Comcast Internet Problems

So, yeah — I’ve been a Comcast subscriber for a few years now. For the most part, I can’t complain about the service. It’s had its ups and downs (but what hasn’t?).

Seattle area Comcast representatives have been extremely friendly with their outreach, their approach to community, and with keeping their services somewhat relevant in a day when most people are looking to cut cable out of their budget altogether. I was one of the first to be able to test a DOCSIS3 connection (and was very happy with it).

I’ve had Residential TV service at home for several years (including DVR rental, which hasn’t quite kept up with my expectation that I should be able to view recordings anywhere, universally). Separately, I’ve had Business Class Internet service — chiefly, because I work at home. Originally, my motive to use it wasn’t because it was “better,” but because it offered better download and upload speeds.

So, fast forward to a few weeks ago when Comcast started to offer 105/10 plans. I asked what it would cost for a Business Class connection. The answer? A jaw-dropping $369.95. WTF? No. I’d stick with my 50/10 and be happy. Until I started to think about it… and figured I’d fall well below the 250 GB cap that Comcast Residential subscribers are subjected to. Indeed, with our household’s normal media consumption and “surfing” habits, that’d be just fine.

I moved forward with a switch over to all Residential services. The transition, while imperfect, was relatively smooth thanks to some internal hand-holding (thanks to one Comcast superstar, in particular). I was on auto-pilot until I noticed that before hitting mid-month, I was already dangerously over the halfway mark. WTF? I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary… until I realized that using Dropbox was likely killing me.

All was well for a day, and then I checked the meter and saw that it had jumped another several gigabytes, even after shutting down all extraneous video upload traffic! I was baffled, and knew I had to get to the bottom of it (fearing a visit from the Comcast Cops). Andre’s tale of how Comcast cut him off at the knees was pressing against my skull. I had to figure out what I was doing “wrong” so that I wouldn’t lose the only true broadband I could gain access to thanks to political dealings from certain… well, you know how it is. There’s no competition in this marketplace — and that’s not a partisan issue.

This morning, I went on a little adventure and uncovered how to better monitor my home network traffic in a way that Comcast doesn’t even begin to help the user. It buries the meter so deep within its site, it’s like it expects that most users will ignore it. I’ll get back to this in a moment.

Comcast imposes an artificial 250 GB cap on all network traffic — downloads and uploads (even the upload data that transpires when you download anything — every ack and syn). You pay for any packet that passes through your cable modem, even if you have a firewall on the other side blocking illegitimate packets. On a 50/10 plan, a cap is barely reasonable. But on a 105/10 plan, at a higher price, at 2x the download rate, it keeps the same artificial 250 GB cap in place. You pay more to be restricted the same way. The “good” news? You can data transfer your way to excommunication quicker!

With more consumer cloud-based services coming online (backup, remote security, legitimate file sharing, HD video chat, HD video streaming, HQ music streaming, more than one user, etc.), it seems to me that the edge users are getting cut by that very edge. The power user isn’t accommodated in the equation; we’re not charged extra for every x gigabytes we go over, we’re just cut off for a complete year. How is that anywhere near… sensical?

Because it isn’t sensical. It’s artificial. Now, back to my point about why the “but only the top 1% of our users approach that limit” marketing tripe that Comcast parrots like it was the truth. First, where’s the empirical data as collected by an outside party? Second, if that was truly the case, then why is there even a cap at all?

If only the top 1% of your users are exceeding the 250 GB, then… uh… there’s plenty of bandwidth to go around. Or, more to my earlier point, as you pay to receive more bandwidth, the cap should increase accordingly. If, say, the top 1% of the top 1% went over another artificial cap of, say, 1 TB, you might have honed in on some illegal activity. I think it should be illegal to cap bandwidth altogether, but if Comcast believes it’s “serving [its] customers” by cutting them off at the knees, I’ll go along with the specious argument to make the poor company feel better.

People who don’t have a business can’t use Comcast Business Internet services, and they’re also forced to use a nasty SMC gateway / router (or, worse yet, a Netgear one). I have no issue with paying for more bandwidth, but $369.95 for unlimited data is outrageous in comparison to $100 a month for most of that alleged top 1%.

The company wants you to pay for faster access, but it doesn’t want you to actually use it.

You get a discount when you bundle services in Residential alone, but not when you bundle Residential and Business services. It’s been wholly impractical to hold two accounts for my home office.

I’ve already started to curb my enjoyment of the services I used to love via the Internet, thanks to Comcast. Nobody’s calling the company on this, either. The media isn’t pushing it on anything, and other users are afraid to speak out for fear that their Internet will be cut off. If you don’t think it could happen to you, talk to Andre. I’m vowing not to stop my crusade against these artificial limits until he’s at least restored access to a service he was paying for when Comcast gave him no indication that he was having “overage issues” other than a paltry bar chart that was buried within Comcast’s Control Panel.

