One Year After Capping Bandwidth, Comcast Still Offers No Meter
Last August, Comcast officially announced it was capping bandwidth for its residential cable broadband Internet service subscribers at 250 GB per month. In the firestorm of coverage that followed, many criticized the nation's second largest ISP for capping their customer's previously unlimited service without providing them a tool to meter their usage. One year later, Comcast still hasn't provided its customers with a meter.
Comcast's "Excessive Use FAQ" points concerned customers to the McAfee security suite, which includes a bandwidth meter utility, and which Comcast provides for free for subscribers. Unfortunately, the software is only compatible with Windows machines, leaving Linux and Mac users out in the cold. To remedy this, Comcast suggests subscribers do "a search for 'bandwidth meter,'" and find a meter on their own. This is true, but is akin to asking mobile phone customers to monitor their minutes with a stop watch.
Complicating matters is the fast that software metering tools such as McAfee's and others available online monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic on a single computer, including local network traffic that does not count towards Comcast's 250 GB bandwidth limit. Backups to a local networked attached storage device, streaming music from one iTunes library to another, and multiplayer gaming on a local network would all be monitored by these tools. As a result, users may erroneously see their usage climb towards 250 GB well before their actual Internet bandwidth does. Comcast's Excessive Use FAQ recognizes the limitations of these tools: "Comcast cannot verify that any tools customers may find themselves and use to measure data usage are accurate or without other flaws. Comcast’s determination of each customer account’s data usage is final."
When asked about an official metering tool, Comcast spokesperson Charlie Douglas told Open Media Boston, "We have talked about launching a tool. We are committed to launching one. It is in employee testing." The official tool measures data from the point of the modem, Douglas added, not from the point of the user's computer. This means local network bandwidth would not be measured by Comcast's tool. Douglas was hesitant to give a specific release date, but said it should be out of testing "soon."
In the meantime, customers who exceed the bandwidth cap can expect a phone call from Comcast. According to Douglas, when contacted, most subscribers work with Comcast technicians to reduce their usage. Those who exceed the cap a second time within six months, however, will have their service terminated for a one year period.