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Will Comcast cut you off?

Reports are coming in that Comcast has a hidden bandwidth cap of 200GB a month for its users.

Digg was abuzz over the weekend on the topic of monthly download caps at Comcast and other ISPs. Apparently, a few users have run into trouble when they went over an undisclosed 200GB per month limit on their connections. See the transcript from TechBasic.net.

I called customer service at Comcast, my ISP, and asked if there was a limit. "No, sir," came the answer. "You mean I could leave the connection on and constantly downloading all the time and it'd be OK?" I asked. "Yes," he answered.

I also hit up the online chat-based support. My rep told me, "There are no restrictions on the amount of data you may upload or download." Except for newsgroups, where you only get 2GB a month.

It looks like the Comcast cap that TechBasic uncovered is so secret that many Comcast reps don't even know about it.

Regardless, 200GB is an awful lot of bits, certainly more than most normal users will need today. But it's not necessarily abuse of the system, as Comcast led the TechBasic poster to believe. 200GB a month is approximately 10 HD movies. A user could also soak up a lot of upstream bandwidth by keeping Bittorrent online to allow the continuous uploading of legal files--like Linux distributions. Got a few heavy users in a household? Are you a video editor who works out of your home? It'd be quite possible to use up 200GB in a month. It's not easy for the ordinary user, but it is possible.

Other ISPs do have posted usage limits. Cox, for example, limits customers to 4 to 60GB/month, depending on the package signed up for.

Posted or not, a usage limit on an Internet connection is a strange idea. It's like a cable TV company cutting you off after you've watched too many hours of programming in a month. With the Net carrying more video and entertainment content every day, and with more of it high-definition, monthly usage limits on bandwidth really can't last for long. Or so I hope.