As all the world knows by now (the world that follows this anyway) Comcast has imposed a new bandwidth cap, limiting downloads to 250 GB/Month. Unsurprisingly, some folks blame the FCC’s recent decision on prohibiting Comcast from blocking BitTorrent and other p2p applications as pushing Comcast to make this change, although Comcast itself has repeatedly stressed that it was not compelled to do this and planned to do this anyway so no biggie.
What the world did not know, but I thank PK’s Art Brodsky for finding, is that Comcast agreed to clarify its cap as part of a settlement with the Florida Attorney General’s office. As some of us have observed for awhile now, Comcast long had a policy of cutting off “bandwidth hogs” for exceeding a capacity cap while refusing to say what the actual capacity cap was. Well, on July 29, Comcast agreed to make clear their capacity cap and pay $150K in fines.
I highly recommend reading the full terms of the settlement — particularly the factual background which Comcast has agreed is true (without, of course, admitting wrongdoing). Of greatest import, until it announced the 250 GB/month cap, Comcast did not have an actual hard and fast cap. Rather, according to Paragraph 5 of the factual stipulations, Comcast simply knocked off the highest 1000 users regardless of their actual bandwidth usage or geographic location. Comcast is almost certainly telling the truth when it says the highest 1000 users were atypically intense bandwidth consumers. duh. Of course the top 1000 out of 14.4 million will be at the high end of the curve.
No, the more interesting question is what the hell kind of a system is it where Comcast simply goes after the top 1000 users no matter how much they actually use, and why Comcast would adopt such a policy if it wants to reasonably manage network congestion? It seems rather . . . inefficient and arbitrary. Unless, of course, one is trying to save money running a crappy network and generally discourage high-bandwidth use.
Apparently, the Florida Attorney General also thought a policy that simply shut off the top 1000 users every month regardless of actual use or congestion did not meet proper standards of consumer protection or “reasonable network management.” The settlement requires Comcast to state clearly what it means by “excessive use of capacity” in its acceptable use policy (AUP). That’s it (as well as paying $50K for attorneys fees and other associated expenses to the AG for bring this action). Comcast has total discretion to set a limit or have a limit or change a limit, as long as there is (a) an actual fixed limit, and (b) Comcast clearly communicates to its subscribers what that limit actually is. This is in line with the settlement reached last year between Verizon Wireless and the NY AG’s office that Verizon would no longer advertise its wireless internet access package as “unlimited” but would provide a hard monthly cap.
Which explains why Comcast is not going around telling the world that it adopted bandwidth caps because of the big bad awful FCC and their wicked regulatory ways. They didn’t. Rather, Comcast was using an even more ridiculous bandwidth cap the entire time, and they were required as a matter of consumer protection law in Florida to actually come clean with a real number so customers can find out what they are paying for and get full value for their monthly subscriber fee. It seems Comcast has sense enough not to play those kinds of games on something so easily verifiable. Good for them. Nice to see they learn from experience.
Stay tuned . . . .