It’s Official, Comcast to Have 250GB Data Cap Starting Oct 1st

Includes amount of data both downloaded as well as uploaded.

Comcast formally announces that beginning on October 1, 2008, it will “amend its Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB/month per account for all residential customers.”

In other words, data caps are on their way.

“250 GB/month is an extremely large amount of data, much more than a typical residential customer uses on a monthly basis,” reads the statement. “Currently, the median monthly data usage by our residential customers is approximately 2 – 3 GB.”

The plan is in response to a recent ruling by the FCC that it halt a previous scheme at managing network traffic which singled out BitTorrent.

“We consider whether Comcast, a provider of broadband Internet access over cable lines, may selectively target and interfere with connections of peer-to-peer (P2P) applications under the facts of this case,” reads the FCC’s ruling. “Although Comcast asserts that its conduct is necessary to ease network congestion, we conclude that the company‚Äôs discriminatory and arbitrary practice unduly squelches the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet and does not constitute reasonable network management.”

As a result Comcast has being trying to figure out alternative ways to handle network traffic congestion.

The most recent was “fair share” in which they mulled targeting the heaviest bandwidth users during periods of network traffic congestion and reduce their connection speeds for anywhere from between 10 and 20 minutes. Afterwards it would return to normal. Throttled users will find themselves relegated to “a really good DSL experience,” said Mitch Bowling, Comcast’s senior VP and general manager of online.

Comcast does make a good point in that it still allows for the following:

  • Send 50 million emails (blah, blah)
  • Download 62,500 songs (sure, whatever)
  • Download 125 standard-definition movies (178.5 700MB .XVID movies shared to a 1:1 ratio)
  • Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (yeah)

So, it’s really not that bad in my opinion. It’s certainly a better tradeoff than having BitTorrent throttled or being on the receiving end of a “really good DSL experience for 20 minutes.

The Comcast announcement continues:

This is the same system we have in place today. The only difference is that we will now provide a limit by which a customer may be contacted. As part of our pre-existing policy, we will continue to contact the top users of our high-speed Internet service and ask them to curb their usage. If a customer uses more than 250 GB and is one of the top users of our service, he or she may be contacted by Comcast to notify them of excessive use. At that time, we’ll tell them exactly how much data per month they had used. We know from experience the vast majority of customers we ask to curb usage do so voluntarily.

As stated above the new monthly data usage threshold will officially take effect starting October 1st. We are notifying customers in a number of ways. For example, we have posted a preview of the amended AUP as a PDF on this page. We are also running banner notices on our home page and on our Security Channel Web page to alert customers about this upcoming change. In addition, we have provided a number of FAQs that are available at . Finally, we will also notify our customers directly by including an insert (also called a bill stuffer) in an upcoming monthly billing statement.

I must say that all in all it’s not anything to draconian. You can still download and upload almost 6 .XVID movies per day, a lofty feat for any ardent file-sharer.

The only thing I worry about is whether or not it’ll be a slippery slope. Who’s not to say that in 6 months time they drop the cap by a third or even a half as they sign up new customers? They could just as easily make their “heavy bandwidth user” argument then as they are now.