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back to article Comcast exec says wired broadband customers should pay-as-they-go

US broadband customers should expect to be charged wireless-style fees for their wired internet access in the next few years, an executive from US broadband mega-giant Comcast has revealed. "I would predict that in five years Comcast at least would have a usage-based billing model rolled out across its footprint," Comcast …

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Didn't we move away from this nonsense years ago in the first place?

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Go to Europe and see that not.

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Unhappy

Perversely, I thought metering was sane.

Many, many moons ago, when I worked on ATM network capacity managment algorithms (before people stopped giving a crap and went UBR), and people first started getting 'unlimited' bandwidth, I couldn't help feeling that decoupling the people who caused the load from the people who felt the load might not end well...

And now everyone has vast bandwidth spike capabilities they don't actually need, and congestion issues from spike collisions, and bufferbloat wyrdshyt from writhing elastic hosepipes, and DDoS armies of broadband bots that mean any small hosting business is now a blackmail waiting to happen.

It doesn't matter which way you slice it, Netflix is a mahooosive pachyderms-per-second collossus, and if they somehow *aren't* paying loads of money to people to ship it, and someone else *is*, something's gone badly wrong somewhere.

Maybe we could resurrect the IP QoS flags, since it looks like the traffic management tortoise is beginning to catch up to the infinite broadband bunny...

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Be careful what you ask for

Um, it isn't coincidence that this comes after the recent news about network "neutrality" in the US. What else do you expect carriers to do if they aren't allowed to manage traffic rationally? Under capitalism, they will charge for it.

As always, be careful what you ask for.

(And I'm still not a shill for any carrier, as somebody suggested recently.)

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Re: Perversely, I thought metering was sane.

@Daggerchild

Netflix *is* paying for bandwidth. They pay their upstream to carry the data to an IXP, where it is handed off, most likely to the subscribers ISP.

The subscriber then pays the ISP to carry it to their location.

I fail to see where the problem is. Despite their claims to the contrary, the ISPs *are* being paid for carrying the traffic. I, as the consumer, pay my ISP to deliver the content I request. It is up to the ISP to charge enough to recover costs and to maintain/upgrade the network.

What is happening here is anti-competitive behaviour, pure and simple. The big carriers (Comcast, Cox, BT, whomever) figure they can get paid at both ends of the deal - by the content generators and the content consumers. Then they can simply squeeze everyone else out of the market because they don't have the clout to negotiate those deals, so the cost to the consumer will be higher. Most consumers only look at their MRC, so they'll move to the ISPs that are having their cake and eating it too.

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Re: Perversely, I thought metering was sane.

Actually it's simple. I know quite a few people that have disconnected their cable for netflix and hulu plus. So the cable company is losing revenue (mainly because their prices are too high) and with netflix they don't have to watch commercials. So lot's of advertising revenue is lost, too. To that end the cable companies want to make up the loss of that revenue. They're cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

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Re: Perversely, I thought metering was sane.

Mostly agree except:

I'm a Netflix customer. I'd actually prefer I was the one paying the ISP to transit the data. That way only Comcast has to take a profit cut for the data transit rather than Netflix also needing to get a cut. What I really don't want is me paying the ISP and then the ISP charging Netflix again so that I in turn have to pay Netflix more.

Now, on the technical side I get that it makes a fair bit of sense for Netflix and the ISPs to cooperate with peering arrangements because its more efficient and cost effective to have some specialized piping in place to handle the load. I'm ok with that, just as long as there's no double dipping. At this point I'm satisfied the peering arrangements Netflix have arranged with Comcast and Verizon are business sensible, not gouging.

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Facepalm

It is not nonsense...

According to Cohen, the move is all about porking big time. "People who expect a normal use of the internet should pay more and more and people who use less should pay more," he said.

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Re: Perversely, I thought metering was sane.

In this day an age it is sane if what you want is to pork.

What? do you want to run servers at home, vpn connections, download large files, or watch streamed content?

Pay lots!

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Unhappy

Re: Perversely, I thought metering was sane.

If Ben Franklin were alive today:-

"There are only three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and being screwed by business"

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It's a telco mentality. Charge as much as you can, because you can.

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Re: It is not nonsense...

"According to Cohen, the move is all about porking big time"

Yep, you know if they're allowed to do this that they'll come up with rate plans that makes everyone pay more.

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Coat

@ Daggerchild -- Re: Perversely, I thought metering was sane.

Dude-

I've read amanfrommars1.

I've deciphered amanfrommars1.

I've argued with amanfrommars1.

amanfrommars1 is a cohort of mine.

And you, sir, are no amanfrommars1!

