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Comcast Predicts Usage Cap Within 5 Years 475

Posted by timothy
from the hang-onto-your-bits dept.
finalcutmonstar (1862890) writes "With net neutrality dying a slow painful death, it is no surprise that in an investor call yesterday Comcast executive VP(and Darth Vader impersonator) David Cohen predicts bandwidth caps within the next 5 years. The cap would start at 300 GB and cost the customer subscriber an extra 10 USD for 50 GB. But, Cohen stated that 'I would also predict that the vast majority of our customers would never be caught in the buying the additional buckets of usage, that we will always want to say the basic level of usage at a sufficiently high level that the vast majority of our customers are not implicated by the usage-based billing plan.'" Update: 05/15 13:58 GMT by T : Correction: Cohen is actually talking about data transferred, rather than stored (as headline originally had it), as reader MAXOMENOS points out.
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Comcast Predicts Usage Cap Within 5 Years

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  • Editorial (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:51AM (#47007959) Homepage

    Headline: "Comcast predicts storage cap"

    Story in a nutshell: Comcast exec predicts bandwidth cap.

    WTF?

  • by noblebeast (3440077) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:51AM (#47007963)
    I suspect this has less to do with prediction, and more to do with prescription. As in, they want to set up the expectations that will guide the perceptions of the public and of policymakers in regards to what is a "reasonable" amount of bandwidth to be consuming, in order to justify their ridiculous overage charges.
  • Awesome! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@gmail . c om> on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:51AM (#47007965)

    The cap would start at 300 GB and cost the customer subscriber an extra 10 USD for 50 GB.

    And I bet that the cap would proceed to move down to 250 GB and so on. USA is the only country where internet access quality is actually moving in reverse.

  • by jez9999 (618189) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:57AM (#47008013) Homepage Journal

    Those who regulate their telephone sector strongly, and those who don't. The US is in the latter category, and the majority are going to suffer for it. All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not in the US. I feel for you guys.

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:10AM (#47008121)

    With the rise of Google Fiber and increasing usage via legitimate services such as Netflix online (not to mention what happens when 4K kicks in, arguably within 5 years?), HULU, and HD video conferencing, this prediction looks to be terribly off-base.

    No, no. This is just some idiot CEO for an awful company completely misunderstanding the nature of his own business and making and horribly inaccurate and hamfisted prediction.

    Then again, he probably makes 500 times what I make, so I guess he must be doing something right!

  • Re:Coded language? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jythie (914043) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:13AM (#47008145)
    More like 'You only want our ISP service and not cable TV? Well, not only are we going to charge the company that you do get your videos from, but we are going to charge you extra for delivering them. Oh hey, notice how much cheaper OUR video service is, are you sure you don't want it instead?'
  • by jythie (914043) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:16AM (#47008183)
    When I canceled my Comcast subscription due to the cap, the person handling the call explicitly told me there was no legitimate reason for that kind of usage so I must be a pirate. When I tried to politely explain that my Netflix usage exceeded that, I was again told there was not legitimate reason for the kind of usage.
  • by jratcliffe (208809) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:19AM (#47008219)

    Usage caps (not storage caps) have absolutely ZERO to do with net neutrality. First off, they're explicitly allowed under the rules that the FCC tried to put in place, that were recently shot down by the courts. Secondly, even if the FCC were to reclassify broadband under Title II (i.e. as a telecom service), as a lot of tech companies want them to, they'd STILL be allowed. Voice phone service, which has long been regulated on the same terms that many want the FCC to use for broadband, certainly allows for usage caps, always has.

  • Re:Awesome! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sir_Sri (199544) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:45AM (#47008417)

    my GF and I regularly exceeded 300GB a month as of a couple of years ago.

    Lots of video games are going to be >50 GB for 'next gen' and 20 or 30 is going to be the norm for anything from a major publisher. 4k resolution displays and streaming for multiple users and 300 GB doesn't go very far.

  • by Twanfox (185252) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @10:00AM (#47008533)

    There is the issue of certain services being 'natural monopolies'. How many power companies do you want running power lines to your home in order to offer you power service? Network companies running fiber, cable, or coax to offer you the Internet? Water? Sewer?

    See, when something requires the customer to receive not just the service but also build infrastructure through other people's property to deliver it to them, most people realize that allowing many companies to build that infrastructure is a disruptive pain. Since we don't have the core infrastructure built so that such cables can be laid without disrupting someone else's property, the trade-off has been a limited number of contenders in an area. You can argue whether that's right or not, or if there are better ways, but that is what the compromise was in order to allow for the service and yet not be a disruption.

    Personally, I see local infrastructure like power lines, fiber, coax, cable, etc as just like roads. Who maintains your roads? Anyone that provides a service using those roads can do so without disruption, and the entity that owns them maintains them and permits access. They generally have no vested interest in extorting excess money out of the users of those roads, but do charge them for use. Other aspects of our infrastructure could be similarly maintained and we would solve the 'local monopoly' issue while minimizing disruption.

