Comcast Lifts Caps In Favor of Usage-based Pricing

May 17th, 2012 by · 3 Comments

Looks like the public pressure Comcast has been under over its exemption of Xfinity TV traffic from traffic caps has had an effect. Comcast said today that it was suspending enforcement of its cap and trialing a usage-based plan. Of course Comcast says this has nothing to do with the argument currently raging.

Rather than a hard limit of 250Gb per month, Comcast will try out a system where 300Gb per month is included, with each additional 50Gb costing $10. It is not yet clear whether Xfinity TV traffic will count toward usage-based pricing or not, which is the crux of the current dispute.  Either way, a usage-based system of this sort has itself proven controversial in the past.  But perhaps the market has evolved since then, as certainly it makes more sense than unlimited bandwidth from an economic point of view.

However, according to the engineers at Level 3 in a very detailed blog post today, it does appear that Comcast was doing more than simply counting the bits differently based on QoS tags it was otherwise ignoring. In testing over a congested cable modem connection, Xfinity TV traffic passed through the connection at measurably higher rates than simultaneous Netflix traffic – suggesting quite strongly that Comcast is in fact prioritizing its own traffic.  Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be a separate channel for the traffic, it all comes from the same pool.

If this is indeed the case, then it seems unlikely that Comcast’s opponents in the net neutrality camp will be mollified by the lifting of the caps alone. What’s left looks more and more like a fast lane, abeit one that is called a separate, dedicated IP path.

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Categories: Cable · Government Regulations · Internet Traffic

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3 Comments So Far


    Based on all my comments to date, I believe this is a great outcome. Notwithstanding any measuring games Comcast may play or has played, cost causation principles are good for consumers because when the costs get shifted where they are not actually incurred, investment opportunities become distorted.

    Last month I made the comment that Eyeball Owning Network Operators (EONOs) want metered usage less than its users do because metered usage leads to two things — (1) unmetered usage and, worse, (2) competition from new entrants.

    The last thing EONOs want is more (or any) competition. Therefore, I don’t see metered usage having a very long life. Similarly, if the threshold is set to low, it will stimulate investment.

    The battle for net-NONneutrality has a long way to go but this is a (temporary) victory to keep EONOs from recreating an switched access regime on the Internet.

    • CarlK says:

      You may be right in your analysis of what metered usage might end up bringing, but what if there is no factual reason–by way of cost–in attempting to add a 16 percent “premium” for “speed delivery in Rob’s example (50/300 Gb’s), except for the fact that Comcast wants to exploit its captured subscribers?

      Why do you feel they are exempt in validating their costs to the public they have been privileged to serve?

      I would describe this as “FAKE INFLATION” sucking from the after tax income of the hard working men and women of this nation.

  • CarlK says:

    Check that. If the monthly connection is $50 for the 300 standard GB’s, then the $10/$50 is a twenty percent premium of “FAKE INFLATION” for those extra 50 GB’s!

    That also makes their offering worse by giving a 16 percent speed enhancement option for a 20 percent increase in price for standard service!

    Has Buffett’s internet service provider in Omaha, Cox I believe, been able to get him to pay more than $30 per month to play “Bridge” over the net yet? If $30 per month is too much for him, it’s way too much for the rest of America!

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