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Comcast mulls overage fees for bandwidth lovers

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Comcast is considering monthly download caps for all those people on its cable-based internet service.

According to a report from Broadband Reports, America's second largest ISP is mulling a plan that would cap user downloads at 250GB a month. Under the plan, users would not be penalized if they crossed that 250GB threshold once during a 12-month period, but if they did it again, they'd be charged $15 for every 10GB beyond the magic number.

"The intent appears to be to go after the people who consistently download far more than the typical user without hurting those who may have a really big month infrequently," an anonymous person told BR.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas confirmed that such a plan is in the works. "Comcast is currently evaluating this service and pricing model to ensure we deliver a great online experience to our customers," he told us. "We have not made any changes to our current service offerings and have no new announcement to make at this time."

BR's anonymous source claims there's "a lot of momentum" behind the plan, with a trial set to begin over the next two months. Another big-name ISP, Time Warner Cable, is already testing a similar cap in the little town of Beaumont, Texas.

The secret source also says that Comcast's proposed cap would affect "only" 14,000 of the company's 14.1m broadband subscribers. For those of you with poor math skills, that's 0.1 per cent of all downloaders.

Evidently, the plan would not cap uploads. But Comcast is already capping uploads using forged TCP reset flags. For nearly a year - and maybe longer - the company has systematically flagged uploads from BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer protocols - a practice that has caught the attention of the Federal Communications Commission.

Of course, Comcast doesn't call this a cap. It prefers the word delay.

Many will take issue with Comcast's proposed download cap. But in some ways, it would improve on the status quo. Currently, the company reserves the right to terminate users who exceed a download threshold it refuses to identify. Its new plan would at least tell users what they can expect from their internet service. If only Comcast would do the same when it comes to BitTorrents. ®

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