Comcast starts banning consumers who move too much data

The end of the internet comes not with a bang or a procession of four lolcats of the apocalypse, but just with two blinking lights on a modem. At least that’s how it came for Andre Vrignaud, a 39-year-old gaming consultant in Seattle, when Comcast shut him off from the internet for using too much data.

Vrignaud, it seems, committed the foul of using more than 250 GB of data on Comcast two months in a row, triggering the company’s overage policy that results in a year-long ban from using its services.

“It’s one of those things I never thought would hit me,” Vrignaud said. “They didn’t even call. I just got double blinking lights on my modem…”

It was the second month in a row that Vrignaud got those blinking lights. The first time he called in and tried to figure out what the problem was.

So he turned off the router he had that was open to the public, and asked his roommate to go a bit lighter on data usage, since his household is heavy on streaming media, including YouTube, NetFlix and Pandora.

What he didn’t count on, Vrignaud said, was that Comcast, who he was paying $60 a month for a 15Mbps download speed, was counting uploads against the quota as well.

Just recently he’d switched his online backup system from Mozy to Carbonite, after Mozy put an end to its unlimited back-up service. Carbonite has no such limit, but does throttle users’ uploads once it hits a high level…

He’s got his music ripped into lossless FLAC format, in addition to lower rates, amounting to about a gig a disc — which he stores in a basement RAID server that can handle 12 TB of data. (He says it has plenty of empty space.)

As an amateur photographer, he saves his photos in RAW format, which can run to about 10MB per image. And when Amazon last week opened up its cloud music service to unlimited storage of music files in AAC, Vrignaud batch-converted his collection and began uploading it.

The music is what he assumes caused the problem, but he’s not sure. He admits to doing a little bittorrenting in the last month, but says it was limited to getting a few episodes of a famous British sci-fi show that’s not totally available in the U.S.

And all Comcast is saying is that he’s kicked off — and under the terms of the ban, he can’t even switch to a uncapped, higher-priced, lower-speed business connection.

Life in the Land of Liberty – where establishing standards based on the needs of ordinary citizens is extremist and offering information services as a public utility is socialist.

Both of those concepts may be correct in their identification. Which is why my feelings aren’t hurt when some dimwit populist hurls such accusations in my direction. That doesn’t alter the needs of modern-day Americans however. If industrial-level capitalism doesn’t meet our needs then it really is time for a change at some level or other.

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