  • Re:Coded language? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by w3woody (44457) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @10:02AM (#47008545) Homepage

    A free market presumes competition, and it presumes regulation against perverse incentives. Neither are the case here, where cable companies are granted de-facto monopolies over geographic regions, and where the majority of traffic being carried on the internet is increasingly in direct competition with the cable company's video offerings.

    It's why, while I do have sympathy for a properly functioning free market (with competition and no perverse incentives), I have no sympathy for cable companies trying to argue that it's their hardware, they should be able to do what they want. Yes, it's their hardware--but they've been granted regional monopolies. That strongly implies that they have no leg to stand on when they argue 'free markets' to bypass regulations being imposed on their networks.

  • Make up your mind! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @10:10AM (#47008607)

    Slashdot has complained for years that ISPs sold "unlimited service" they physically couldn't provide.
    Now actually acknowledging the facts and adding an extra tier for high-use customers is also unacceptable.
    What do you people want?

  • Re:Coded language? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kualla (2872067) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @10:26AM (#47008717)
    If my entire state has hundreds of ISP's, but the block I live on is restricted to just one ISP; that to me is still a monopoly! If any ISP has a significant portion of their business market limited to only their own networks(and no, dial-up DOES NOT count as an alternative ISP), that too would be a monopoly that needs badly to be broken up and/or regulated. It seems like a vast majority of people do not understand how much tax money these giant ISP's have gotten for upgrading their networks with little to pretty much nothing to show for it... This alone should bring outrage, ontop of how poorly performing the network speeds are in comparison to several other countries. As much as I do not like government running stuff, I think this is an area that is in need of it! But in reality, I have a feeling many lobbyists have paid great sums of money to allow this to happen as well as putting in measures to ensure this remains.
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @10:47AM (#47008909)

    The vast majority of ISPs in this country do not offer any (or very little) TV service at all.

    And the vast majority of "ISPs" in this country are not relevant to the vast majority of Americans, as they service tiny and highly localized markets. Most markets are served by some form of the telephone/cable company duopoly, both of which offer TV, DVRs and soon streaming services.

    The majority of the money you pay for your cable television goes to the the content providers and re-transmit fees. Local stations re-transmit fees are huge. The ISPs make the most money off services. Like voip, cloud storage, antivirus, DVRs, equipment rentals, etc...

    If it would be a money-losing proposition, ISPs would get out of the business of offering TV. Somehow, neither Comcast nor ATT are doing that.

    Despite this, every ISP that I've worked with over the past 5 years or so has bandwidth cap projects going now. It's coming to everyone, everywhere. regardless of if your ISP provides TV or not.

    Of course. It's an awesome way of making sure that you maximize your revenue while minimizing your investment. Bandwidth caps are awesome for ISPs. They suck for customers. The reason they are coming everywhere should tell you something about the competitiveness of the market.

    They're locked in a race to the bottom with prices. Customers always go with the cheapest provider, so they can't afford infrastructure improvements without cutting themselves out of the market.

    You mean, there's actual competition in the market? I haven't seen actual competition in one of the heaviest populated areas in the US since.... well, ever. The only options were Comcast (sometimes), ATT (always), and maybe an ATT DSL reseller, whose main line during issues was "Sorry, we know this, but ATT won't fix their lines."

    Most customers are like your parents.

    If that would be true, Netflix wouldn't see the growth it does. Plus, there's a huge opportunity for remote doctor's visits that isn't taking off because most plans offer a measly 1Mb up.

    The sizzlers trying to narrow the front door so we can't get in.

    You missed the part where there's only two food places in town, both are colluding in making smaller doors, and both are offering slightly larger doors at rapidly increasing prices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @10:47AM (#47008915)

    Obviously you don't actually understand what we have been complaining about. The complaints are all about the speed advertised as being 50mbps when in reality you could never possibly get better than 5mbps up or down. These are about not getting what you are paying for, not that they can't physically provide the advertised speed (though in most cases this is actually true).

    Bandwidth is a totally different story. The amount of data you send down a line is divorced from the speed in which you send it. They have the capacity to meet bandwidth demands with very little trouble. They simply throttle the speed to extort more money, but the amount is not at issue when you talk about Netflix being extorted on peering arrangements from the consumer side of the story. From the Netflix-Comcast perspective, it is amount of data which is at issue, since when you peer the data transfer is supposed to go two ways. The issue is Netflix's providers like Cogent sends something like 95% more data than they receive, in which case the peering arrangement is not symmetrical. And that's where you get people bitching on one side. This whole thing was about traffic shaping between peering ISPs, not bandwidth to consumers.

