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7/12/2011 11:28:59 PM
FiberSlasher Member #: 4750 Registered: 1996-2001
Posted: 529 View all posts by FiberSlasher
Occupation: Retired Location: NY
The Day Comcast’s Data Cap Policy Killed My Intern

http://kotaku.com/5820450/the-day-comcasts-data-cap-policy-killed-my-internet-for-1-year

The Day Comcast’s Data Cap Policy Killed My Internet for One Year

Today I came home to find my 15 MB down/3 MB up Comcast broadband service had been shut off due to exceeding their 250 GB/month data cap policy.

This had happened the month before, and I called and had a polite but irritated conversation with Comcast's "Customer Security" department (since the regular customer service folks could not help.) According to them I had exceeded their 250 GB monthly cap, and they asked how that might have happened.
I told them the simple truth-–no idea, other than regular people were probably using it a lot for reasonable things. I have roommates, we stream Netflix HD movies and Pandora music incessantly to multiple devices in the home, and I also have an open access point (in addition to a secured AP that I use to access internal network resources) for guests. I asked if they could share what was using the majority of the data so I could go address it directly, but Comcast refused to share any information there (which is probably appropriate).

I made very clear to the gentleman I spoke with that I thought Comcast's data cap policy was arbitrary, unfair, and extremely irritating… and that if I had any decent competitive options in the neighborhood I'd dump Comcast in a heartbeat. Since I don't, I listened to him read his canned warning that if I exceeded their cap again I'd be cut off again. I do not recall details on how long the cut off would be, likely because I spent the next few minutes working with the service agent to add notes to my record about my detailed displeasure with Comcast's policy here. I specifically noted (and asked that it be recorded) that if this happened again I would contact the FCC, various news organizations, and otherwise make a stink. The CS agent was polite and reactivated my broadband. After hanging up I chatted with my roommates, asked them to keep an eye on bandwidth use, and also deactivated the open AP I had maintained for visitors (with regret, but this was the only area I could think of that I couldn't completely account for bandwidth use.) Then I forgot about the whole thing until today when I found I'd been cut off again.

I called up Comcast and went through customer service hell – a Comcast special, I might note. First their regular customer service agent couldn't help me, and sent me to their "Customer Security" group again. The Customer Security agent was polite, and after the standard identification questions notified me I was cut off for a year due to exceeding Comcast's Acceptable Use Policy limits on their bandwidth cap. I asked for details on what had been using bandwidth, and again, Comcast would not share. In a sudden brainstorm, I then asked whether the 250 GB bandwidth cap applied to just downloads (which I had assumed, as the majority of most bandwidth used in households is downstream bandwidth), or download and upload bandwidth. Surprise, surprise! Comcast measures both upstream and downstream bandwidth – and it suddenly clicked for me.

I'm a photographer and audiophile. I shoot all of my pictures in RAW format, and I store the many hundreds and hundreds of CDs I've purchased over the last 20 years or so in a variety of lossless and lossy music formats. In the case of music I rip my CDs to WMA Lossless (for ease of streaming to Windows), FLAC (another lossless format, so I can stream losslessly to my Sonos system), and M4A (also known as Apple's iTunes AAC format, so I can import my music from the media server to iTunes). I'm a big believer in storing the original, lossless digital content so that I can access it in full fidelity in the future no matter how technology evolves. In some ways that makes me a bit archaic as I still buy (used) CDs from Amazon for all of my music so I can rip it losslessly – I'm not a fan of the compressed music formats you buy and download. But the ramification is that I have terabytes of storage in my basement RAID server – each music track is duplicated three times, I have all of my original RAW photos, plus processed JPEG versions of those RAW photos, as well as a variety of other miscellaneous content – documents, spreadsheets, that sort of thing.

This stuff is valuable to me, and I recently purchased a three-year subscription to Carbonite so I could back all of this content up to the cloud. I also recently saw Amazon's announcement of being able to upload unlimited M4A/AAC tracks to their Cloud Drive service, and decided to upload my library there so I could access it when on the road. And it turns out uploading all of this content to the cloud triggered Comcast's bandwidth cap and caused me to be cut off from the internet-–again. It was never clear to me that Comcast measures both upload and download bandwidth, and I suspect many people are going to be surprised by this in the coming years, especially as the cloud continues to become more and more a part of our lives.

Anyway, to close out the Comcast call, I asked to be reinstated and he said it was final-–no appeal. I asked to escalate to a manager so I could explain my situation, and he stated there was no escalation, and repeated there was no appeal. I then asked for customer service email or other contact information so I could CC the company on a blog post (which you are reading now) and letter I would be sending to the FCC, Public Knowledge organization, New Media Foundation, the city of Seattle's Mayor's Office, and my Seattle City Council representative. He said he could connect me to the customer escalation line, but also stated it would not help – they wouldn't consider removing the cap. At that point I said I wouldn't bother wasting my time with the customer escalation line, and that I'd like to cancel my broadband. He politely said he understood, and that he'd transfer me to the appropriate department.

Time to return to Comcast customer service hell! After a few minutes I spoke with another gentlemen in the Technical Support and Billing division I'd been transferred to who, surprise, couldn't help me since I was cancelling my (now defunct) service. He then transferred me to (wait for it!) the Retention department, since they're apparently the only ones who can cancel a Comcast cable account. Yes, after Comcast applied their ridiculous policy and told me they didn't want me as a customer, I was transferred to the Retention department where they insisted on driving through their spiel until I could finally interrupt, say it wasn't going to work, and explain my situation. At which point the agent said: "Oh. I'll take care of it, thank you for calling Comcast ." As of this moment I have no idea if I've been cancelled or not.
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