2008
09.25

But will they walk the walk? Doubt it…

In ongoing coverage of Comcast’s capping and throttling of internet traffic (search this blog for “Comcast” for my previous righteous diatribes on the subject), the company is now softening their language in the face of massive backlash from the more vocal consumers, who might actually be affected by the capping and throttling.

The crux of what they said is twofold. One, that Comcast will rescind the cap if enough people complain. Two, that caps may rise when their new DOCSIS 3.0 system, which boasts significantly more capacity per cable system than the current 1.1 and 2.0 equipment, is deployed.

Personally, it looks like the former impetus will outdo the latter; the longer Comcast’s network managment practices are kept in the limelight, the more vulnerable the company is to competition, who have merely to say “No caps” to grab internet customers away. As such, if the media buzz continues long enough, Comcast has to placate everybody by raising, or eliminating, caps and network managment policies, replacing them with equipment upgrades at a higher rate than what they’re doing now. This is a good thing.

The latter promise could, or could not, be something that will actually happen. It is true that Comcast is already testing the new DOCSIS 3.0 technology, which increases last-mile capacity by a factor of three or more, in Minneapolis, MN, with more cities to come. The speeds attained by the equiment (50 megabits per second download, 5 megabits per second upload) are phenomenal, particularly compared with what’s available right now. However, the current price of that service is $150 per month, and there’s no mention that the service won’t be capped just like the slower variants Comcast is selling. As it stands right now, the test rollout is effectively giving you a high performance car on the Autobahn with a gas tank that’s half full…and the threat that, if you empty the tank, you lose the car.

Nonetheless, the additional capacity, which should be rolled out over all of Comcast’s footprint in the next year or two, would provide more bandwidth to the cable system, allowing more capacity to flow to subscribers at home. Whether Comcast actually passes on the capacity to customers in the form of higher caps and less invasive throttling practices is uncertain. They’ll certainly offer faster speeds (from their speed test website 12 Mbps, 22 Mbps and 50 Mbps seem likely tiers) but, in all honesty, most servers can barely deliver at 15 Mbps over the internet, and if there are caps higher speeds are a moot point to the power users that would take advantage of those tiers.

In any case, Comcast isn’t going to do anything about their policies, which will be set in motion in just a few days, unless people complain about it. And keep complaining, to the point that the average customer switches to something else for internet. As long as this retrograde motion of internet capability continues, there need to be people pointing out that it’s unacceptable. Only then will things change for the better.

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