    If you don't understand the issue you really shouldn't make stupidass, snarky comments like that.

  • Re:Coded language? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cornelius the Great (555189) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @10:48AM (#47008929)

    A free market presumes competition, and it presumes regulation against perverse incentives. Neither are the case here... That strongly implies that they have no leg to stand on when they argue 'free markets' to bypass regulations being imposed on their networks.

    I think you're restating what parent wrote (only in more detail):

    Make the market free so there is someplace else to go

    I believe we're all in agreement that cable companies clamoring for "free market" are hypocrites, as there has never really been a free market for communication service providers, and it's amusing (yet sad, since it's often effective) to see the rent seekers that cry "free market" and "deregulation" only when it benefits them. Govt-subsidized and sanctioned monopolies and duopolies aren't capitalism, and neither is the collusion that results when the barrier to entry is so large due to these monopolies.

    If they really want a "free market" and "deregulation", then they shouldn't be opposed to more open (unlicensed) spectrum, rather than allowing the FCC to auction frequency blocks off to the highest bidder. They also shouldn't ask for public handouts to "build rural infrastructure" and then completely renege on their contractual obligations through legal loopholes and shell games.

  • by hendrips (2722525) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @11:06AM (#47009109)

    Presumably those were two non-overlapping groups of whiners?

    I don't have a problem with capped internet. I know, it's heresy to many people here, but I really don't. The marginal cost for bandwidth isn't zero and no amount of wishing by Slashdotters will make it so. It makes sense that there's a mechanism in place to limit the impact of heavy users on lighter, if they're both paying the same costs.

    Of course, having said that, I fully expect Comcast to go about implementing a theoretically sensible idea in the most discriminatory, expensive, heavy-handed, and frustrating way possible. What the hell is wrong with those guys?

  • Re:Fine by me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djrobxx (1095215) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @11:25AM (#47009317)

    My electric bill is $.98 if I don't use any electricity. My gas bill is $4 if I don't use any gas. My water bill is $2 if I don't use any water. Comcast wants to charge you what you're paying now (which is already making them a healthy profit), and add overages on top of that. They want the perks (heavy users paying more) without giving light users the benefit they deserve.

    I'm fine with paying for my usage too, but the use charges need to be reasonable, and the base price needs to come down. We don't have enough competitive pressure in the US broadband market to keep prices in check.

  • by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @11:58AM (#47009605)

    That is because you don't have true unlimited internet, so you don't know what you're missing.

    Here I have Verizon FIOS, 150 down, 65 up, true unlimited bandwidth (and I use a ton of it, many terabytes every month).

    Once you've had it, metered is just stupid.

  • by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:32PM (#47009895)
    The heavy users make bandwidth CHEAPER, not more expensive. If it were not for those "bandwidth hogs", you would still be paying $40-$60 a month for a 28.8k dial-up connection.
  • Re:Editorial (Score:3, Insightful)

    by davester666 (731373) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:52PM (#47010051) Journal

    I don't know why it is worded this way. He's "predicting" that Comcast is going to implement caps for all their subscribers in a few years.

    Most other people would phrase it as "a plan".

    Predictions are for when you have no/little control over the outcome. I could predict Comcast will have usage caps [as I live in another country and have no real influence over the outcome]. But an executive at Comcast is planning to implement usage caps, because he works there and is actively trying to make it happen.

  • by pnutjam (523990) <slashdot@@@borowicz...org> on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:22PM (#47010319) Homepage Journal
    In all fairness, why should you get 2TB of bandwidth for the same price as the other 90% who are using 500GB? That's a significant difference. You should pay more.

    Granted you probably are, because you probably have a faster connection. I think if they are going to cap, the cap should be larger for faster connections. If I buy a 3/1, it should be around 300gb, if I by a 15/5, it should be 5 times as much data too.
  • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:49PM (#47010557) Homepage

    In all fairness, why should you get 2TB of bandwidth for the same price as the other 90% who are using 500GB?

    Because this encourages people to use more bandwidth. When people use more bandwidth, it encourages investment in infrastructure. When infrastructure is invested in, speeds get faster for everyone.

    I never understood the argument for conservation of bandwidth. Sure, we could start nickle and diming everyone for each bit they push. That would indeed put downward pressure on the amount of traffic flowing across these links, which should in turn stave off any need to upgrade the infrastructure. Is that what we want? Why?

  • by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:58PM (#47010679)

    I don't have a problem paying more.

    What I have a problem with is paying "punishment" overage charges.

    It does not cost Comcast $10 to deliver another 50GB of data after the first 300GB has been delivered.

    The real cost is in running the line to the house and setting up service in the first place. Beyond that there is a forever lower cost per bit.

    If it were $10 per month per TB of data, I'd have no problem with that. $10 per month for 50GB is just absurd, Call of Duty Ghosts on the PS4 is almost that large.

