Comcast reportedly is considering implementing a broadband service structure with a bandwidth usage cap. According to BroadbandReports.com, Comcast may offer a service with a 250 gigabyte usage cap for a set price, plus a $15 overage charge for every 10 gigabytes consumed beyond that cap. A Comcast spokesman told BroadbandReports.com the company is current evaluating the service and possible pricing models. If Comcast takes this route, it would be better than sneaking around throttling bandwidth and shaping traffic, but it would not be greeted warmly by the company's biggest bandwidth consumers.
Such an offer could radically change the economics and service policies of the wireline broadband industry if it catches on. Service caps and overage charges were common in the wireless industry since day one, though more recently, unlimited voice and data plans have become the rule. Wireline broadband players have offered unlimited bandwidth since very early on, and years ago probably never foresaw the day when they would need to re-evaluate that model-or at least did not foresee it happening this soon. In reality, a 250 gigabyte cap is plenty for most users, enough to download hundreds and thousands of songs per month, but will the vocal minority of heavy users protest?
To use an ancient and clichéd broadband analogy, moving to a policy of overage charges would be like capping highway driving at a certain number of miles per month and forcing those who drove more to pay tolls based on the number of mile they go over that limit (though in an age of high fuel prices, horrible traffic and environmental progressiveness, maybe that actually sounds like a good idea).
Another concern that the busiest bandwidth consumers might have about this policy is that other service providers could quickly do the same, and that there would be nothing stopping carriers from increasing overcharge fees as Internet traffic overall continues to increase. Some observers might see this possible service as a Net neutrality work-around by Comcast. If so, what would happen to all the positive work Comcast has been doing with the peer-to-peer content community of late?