Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Keeping limits secret

with 4 comments

You’ll recall that “broadband” in the US is mediocre when compared to other nations (see early posts here and here and here and here and here).

Average bandwidth in the US is 1.9 Mbits/sec; puny when you look at Japan (61 Mbps), South Korea (45 Mbps),  Sweden (18 Mbps), France (17 Mpbs), and Canada (7 Mbps). And now the lack of bandwidth is starting to bite us:

The rapid growth of online videos, music and games has created a new Internet sin: using it too much.

Comcast has punished some transgressors by cutting off their Internet service, arguing that excessive downloaders hog Internet capacity and slow down the network for other customers. The company declines to reveal its download limits.

“You have no way of knowing how much is too much,” said Sandra Spalletta of Rockville, whose Internet service was suspended in March after Comcast sent her a letter warning that she and her teenage son were using too much bandwidth. They cut back on downloads but were still disconnected. She said the company would not tell her how to monitor their bandwidth use in order to comply with the limits. [Or even tell her what the limits are. – LG]

“You want to think you can rely on your home Internet service and not wake up one morning to find it turned off,” said Spalletta, who filed a complaint with the Montgomery County Office of Cable and Communication Services. “I thought it was unlimited service.” [She thought that because that’s the way it’s often sold: “unlimited service”. – LG]

As Internet service providers try to keep up with the demand for increasingly sophisticated online entertainment such as high-definition movies, streaming TV shows and interactive games, such caps could become more common, some analysts said. [God forbid that companies should be required to increase the bandwidth available — to say, what France offers. – LG]

It’s unclear how many customers have lost Internet service because of overuse. [I.e., companies will not release that information. – LG] So far, only Comcast customers have reported being affected. Comcast said only a small fraction of its customers use enough bandwidth to warrant pulling the plug on their service.

… The cable companies collectively spent about $90 billion in the past decade to improve their networks. And on cable networks, several hundred subscribers often share an Internet connection, so one high-traffic user could slow the rest of a neighborhood’s connections. Phone lines are run directly to each home, so a single bandwidth hog [note pejorative phrasing—what it means is someone who uses the Internet a lot – LG] will not slow other connections.

As Internet users make more demands of the network, cable companies in particular could soon end up with a critically short supply of bandwidth, according to a report released this month by ABI Research, a New York market-research firm. This could lead to a bigger crackdown on heavy bandwidth users, said the report’s author, Stan Schatt. [So if you can, go with a DSL line through the phone company—do not use a cable connection. – LG]

“These new applications require huge amounts of bandwidth,” he said. Cable “used to have the upper hand because they basically enjoyed monopolies, but there are more competitive pressures now.”

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas declined to reveal specific bandwidth limits.

… Some AT&T customers use disproportionately high amounts of Internet capacity, “but we figure that’s why they buy the service,” said Michael Coe, a spokesman for the company. [A sensible answer. – LG]

… Bob Williams, director of, a consumer Web site run by Consumers Union, said the vagueness of Comcast’s rules is “unfair and arbitrary.”

“They’re cutting service off to the people who want to use it the most,” he said.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2007 at 9:04 am

4 Responses

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  1. Interesting article, thanks for posting.
    Previously I lived in Grant County (central Washington state), there the PUD had setup a fiber optic network which they shared with county residents, the fiber went all the way to my door step. It was great I surfed the web at 100Mbits/sec and it only cost me $34/month. It was the best internet connection that I have ever had, unfortunately it seems like it will remain the best for the foreseeable future. Now that I have moved, I am using Comcast it is frustrating to say the least.


    Randal Morrison

    7 September 2007 at 12:04 pm

  2. I have a colleague that was dropped by ComCast for the very reason listed above. Exceeded “download limits”, even though limits are not disclosed by the company.

    The major problem with this is not merely the inconvenience of being unable to surf the web….he also has VoIP, which meant the phone was out of service as well. Not the best circumstance with a newborn at home.



    7 September 2007 at 12:36 pm

  3. Since Grant County has 100 Mbps, and other places no doubt have similarly fast local broadband, think what the “broadband” must be in some locales to bring the US average down to 2 Mbps.



    7 September 2007 at 12:37 pm

  4. You have a point there, makes me think of my old 14.4 modem.


    Randal Morrison

    7 September 2007 at 1:10 pm

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