    As it stands, I pay $100 a month to Verizon to provide me with 150/65 service, if I'm really such a burden to them, they could charge me $10 more a month per TB and I could be ok with that, it is a reasonable charge for data.

    At $10 per 50GB, they might as well just cancel my service and say "we're not interested", since that is what would happen.

  • by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:12PM (#47010845)

    That, and the truth is... the real cost is in running fiber to every home, setting up a monthly billing system, and convincing people to call and sign up...

    Additional data once all of the above is in place isn't really that expensive...

  • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @03:30PM (#47011633) Journal

    That's strange. I host three different domains off of my residential Internet connection.

    IMHO, this is because my ISP is not a content provider and has no incentive to limit their customer's access to the Internet. The TCP/IP suite of protocols (surprise!) was, despite the usage model that has been forced down most folks' throats, not designed to be exclusively client/server.

    The problem is that most people don't realize the power and control they *could* have if they were given the opportunity. The Internet is, perhaps, the ultimate free speech mechanism, but we allow our corporate overlords to keep us from realizing its potential, with, among other things, the abusive contracts you mention.

    More importantly, why is it that the ISPs that are content providers (whether they be cable companies or resellers of cable/satellite TV (like Verizon), restrict you from running servers? There are some good reasons to limit SMTP servers, as it's an insecure mechanism (despite strides that have been made vis a vis STARTTLS, SPF, Domain Key, etc.) which can be easily handled by routing emails through the ISP's SMTP servers. However, other than that, there is no inherent reason that servers should be restricted.

    The ISPs that do this do so to protect the content distribution ends of their business, and to reduce their costs (not passed on to their customers, thank you very much) by throttling upload. That's not to say that users who wish to increase their upload bandwidth shouldn't pay for it, but other than the fact that ISPs want to control content (whether it be blogs, family websites, legitimate media distribution, or the "next big thing") and continue rent-seeking behavior without investing in infrastructure, there is no reason to throttle upload.

    Granted, technologies like ADSL have those limitations built in (allowing ISPs to rape users for SDSL links), but fiber (as with Verizon FIOS) and other broadband mechanisms, have no such limitations, other than those imposed by those with a vested interest in imposing such limitations.

    You say I have no point. I say that as long as you take the shit on rye you're being given, while being told it's prime rib, you are denying the real promise of the Internet. Can you say Stockholm Syndrome [wikipedia.org]? Sure you can. I knew you could. [with apologies to Fred Rogers]

  • by RR (64484) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @03:39PM (#47011729)

    Unless you're downloading games regularly, watching high def videos online, or torrenting stuff, data caps should never be a problem.

    The trouble is a lot of people are now doing most of the above. People who aren't don't care about caps, since they'll never get close to 100gb a month without those three.

    The problem is that the hogs of today are examples of what the average customer could be doing 10 years from now.

    10 years ago, 3 Mbps down/384 kbps up DSL was widespread. Streaming video was uncommon. There was no YouTube, and Facebook was exclusive to Harvard. Windows XP SP2 was not yet released. Perhaps a 10GB cap would have been reasonable, and data hogs would pay exorbitant prices for cable.

    Now, "selfie" is a thing. My chattering devices are constantly looking to communicate with Google (Android), Apple (iOS and MacOS), and Microsoft (Windows Update). I probably go right past 50GB regularly, and I don't do Netflix. This has been enabled by the relentless falling prices of Internet transit. [fiercetelecom.com] (Historical trends [drpeering.net]) Games, Netflix, and BitTorrent aren't the only things pushing bandwidth usage up.

    So, it's alarming to see a Comcast exec, proposing in 5 years to limit the Internet to the Internet of today. He wants to stop progress. It's especially galling because he's already double-dipping. He's trying to triple-dip. He's charging consumers for the cable Internet connection, he's charging Netflix for access to those consumers, and now he wants to charge again to use that connection that 2 parties have already paid for.

  • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @03:59PM (#47011949) Journal

    In all fairness, why should you get 2TB of bandwidth for the same price as the other 90% who are using 500GB? That's a significant difference. You should pay more. Granted you probably are, because you probably have a faster connection. I think if they are going to cap, the cap should be larger for faster connections. If I buy a 3/1, it should be around 300gb, if I by a 15/5, it should be 5 times as much data too.

    Bandwidth isn't data transfer. I pay for bandwidth. Bandwidth is data/time. If I'm paying for 20Mb/sec, what difference does it make if I download 20MB/month or 60TB/Month? Unless, of course, you have some sort of alternate agenda (like making it much harder to use media from the Internet rather than from the cable TV part of your business, or to restrict your customers from getting the service they've contracted and paid for). Since we already pay for the bandwidth, why shouldn't we be allowed to use it to its fullest? Just because many people don't use what they already pay for, why should those who do be penalized?

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