Dwight Silverman: Comcast has Moral Obligation to Provide a Meter

Dwight Silverman, technology columnist for the Houston Chronicle, has a damn good idea.

Comcast recently announced that they are formalizing the bandwidth cap on their residential service at 250 GB/month. The cap isn't new. What's new is that they are letting customers know what the policy is, instead of just mysteriously disconnecting service when they want.

(To get a handle on what 250 GB/month means, I calculate we use 1.45 GB to watch a 90 minute movie with the Netflix Player by Roku. So this would allow 170 movies/month. The catch is that's all standard def video. That number would drop significantly if high def comes available.)

The big problem I have with the Comcast plan is, how can you know what your Internet usage is and when are you in danger of hitting your cap? They won't tell you. That's like the electric company charging you by the kW/H (which they do) but not giving you a meter.

Dwight says:

If Comcast is going to cap bandwidth, it has a moral obligation to tell those who pay for its service how much they are using. This is particularly true given the consequences Comcast has laid out for those who go over the cap. The first time, you'll get a warning call. The second time, you lose access for a year. That's a essentially the death penalty for the customer's relationship with Comcast, because anyone who gets cut off is going to seek an alternative and probably won't be back.

I'm not necessarily opposed to bandwidth caps or metering, so long as they aren't used as tools by the incumbent providers to limit competition. But if the measurements are done, they need to be done in a transparent and auditable fashion.

If Comcast doesn't address this, I think the FCC should consider taking action.

Read the entire article here: Comcast's moral obligation: If you cap it, help us count it

Sept 8 update: Roku, maker of the Netflix Player, responds that caps don't give them a lot of concern.