I’m planning on micro-analyzing the company’s claims of “62,500 songs, 125 standard-def movies” being a theoretical ceiling. If the numbers don’t add up (as in, they don’t accommodate upload data transferred in those downloads), that could open it up to false claims — and we all know where that’ll lead.

Comcast doesn’t put it in real-world terms: how many emails combined with video and picture-heavy Web sites combined with social media interchanges combined with backups combined with media streaming combined with home security combined with remote access combined with… yadda, yadda, yadda.

Some claim that Internet access is a human right. I do believe access to information should remain open, but I also believe there’s a reasonable cost to everything — according to the law of supply and demand. Others suggest that it should be treated like a public utility — like water, electricity, or trash service. I’m going to draw a more appropriate analogy that oughta resonate with everybody.

When you set up your wireless phone service for a certain number of minutes, and you go over those allocated minutes, the company doesn’t turn off your account. No, it charges you extra.

I could use some help, here. Or, I could use a statement from Comcast saying (in part or in whole): “Ya know what? You’re right. We should increase the cap accordingly — or get rid of it altogether since it doesn’t really curb anything other than people using services which aren’t our own. Oh, and we’re going to give Andre (and everybody else we cut off) free Internet for a year because we totally screwed them over.” I’d even settle for finding a legislator who wants to keep this from happening to this country’s citizens again.

Ball’s in your court, Comcast — you know how this “social media” thang works. Care, already. Your former genius is now getting 50/8 from Cablevision for just $10 more a month — with no cap, FWIW.

Article Written by

Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • http://about.me/kevin.mark Kevin Mark

    105/10?! Comcast is useless. There’s no reason(?) they can’t provide a better uplink. I’d much rather go 70/30 or 50/50.

    • kevin sexton

      they don’t want to sell residential internet service to people uploading, but providers have gone to 10:1 ratio or higher, the slow upload means slower download in some cases due to requests going out slower. They want people doing streaming etc to buy high priced business class service, even though the up bandwidth is there behind the modem being wasted.

      • http://about.me/kevin.mark Kevin Mark

        Exactly. It’s purely for monetary gain. They don’t truly care about the performance of the service.

  • kevin sexton

    The reasoning for the caps would be that that 1% of people goe way way over the cap amount. An example would be someone using file sharing and maxing both up and down 24/7. However, they should be open about it, scale the cap with your plan, and have the meter obviously placed, and send emails every 10%. One thing they probably figure is if you are legally using up that capped amount, it’s probably at least in part streaming video, when they want you watching their video content, either internet or TV. In some cases providers want to have a cap that doesn’t count their content for this reason.
    Also most providers for residential service have set uplink speed lower and lower relative to down. It’s going to get to a point where people notice web pages load slow, and it’s because requests go out so slow. The top option with time warner has boosted download speed of around 20, upload is only almost 2 mbps.

  • http://twitter.com/superbenA2002 Ben Arrowood

    I’ve had Comcast multi-room DVR issues as well. Old fashioned VHS tapes and post 1995 VCRs were simpler. My mom uses to set the timer on the VCR in the family room, put a recordable tape in, set the VCR to basic cable channel 23 (local CBS affiliate WJZ-TV channel 13) and when she came home all of her soaps would be on that tape and she would rewind the tape and take it into the computer room and watch them while she did some work at home.

  • Marco Di Fresco

    I am in Italy and I am using Telecom Italia; it doesn’t put a cap, but still it cost about 30 euros a month for a 7 Mib and there are times you don’t even get it (the infrastructure is pitiful and old and overcrowded by more connections it can handle).

    The customer service is horrible as they usually end up blaming your computer and/or personal router and there isn’t much you can do about it as the contract clearly says that actually you can get UP TO 7 Mib (the actual minimum speed granted is so low that they can get away with it most of the times).

  • http://twitter.com/thestig888 Mark Hilton

    i’m currently on BT (British Telecom) in the uk and whilst i’m on their unlimited usage package, they do have a fair usage policy (this states that i can’t exceed 120gbs of data transfer per month)

    If I reach 80gb a warning email is sent, and if i exceed it the speed is capped to under 1mbps for a month. what makes it bad is that the average speed is about 1-5mbps depending how far you are from your exchange.

    put simply it’s bad :(

    what makes it worse is that virgin media (another ISP in the uk) is offering 50mbps of fiber optic traffic, and whilst BT is to rollout fiber optic broadband i won’t be getting it till march next year wahh :(