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Re: @ Daggerchild -- Perversely, I thought metering was sane.

@ Someone Else

And you sir must be amanfrommars1.

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Re: Perversely, I thought metering was sane.

Someone IS paying to ship Netflix's bits - the "eyeballs who are being charged $60 a month by Comcast to connect to their $8 a month Netflix account!

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300gb? For real? A long, long time ago, when Australia's Bigpond cable network installed its new plans (from unlimited to quota), the cap was 3gb for the month. That's not a typo. It's been a long time since I moved from Australia to California, so perhaps things have become a bit more reasonable. But I doubt it.

I don't see something like 300gb coming from Comcast unless a healthy portion of users were actually hitting that close enough to make them pay more. Low-capacity users would have to be healthily below that, too. But given that on my phone alone I can pull down 15gb just via Apple, I have huge doubts.

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FAIL

Case matters

"3gb for the month. That's not a typo."

If you meant 3 gigabytes, you should've typed 3GB.

A lower case b means bit and an upper case B means byte, which is 8 times as large.

When it comes to prefixes, case matters there too. For example, m means milli and M means mega, which is a billion times as large.

Sometimes when people make these mistakes, context rescues the situation. Not always.

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Anonymous Coward

I have a UK Demon (Thus) Business Lite+ 1/16mbps ADSL - which has a 60gb per month cap in prime time. Traffic between about 23:00 and 08:00 is "unlimited". The alternative business plan is "unlimited" at any time.

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Anonymous Coward

Forgive the cynical translation

"People who use more should pay more and people who use less should pay less,"

Translation: People should pay more.

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Re: Case matters

There's stuff all difference between 3GB, 3Gb, 3gb, and 3 gibbi bytes when you're talking about users who can swallow the entire amount (at any scale) within a day just by loading any webpage.

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Gouging

If they'd actually spend the money to improve the network then perhaps it wouldn't be so bad. Some evenings it's not even possible to view a YouTube video in the Bay Area, and they charge much more than VirginMedia do in the UK for the same service. I am not that impressed with the Comcast service to date.

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Re: Gouging

OTOH, if they charge for usage, these problems may be alleviated.

With cable, there simply *are* problems.

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Re: Gouging

Cable has problems because the incumbents in the USA built their cable plants to broadcast TV, with high numbers of subscribers per node. As Internet (and other services such as Video On Demand, Set Top Boxes that do more than just decode encrypted broadcast signals, telephones, etc) became more popular this showed a problem - you can go from DOCSIS 1 to DOCSIS 2 to whatever the latest is and push more bits per MHz, but unless you go from 500 subscribers per node to 100 subscribers per node (or less), you're going to run out of bandwidth. Increasing the number of nodes is difficult because you have to run a ton of new fibre, and then rebalance the plant (which is easier said than done - HFC networks are twitchy)

It's easier to blame Netflix than it is to fix the problem.

The number of subscribers per node (and therefore are sharing the same spectrum allocation for their upstream and downstream) is always the weak point for cable. You can throw all the bandwidth into the head end or hub site you like, but it won't help. DSL is has an easier time of it because you can more easily increase the backhaul.

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Re: Gouging

DSL is has an easier time of it because you can more easily increase the backhaul.

DSL has its problems, too: namely switching offices. Even in a city (some would say especially in a city due to issues of existing infrastructure), distances that are just fine for POTS don't cut it for DSL (DSL can only go so far before the signal's too weak, and you can't go as the crow flies). For that, the only solution may just be a new switching office, which raises location and rewiring specters of their own.

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Re: Gouging

Of course, if they'd just deploy fiber to the curb, this wouldn't be an issue.

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Go

Re: Gouging

For that, the only solution may just be a new switching office, which raises location and rewiring specters of their own.

Ahem, FTTC. That's what is being rolled out across the UK at the moment. Admittedly there is a cost associated with it but it's better than building a new exchange as most of the cabling takes place in existing ducting. In the UK it's also being used as the stepping stone to FTTP with some areas (eventually all) being offered FTTPoD (FTTP on Demand - see bottom of that web article). If you're willing to pay BT will extend the fibre to your front door.

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Re: Gouging

Ahem, not all phone companies have the means to switch from copper to fiber. About the only two in the US you hear about are Verizon (FiOS) and AT&T (uVerse). Some of the cable companies also take this approach with fiber to the node, allowing them to divide neighborhoods and such into smaller nodes that provide more bandwidth between them.

Thing is, sometimes the problem isn't the last mile but rather a different mile: something in the backhaul. That's the kind of problem rural communities have: sorta like trying to connect two four-lane highways with a rickety one-lane bridge. PLUS there's the matter of linking up distant cities since any weak link along the line slows everything along it.

