not were issued a
second notice and told they risk termination. It seems that Comcast
will be careful about its new quantified restriction plan. True, the
250 gigabyte cap is now defined as an upper limit, but users who
breach that limit will not have their access cut off immediately, or
suddenly surcharged. Rather, those customers will be reminded by
Comcast of the cap. Comcast did not explain why they chose 250
gigabytes as an upper limit.
A customer would have to download 62,500 songs or 125
standard-definition films monthly to exceed the upper limit,
industry sources assert. On the other hand, the high-definition
video and video gaming Comcast is now marketing requires a higher
amount of bandwidth. So Comcast actually encouraged the very excess
it now seeks to restrict.
S. Derek Turner of the media policy group Free Press commented that
broadband caps could create a disincentive to view online video. "As
media companies put content online, consumers can bypass the cable
companies and get their content directly from the Internet," Turner
remarked. "A 250 gigabyte cap may seem very high � and it is for
today's Internet use. But it's essentially the equivalent of four
hours of HD television a day."
Not a few critics charge that Internet providers are simply trying
to protect their cable TV and telephone businesses by restricting
Internet access. That has lead to a schizophrenic policy. Comcast
informs that its Fancast online video Web site will count against
the 250 gigabyte limit, but its digital voice service will not. It
is pick and choose for Comcast's new restrictions.
Comcast denied to reporters that there was a link between the caps
and the August 1 finding by Federal Communications Commission that
the company was improperly inhibiting customers who used BitTorrent,
a popular file-sharing program. That in itself showed
anti-competitive action, critics claim. But Andrew Jay Schwartzman,
the president of the Media Access Project, which represented Free
Press, asserted that indeed the Comcast announcement appeared to be
a direct result of that finding.
Where this does become a concern is they do not count their phone
and TV service in this limit but if you are using a service like
Vonage that bandwidth usage is counted. This gives them the ability
to protect their services over others.
Effective October 25, 2008 the Comcast Newsgroups service has been
discontinued. They apologize for any inconvenience! If you have
already signed up for Comcast Newsgroups, please be aware that this
service will be discontinued on 10/25/2008. Their announcement then
has a link to "Newsgroup FAQ section. Suprise! No mention to
Newsgroups on this page.
While consumer prices posted a record drop last month, the cost of
cable television is going up.
Comcast, the dominant cable provider in Sarasota County, is raising
rates in December on some of its most-popular services. Fortunately,
this increase will NOT affect their Internet rates
For our "Break/Fix" customers, a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry
Christmas. Our labor rates, both on-site and in the shop, along with
all of our Fixed-Fee rate will remain the same in 2009 as they were
After seeing most of our business customers switch to our Managed
Service during the past year, we were apprehensive about its impact
on our revenue and concerned about whether our pricing was well
targeted. An analysis of the first ten months appears to confirm
that our cost estimates were close to the mark.
During the first part of December we will complete the changeover to
another remote monitoring supplier, which we feel has a much more
stable platform, with a greatly expanded report capability. These
reports will begin to appear the first part of the new year, and
will be distributed by MICRO NOTES, so that you will be able to pick
and choose which you receive. Except for a couple of clients who
received special pricing for 2008, there will only be a slight
increase in Workstation management prices of $3.00 per Workstation,
to cover the higher costs of remote monitoring.
Managed Service rates for all NEW customers will increase ten
percent (10%) effective January 1, 2009. This might be a good reason
to check out Managed Services, if you are not currently a client, or
even if you are considering upgrading your level of service. But
remember, to get this years rates for next year, you must sign an
agreement BEFORE the new year. And for all our Clients and friends,
a Happy New Year!