How much broadband is too much?

Bossman Om Malik just published a bit of a rant about Comcast’s recent announcement of a 250 GB bandwidth cap, which will go into effect on October 1.

As I’ve now decided to switch to Comcast for my Internet from Verizon, I read the Comcast FAQ on the subject in greater detail. I don’t have a problem with a pay-as-you-use plan, as long as it’s very clear what you’re paying for and what you’re using.

This section concerns me:

What is normal or typical use?

Bandwidth usage changes over time as Comcast’s customers use the Internet and the services and applications available for it. Currently, the median data usage by Comcast High-Speed Internet customers is approximately 2-3 GB each month. This reflects typical residential use of the service for purposes such as sending and receiving e-mail, surfing the Internet, and watching streaming video.

In our 16 day exodus, I used my Sprint EVDO modem the majority of the time. Why should I pay for wifi? I wasn’t online all the time, but I admit I often left the modem plugged in to fetch podcasts while we enjoyed our vacation or simply because I forgot to disconnect when walking away. Sometimes it was plugged in overnight, maybe refreshing my Gmail pages as new email came in at best. I have an unlimited account with Sprint, so I didn’t pay much attention to my usage.

Out of curiosity, I logged into my Sprint control panel:

Unless I’m misreading it, I’ve used over 1 GB in just a couple of days since I’ve been back to work while waiting on deliveries. No movie downloads. About 30 or so subscribed podcasts, maybe 25% of which are video. No music downloads. Basic surfing, emailing, twittering and managing accounts “in the cloud.” I think I looked at maybe 10 videos on YouTube since August 27.

Even with Eric and the girls online too, I don’t think I have anything to fear with the cap. Not yet. But Comcast would clearly consider my use way outside the norm. I will likely hit at least 50 GB a month with an always-on cable modem based on what I can see from my Sprint usage.

What do you think? Is Comcast sniffing funny glue thinking 2-3 GB/month is a “typical” user? Comcast says they’re basing this on median data usage. That’s not the same thing as an average. What’s typical? Someone who works outside the home all day and checks their AOL email for an hour in the evening?


4 responses to “How much broadband is too much?”

  1. I stay under the 250GB cap without a doubt and I’m on-line more than a healthy amount, plus my wife does email and watches hulu,, and shows (we don’t have a tv). Whenever I travel outside of the USA I notice how there are so many secured wireless networks. In my current neighborhood I can walk around with my iPhone and always be on wifi – in Europe (bandwidth caps) all the wifi networks are secured.

    On the plus-side, I imagine it will probably improve network performance if people are concerned about using too many resources.

  2. Judi,

    What about those of us who back up regularly to the cloud? Or how about having to recover from the cloud? If you also use Hulu and Netflix streaming, any bad month could send you way over the 250GB limit. I’m glad I’m on FiOS, but who knows when that will end up capped.

    Of course once we start streaming HD video instead of subscribing to an HD package, 250GB will seem very low indeed.


  3. Heck, I probably I download tens of gigabytes of software updates and podcasts alone each month. Hmmm.

    But we’re far from typical users. 2-3 GB? Sounds about right, actually.

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