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Re: Gouging

I would pay for fibre to the door, assuming the infrastructure was there to support it... although I would prefer to have synchronous i.e. 50/50 split of upstream/downstream rather than 20Mbs Down/1Mbs up I currently get...

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Re: Gouging

BT's best FTTP offering is 300Mbit down, 20 Mbit up for £60/month. 20Mbit is better than 1Mbit, but its a farce - there is no technological reason to not offer higher upload speed, BT just don't want you using more upload.

My ISP, Hyperoptic, only does FTTP (you have to be in a building they cover, usually new build), and they only offer synchronous connections - 20Mbit (£12), 100Mbit (£25) and gigabit (£50), all synchronous. It's even framed as ethernet where it comes in to my property, BT's FTTP still does PPPoE.

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Re: Gouging

Pay as you go fixes that problem for you.

If people paid by the GB for the service, then it would be in the ISP's best interest to ensure everybody had a 1GB connection. You are more likely to use up bandwidth if you have a 1GB connection than if you have a flaky 16MB connection.

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Re: Gouging

You have that right . The Comcast feed is shared with your neighbors so during peak times 4- 11 pm my "Premium " service slows to a crawl . The sad part is there are no real alternatives if you are outside a major city like I am . The alternative here is Centurylink DSL which tops out at 20mbps

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Re: Gouging

Actually, I've found the opposite. With my gigabit connection, my downloads go at 80+MB/s - thats megabytes, not bits - and as such, its very difficult to be constantly using my connection. 99% of the time these days, my connection is completely idle.

I would say that yes, possibly I download a little bit more than before - not much though, the majority of my downloads are automated, and haven't changed in quality nor quantity.

The main difference is that before my connection would have been utilised 20% of the time downloading things, now it is less than 1% of the time.

Really bad analogy with lots of holes: if you upgrade from a car that can drive to the shops and back in an hour to a car that can drive around the world in an hour then you might drive a little bit more than before, but you're not going to spend your time doing laps of the equator for the lulz.

You might however start going for coffee in Rome and the beach in Maui (think I've jumped the shark in this analogy now).

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Re: Gouging

Then i suggest you brace yourself....

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Re: are no real alternatives

maybe you could all, i dunno, vote differently?

(that would fix a whole bunch of other problems too!)

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@ An0n C0w4rd Re: you have to run a ton of new fibre

I see your argument. The weak spot is, they've already done that to get the high speed connections. When the cable companies were first running their stuff they were working with the existing copper cables and counting on the asymetrics to carry the day. I'll grant they may still have to install the nodes and rebalance the plant, but the cable is there. Or it should be there if they had the brain cells of even an alcoholic flea.

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Re: Gouging

Not necessarily true.. On pay as you go, it is in the best interest of the ISP to give you a slow congested network. A 1GB download over a congestion free 1GB/s pipe is going to be very efficient. A 1GB download over a slower congested connection is going to result in a lot of retransmits and a 1GB download is going to turn into a larger download quickly due to retransmits. On pay as you go, you're paying for bytes transferred, not speed.

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WTF?

Re: Gouging = Centurylink DSL, a different horse...

Centurylink DSL is pretty much fiber to the node in rural areas (aerial fiber)= the cost for them is cheaper than copper cable and bandwidth is not a problem... OC3-150Mbs to OC48-2400Mbs on the Backbone to the Office where Cisco Internet switches take OC-3 inputs and switch to Dual OC-12 redundant Internet Gateway links...

IMHO= Comcast Cable is nothing like Centurylink, everyone shares the same big pot of Bandwidth, and when lots of folks use it, the pot fills up quickly (they have an insane fast speed and no where to go if others use up the big party line)...RS.

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Re: Gouging

You don't need a new switching office and haven't done for over 20 years.

POTS concentrators are small enough to fit in a street cabinet. So are DSLAMS.

After that alll you need is a fibre back to the Central office and the liberated copper pairs which used to run the distance can be sold off to help fund it. In some instance this might even be a profit centre.

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The US, killing the internet 1 bit at a time.

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Joke

It would be more efficient if they used a larger block size.

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aren't they doing this already?

I thought comcast was doing this for years already - something like a 250GB cap and you pay for usage beyond that. My cable ISP (serves my town only) has by default a 350GB cap and $0.25 per GB beyond that. Which seems really reasonable. AT&T wireless charges me $10/GB to go over my 5GB/mo cap on data that seems reasonable too(which is basically zero penalty for going over the cap the $/GB price doesn't change vs the base plan allocation). With my current cable ISP there does seem to be a ~50% penalty per GB for going over the base plan. But still the cost is fine, they have a couple higher tier options with higher caps too.

