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Intellectual Property Law

: IP Democracy

Here Come the Broadband Caps...

By Cynthia Brumfield

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Update at end of post.

As usual, Karl Bode broke the news today that Comcast, the nation's top cable operator and the second largest broadband provider in the U.S., will implement a 250 GB broadband cap starting in October as part of the company's shift to a protocol agnostic network management scheme.

According to sources, customers who exceed this limit will be charged $15 for each 10 GB over the cap. Although consumer advocates and cap foes are likely to raise a ruckus over this limitation, in reality it's a generous cap, at least by current bandwidth usage standards. Moreover, it's a huge improvement over some of the bandwidth caps being tested or implemented (check out the crazy low limits in place at Sunflower Broadband) and it certainly beats Comcast's current practice of throttling P2P applications.

More troubling to me is something else that Karl reports -- there has also been "consideration of a new system whereby users who received more than four DMCA letters in a twelve month period potentially faced account suspension." Hollywood and the record industry have been pressuring broadband providers to carry their water both domestically and internationally, urging these third parties to cut off customers who are alleged to have violated copyright laws.

The problem is that these two industries have often gone above and beyond reasonableness in issuing DMCA letters, even to the degree of not permitting legal uses of copyrighted material. The studios and record companies can send as many DMCA letters as they want, but it doesn't mean that the customers who receive them are violating the law. Comcast and other broadband providers shouldn't be in the habit of protecting other industries' business models based on such shaky evidence and they certainly shouldn't cut off customers at the whim of the studios and record companies.

In the meantime, more details about Comcast's broadband caps should be forthcoming in the form of a press release, according to the report. I've got an email into Comcast and will provide more details if I hear anything.

Update: I just got off the phone with spokesman Charlie Douglas who said the new policy (spelled out here), aimed at extreme users, doesn't say anything about disconnecting customers who receive DMCA notices. More on the specified cap in a separate post.

Full post as published by IP Democracy on August 28, 2008 (boomark / email).

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