TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Comcast Bait and Switch, "Unlimited" Has a New Meaning

Re: Comcast Bait and Switch, "Unlimited" Has a New Meaning

Rick Merrill (
Sun, 08 Apr 2007 14:55:45 -0400

Chloe Albanesius wrote:

> By Chloe Albanesius

> Man your PCs. The bandwidth hogs are revolting and Comcast is the
> recipient of their virtual torches and pitchforks.

> Customers across the country have been contacted by the telecom giant
> with a warning to curb excessive bandwidth consumption or risk a
> one-year service termination. Comcast, however, is refusing to reveal
> how much bandwidth use is allowed, making it impossible for customers
> to know if they are in danger of violating Comcast's limit.

> The move has driven customers to sign up with other service providers.

> "Comcast and I are not on speaking terms," said Frank Carreiro, a West
> Jordan, Utah resident who had his Internet service terminated by
> Comcast in January.

> Carreiro said he received a message from a Comcast Security Assurance
> representative in December, who warned him that he was hogging too
> much of the company's bandwidth and needed to cut down. When Carreiro
> contacted customer service about the call, they had no idea what he
> was talking about and suggested it was a prank phone
> call. Unconvinced, Carreiro contacted Comcast several more times, but
> was again told there was no problem.

> A month later, he woke up to a dead Internet connection. Customer
> service directed him to the Security Assurance division, which
> Carreiro said informed him he would now be without service for one
> year.

> Carreiro said he told Security Assurance that customer service had
> cleared him of any wrongdoing, but Security Assurance reportedly told
> him that customer service is not kept abreast of bandwidth issues for
> security purposes. Comcast also refused to tell Carreiro how much
> bandwidth he would have been allowed to use to avoid service
> termination.

> "It was a very frustrating experience," he said.

> Carreiro has since switched to DSL service from Qwest, which became
> available in his neighborhood in late February. Again connected to the
> Web, he has taken his fight to the blogosphere with an online journal
> detailing his troubles.

> Admitted "Internet junkie" and Chattanooga resident Cameron Smith also
> had his service cut off in January for one year. "They said there
> wasn't a limit [for downloading] but that I was downloading too much,
> about 550 gigs. I backed off to about 450 gigs, but they still
> suspended us."

> Smith has since switched to DSL service from BellSouth AT&T. "I don't
> like it," he said, but it is the only other high-speed option
> available in Chattanooga and he refuses to ever return to Comcast
> again.

> Smith also pondered the possibility of a class-action lawsuit against
> Comcast, but has been delayed by funding issues. "If I could afford
> it, then I would do it in a heartbeat because it's a bait-and-switch
> with their customer service," he said.

> As of press time, repeated calls to Comcast were not returned, nor
> were messages left for Comcast Security Assurance or e-mails sent to
> that department's manager, Jay Opperman.

> In a February statement regarding Carreiro's case, Comcast said that
> "customers who are notified of excessive usage typically consume more
> than 100 times the average national Comcast bandwidth usage" and
> apologized for "for any miscommunication that this customer may have
> received about this process."

> What About the Others?

> Several other top U.S. service providers admitted to monitoring
> network traffic and contacting bandwidth hogs, though none were aware
> of any customers who had actually been denied service.

> "We do not disconnect customers," said Mark Harrad, senior vice
> president of corporate communications at Time Warner Cable. But the
> company does "employ various network-management tools to ensure
> excessively high users are not allowed to degrade the online
> experience of other customers."

> Harrad said that "excessive use varies" depending on whether it is a
> peak traffic period, how many "top talkers" are online at the same
> time and what is occurring with regular network traffic patterns. "It
> is not so much an issue of exceeding a speed limit as a pattern of
> behavior over time," he maintained.

> At Verizon, "it is in our terms and conditions that you cannot
> generate excessive amounts of Internet traffic and you cannot host any
> kind of server," said Bobbi Henson, director of media relations.

> But Verizon does not have any "set measurements" on how much is too
> much, Henson said. "We look at it in the aggregate. We will monitor
> [the network] and if we see an issue, we'll try to rebalance the
> traffic before pulling a customer's service."

> Henson is not aware of any incidents when Verizon has had to notify a
> customer about excessive use or cancel their service because of
> bandwidth issues.

> Cox Communications provides data on its Web site
> about how much bandwidth a
> user is allowed to use under the company's three service plans.

> "Cox does not spend a large amount of time enforcing byte caps,
> however, we do communicate with customers when their usage is so
> egregious as to impact the performance of the network for others,"
> said David Grabert, director of media relations.

> Having clear guidelines posted online "makes for fair and clear dialogue
> when issues arise," Grabert said.

> Blame Video

> Across the country, consumers are spending a significant amount of
> their time online viewing video content, according to a March report
> from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) that examined what
> users are doing with their bandwidth.

> Of the more than 2,000 adults CEA surveyed in late 2006 and early
> 2007, researchers found that 70 percent were accessing content via
> online streams. Of that 70 percent, 49 percent connected to the Web
> for news content, 33 percent went online for movie downloads and 28
> percent were gaming, the report said.

> "Some of these people who are bandwidth hogs are [Comcast's] best
> broadband customers," said Adam Thierer, director of the Center for
> Digital Media Freedom at D.C. think tank Progress & Freedom
> Foundation. By angering this base, "you're just given your
> competitors a way to step in" and steal customers.

> "What mystifies me is why no one is willing to propose tiered pricing"
> for broadband, he said. "Obviously, one potential reason is that it is
> wildly unpopular with people. There is something about the
> all-you-can-eat, buffet-style pricing that people just love. I think
> with broadband, we've just already become accustomed to the idea that
> is should be offered at a flat rate."

> Comcast sent the following response:

> "More than 99.99% of our customers use the residential high-speed
> Internet service as intended, which includes downloading and sharing
> video, photos and other rich-media. Comcast has a responsibility to
> provide these customers with a superior experience, and to address any
> excessive or abusive activities usage issues that may adversely impact
> that experience."

> "The customers who are notified of excessive use typically and
> repeatedly consume exponentially more bandwidth than an average
> residential user, which would include, for example, the equivalent of
> sending 256,000 photos a month, or sending 13 million e-mails every
> month (or 18,000 emails every hour, every day, all month). In these
> rare instances, Comcast's policy is to proactively contact the
> customer via phone to work with them and address the issue or help
> them select a more appropriate commercial-grade Comcast product."
> Copyright (c) 2007 Ziff Davis Media Inc.

Maybe he should revert to dial-up because they are not allowed to
terminate phone service without "due process." (Because phone is now
viewed by the courts as a 'right')

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Instead, why didn't they slow him down
on line to a more managable speed? I am sure they could do that; just
temprarily (or full time) slow his output/input to something they
could deal with. PAT]

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