I had comcast a few years ago and had the 250GB cap I don't recall what overage charges were if any at the time I never came close to the limit(I think closest I got was maybe 20-30%)

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Re: aren't they doing this already?

Of course they are. We pay for a certain amount of data and are charged more if we go over. Comcast is just trying to screw their customers.

"And if Netflix doesn't bear its share of those costs to connect to the network then we have no choice but to raise prices for everyone else," Cohen said. "And ... why should two-thirds of the people who never use Netflix pay for the cost for Netflix to attach to our network? It doesn't make any sense."

This guy is either exceedingly stupid, or thinks that everyone else is. Possibly both.

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Re: aren't they doing this already?

Yes they are doing this already.

Currently, Comcast has a 300GB/month limit. If you go over this they start adding additional 50GB blocks to your account at $10/50GB ($0.20/GB) which doesn't seem like such a bad price. Also, for now, they give you two 50GB blocks per 12 month period for free. They don't charge you for the overage until you go over a third time in 12 months.

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So... cheaper for some?

'According to Cohen, the move is all about fairness. 'People who use more should pay more and people who use less should pay less,' he said.'

So given your example, people that use less than the 300GB get a discount right? Oh, that's right. The base price would include up to 300GB for everyone at the same price, regardless of what percentage of people are using a lot less than that. Almost sounds like a redistribution of the wealth.

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Re: So... cheaper for some?

it looks like they will have plans with lower caps, or at least will test them out

http://customer.comcast.com/help-and-support/internet/exp-fdo-data-plan

The terms are a bit strange but it sounds like they are still messing around.

My local cable ISP has plans going down to 25GB (@1.5Mbs) for $20/mo. My plan is the basic 350GB (@16Mbps) for $42/mo.

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And the floodgates open

I think we are spiraling back in time with this current BS. The reason that there are so many US companies and businesses that are built around net services is cause its costly to provide code and servers. While the telecom systems have for a longtime been the backbone of this.

What it comes down to is they are unhappy that they are taking a second seat to the real profit and are attempting to find anyway possible to get a large cut of the pie. The thing is that these are companies in the first place that are monopolies. They provide a sub par service cause they have pushed their competition out of the game due to political influence. Or because their size is so big to begin with they can just buy out competition to lower the overall standard.

If this keeps up its going to be similar to what it seems a large portion of EU countries have when it comes too Connectivity. Super high fees and charges and reduced connectivity and use because of that. Which in turn will greatly effect and lower the usage of online services. Which will hurt the entire US based connect IT business model. If you raise your prices like they are. While offering such a low level of service (which in most places outside of big cities they are) . Then People are going to start doing without these services.

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Common Carrier will nip this in the bud.

Reclassifying the Internet as a Public Utility will then force companies like AT&T, Comcast, & Verizon to actually start being competitive for a change. If the only part of the network they provide is the "Last Mile" (utility pole to home), then the communities can roll out their own high capacity infrastructure, and the ISP has to compete on price/services/quality.

If Comcast tries to throttle bandwidth to a level we last experienced back in the 80's & 90's, then we can simply call up a different ISP that covers the area, & vote with our wallets. As it is now, my choices are AT&T's "DSL" over POTS copper that was installed in the late 1950's & never upgraded, Comcast cable, or Verizon's cellular. AT&T and Verizon claim "full coverage" in the area, but my friends with AT&T report crappy call quality, and I can personally attest to Verizon being unable to deliver a signal strength of more than 2 out of 5 bars on a *GOOD* day. So my "choice" is Comcast, because the AT&T owned copper is too old to support DSL, which means *nobody else* can provide it either, without paying AT&T to get their heads out of their ass. Wireless internet *might* be acceptable *IF* the coverage gave a high grade, good quality, stable signal to pull from, but as it is, that's not happening. Or I can pay Comcast even MORE money a month to fix their damned cable so it provides the full 3Mbps I'm paying for, instead of barely managing ~400Kbps on a *GREAT* day.

Fuck Comcast. Make the Internet a Public Utility, reclassify the ISP as Common Carrier, and let the competition begin.

The only ones it'll hurt are the *opolies that currently strangle us for every fucking penny.

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Re: Common Carrier will nip this in the bud.

You assume the problem is that the carriers are cornering the last mile. For many places, especially in the sticks, communities couldn't give away the last mile because there was still the matter of connecting the last mile with the first mile...which at the time wasn't built, either. Many of the sweetheart deals were the only way to get better-than-dialup to these places at all.

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