Starting October 1, Comcast will cap its customers' monthly use of the Internet to 250 gigabytes per account.
That's the equivalent of 50 million e-mails or 124 standard-definition movies for all residential high-speed Internet customers, Reuters reported.
Comcast said customers who exceed the limit may be called by Comcast's Customer Security Assurance group, and those who go over the cap twice in a six-month period may have Internet service cut off for one year. However, 99 percent of customers won't be affected, said Comcast, which is one of the country's largest Internet providers. Spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury told The New York Times that the average customer uses two to three gigabytes a month.
Limiting heavy usage to ensure fair access for all is being considered by cable and phone companies as customers are increasingly watching online video, sharing photos online, and downloading music services.
Popularity of those services is rising. A report by Cisco last winter stated that, "Today's 'bandwidth hog' is tomorrow's average user."
S. Derek Turner of Free Press, a media policy group, told Reuters: "If Comcast has oversold their network to the point of creating congestion problems, then well-disclosed caps for Internet use are a better short-term solution than Comcast's current practice of illegally blocking Internet traffic."
Victor Godinez, technology blogger for the Dallas Morning News, writes that Comcast is, "going about this all wrong." He says, "Comcast needs to institute some kind of 'bandwidth credit' marketplace. Since Comcast says the majority of its customers only use two to three gigabytes per month, let those users sell their excess capacity to the heavy users who do go over the 250 gig limit. Win-win, yes?"
Time Warner Cable and AT&T are considering other ways to limit use, by "metering," or charging different prices for different broadband speeds or usage.