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Charter Plans “Strict” Enforcement of Data Caps, Bandwidth Throttling

Charter Plans “Strict” Enforcement of Data Caps, Bandwidth Throttling

ISPs updates its “No Excessive Use of Bandwidth” so that the heaviest of bandwidth users face strict enforcement of monthly data allotments as well as “protocol agnostic” bandwidth throttling dureing peak hours. Says that next month it plans to begin “reaching out to a select group of customers whose use is excessive to make them aware of their usage patterns.”

Early last year Charter Cable joined the growing list of ISPs rolling out monthly data caps in a bid to mange network congestion, though they’ve been “soft” caps that have only been enforced in the most egregious of cases. That time is over.

On November 12th Charter Cable updated its “No Excessive Use of Bandwidth” policy so that customers now face suspension of their Internet connection if they are “notified three times in a six-month period” that they have exceeded their monthly allotment. Heavy users also face “protocol agnostic” bandwidth throttling.

From Charter’s acceptable use policy:

Lite and Express Packages — 100 GB Threshold

  • Send 25,000 emails at 20 kilobytes (KB) per email
  • Download 20 standard-definition movies at 2 GB per movie
  • Download 2,000 songs at 5 megabytes (MB) per song

Plus and Max Packages — 250 GB Threshold

  • Send 25,000 emails at 20 KB per email
  • Download 30 standard-definition movies at 2 GB per movie
  • Download 15 high-definition movies at 8 GB per movie
  • Download 4,000 songs at 5 MB per song

Ultra60 — 500 GB Threshold

  • Send 40,000 emails at 20 KB per email
  • Download 40 standard-definition movies at 2 GB per movie
  • Download 30 high-definition movies at 8 GB per movie
  • Download 4,000 songs at 5 MB per song
  • Upload 8,000 high-definition digital pictures at 10 MB per picture

“Managing the network is critical to ensuring that all customers have an enjoyable experience using the Internet,” reads its new Excessive Use of Bandwidth policy. “The Charter’s AUP has always prohibited use that negatively impacts other users, and like most Internet providers, has established specific criteria as to acceptable use thresholds for its residential customers on a monthly basis. These limits are designed to ensure that all users of the service are able to obtain optimal service levels.”

Charter says that since network bandwidth is limited it must take steps to ensure that it maintains an optimum level of service for all of its customers, and that strict enforcement of monthly data caps is necessary to penalize the 1%-2% of customers that exceed their allotment.

However, it’s worth pointing out that some ISPs believe this percentage of customers “unfairly” use more bandwidth than others, and use data caps as a pretext to punish their behavior.

Critics point out that although some customers may use more bandwidth then others networks are constantly being upgraded to handle peak hour periods when most customers are online at once.

“All of our economics are based on engineering for the peak hour,” noted Tony Werner, the chief technical officer of Comcast, last year. “Just because someone consumes more data doesn’t mean they drive more cost.”

In fact, the hardware needed to add capacity to any household costs a fraction of one month’s Internet service bill, and its decreasing all the time as technology improves. Last year Comcast told investors it only costs an average $6.85 per home to DOUBLE the bandwidth capacity of an entire neighborhood. That amount has probably dropped by 25% since then. Think about how much your broadband connection costs each month and then stop to consider that your ISP is concerned over a measly seven bucks!

Charter says that sometime in December it will begin “reaching out to a select group of customers whose use is excessive to make them aware of their usage patterns, to help identify possible causes (e.g., unsecured wireless routers or viruses) and review security options with these customers to reduce the risk of unauthorized Internet use.”

Alongside data caps Charter will also introduce a “protocol agnostic” congestion management policy for peak traffic hours that will be based on Comcast’s “Fair Share” plan that it introduced to the FCC following its admonishment for singling out BitTorrent back in 2008 .

Stay tuned.

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