Comcast to cap monthly consumer broadband

Party seems to be over for unlimited bandwidth: In October, Comcast will begin capping usage at 250GB per month, with dire consequences for abusers.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read

Starting October 1 customers of Comcast's residential data services will have an invisible barrier on their monthly data usage. Under the new guidelines of Comcast's Acceptable Use Policy announced Thursday, that cap will be set at 250 gigabytes per month, per account.

Users who go over the limit will get a courtesy call from Comcast's customer service for the first instance. However, under the new policy a second-time offense means the service is immediately suspended for an entire calendar year.

Surprisingly the company is not providing any tools to help users monitor their current usage. An FAQ on Comcast's support site simply suggests that customers do a "Web search" for bandwidth metering software that will track this amount for them. Going forward there may be plans to set up alerts over certain thresholds, or bundle some official tool as part of the company's starter software.

Comcast notes that the median usage for most residential customers falls somewhere between 2GB and 3GB, a number that is regularly broken within a matter of hours and sometimes minutes by customers taking advantage of streaming HD video and online backup services. The company breaks down basic usage numbers similar to what's seen on the marketing materials on a consumer hard drive:

* Send 50 million e-mails (at 0.05KB/e-mail)
* Download 62,500 songs (at 4MB/song)
* Download 125 standard-definition movies (at 2GB/movie)
* Upload 25,000 high-resolution digital photos (at 10MB/photo)

A far greater problem may be the slighting of cloud storage services that offer file transfer and backup. Services like Carbonite and Mozy let you back up and transfer the entirety of your computer's storage several times per month, which on many standard consumer machines can be in the hundreds of gigabytes.

Apple, too, is just at the beginning stages of MobileMe, a service that offers sync and file backup to multiple devices. Additionally, the rumored all-you-can-eat iTunes could drastically change how much downloading users are doing on a monthly basis.

So what do you think about this new limit? Let us know in the comments and the poll below.