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Data Usage Meter Launched

Posted by
Official Employee

Message 1 of 222
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Today we announced the start of a pilot market deployment of our data usage meter for our High-Speed Internet Service. This deployment begins today for customers in Portland, Oregon. We anticipate deploying this usage meter beyond the pilot market beginning in the first quarter of 2010.

FAQs can be found here.

In addition to announcing this news in this forum, we have also posted information at BroadbandReports.com, on our Network Management page at http://networkmanagement.comcast.net (and with a special detail page at http://networkmanagement.comcast.net/datausagemeter.htm), and we have sent an email on the subject to customers in the pilot market.

While I will not specifically address why there is a 250GB monthly data usage limit, since that has been exhaustively covered before, I do want to provide you with some additional technical detail about the data usage meter.

Since we know many forum users will be curious about how the usage meter works, we commissioned an independent analysis of the usage meter by NetForecast, Inc. Their report on the system is available here on their website.

The pilot market deployment follows employee testing of the meter this past summer. We selected Portland because it is an area where we have a single Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) platform, enabling us to control for that variable in the pilot (many markets have several different CMTS platforms).

Customers can view the usage meter by logging into Customer Central at http://customer.comcast.com and clicking on the “Users and Settings” tab. From there, click on “View details” in the “My devices” section (located toward the upper right hand of the screen) and that will go to the meter page. The usage meter looks like this:





Our systems update the meter approximately every three hours, and it displays in whole Gigabytes (G, shown over a calendar month (not a billing cycle) rounded down to the nearest GB.

We expect that many forum users may ask why this took so long to release. This was due to several factors. We were not prepared to release it until we knew it had been thoroughly tested, was in a form that was simple and easy to use for our typical customer, and had been independently tested by a third party for accuracy.

In addition, as many of you know, we have been in the process of moving from DOCSIS 2.0 to DOCSIS 3.0 and have three CMTS vendors (Arris, Cisco, and Motorola), and several CMTS models from each vendor. So, while we were in the midst of aggressively rolling out DOCSIS 3.0, we were also working to ensure we achieved a high-level of accuracy for the data sent to the data usage meter.

 

Thanks

Jason

Message Edited by jlivingood on 12-01-2009 11:28 AM
JL
Internet Services


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221 REPLIES
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Message 2 of 222
7,461 Views
How much does their meter use? How many Comcast customers are there? Every single customer will run their meter 24 hours a day 7 days a week (If they don't shut down). How much bandwidth is the meter using? Comcast is such a good company to let us know how much bandwidth we use! Unlimited bandwidth is the only bandwidth worth having! Nice time to change the game plan.
Posted by
Official Employee

Message 3 of 222
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tufop wrote:
How much does their meter use? How many Comcast customers are there? Every single customer will run their meter 24 hours a day 7 days a week (If they don't shut down). How much bandwidth is the meter using?

The meter does not consume bandwidth per se.  You go to a website to display your usage when you would like to see it.  So it'd use the bandwidth equivalent to any other normal web page.



tufop wrote:
Nice time to change the game plan.

 I'm not sure I understand what you mean

JL
Internet Services


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Posted by
Problem Solver

Message 4 of 222
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How soon before it gets rolled out for the rest of us?
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Message 5 of 222
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Peter's whitepaper is detailed and useful - talking in depth about customer internal and regular Comcast<->Customer traffic. However it is completely silent on the accounting of unwanted ingress/egress from external sources - e.g. bots on the open internet sweeping Comcast subnets looking for routers and services that can be compromised? The same bots that can compromise an unprotected/unpatched machine in a matter of hours.

 

I'm pretty certain from looking at the logs on my router that upstream "data silence" just doesn't exist in a real wild-west.I take it that the meter will count this ingress regardless of it's legitimacy - traffic is traffic...What steps are being taken to measure, understand and offset the presence of such sources?

Posted by
Official Employee

Message 6 of 222
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Welcome_to_Post wrote:
How soon before it gets rolled out for the rest of us?

First quarter, meaning after the holidays, it will start to deploy to other markets.  We're not disclosing anything more specific than that at this point though.

JL
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Posted by
Official Employee

Message 7 of 222
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lucyclairebu wrote:

Peter's whitepaper is detailed and useful - talking in depth about customer internal and regular Comcast<->Customer traffic. However it is completely silent on the accounting of unwanted ingress/egress from external sources - e.g. bots on the open internet sweeping Comcast subnets looking for routers and services that can be compromised? The same bots that can compromise an unprotected/unpatched machine in a matter of hours.

 

I'm pretty certain from looking at the logs on my router that upstream "data silence" just doesn't exist in a real wild-west.I take it that the meter will count this ingress regardless of it's legitimacy - traffic is traffic...What steps are being taken to measure, understand and offset the presence of such sources?


All traffic is counted.  Most home gateways devices will reject such inbound traffic, making it trivial in size.  As for what we're doing, do a quick search on this forum on the web for "Comcast Constant Guard" which is a new program we launched a short time ago to combat bots.

JL
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Posted by
Email Expert

Message 8 of 222
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I don't understand why you're asking about unwanted traffic in the context of the usage meter? Since this counts against the 250 GB cap, don't you want it to be included in the meter? I suspect what you really wish is that it didn't count against the 250 GB. But that's a different issue -- don't blame the messenger.

 

As the report mentioned, unwanted traffic typically counts for less than 1% of the 250 GB, so it's unlikely to push you far over and cause you to be accused of excessive use. 




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Message 9 of 222
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Hi folks...

Maybe this isn't the place for this question, but that older thread concerning the Cap and metering seems to be inactive.

 

Anyway... I'm an online gamer who plays several online games a week, for a few hours at a time. Here's an example of my average weekly gaming time... 

 

Game Past 7 Days Total v
Combat Arms Combat Arms 11 hours 137 hours
Battlefield 2 Battlefield 2 1 hour 54 hours
Alliance of Valiant Arms Alliance of Valiant Arms - 26 hours
Cross Fire Cross Fire - 12 hours
Battlefield 2 Demo Battlefield 2 Demo - 11 hours

  Overall Hours 20 hours 249 hours

 


 

 

The Combat Arms time is all online (the past 7 days), if you go to my profile page (mrite47 on XFire) you should see about 20+ hours total for various games, most others offline though. How exactly will the cap affect my gaming, or will it at all? I'm just curious... I look forward to actually being able to monitor it myself... Thanks.

Posted by
Problem Solver

Message 10 of 222
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jlivingood wrote:

Welcome_to_Post wrote:
How soon before it gets rolled out for the rest of us?

First quarter, meaning after the holidays, it will start to deploy to other markets.  We're not disclosing anything more specific than that at this point though.


Good enough, I guess.  It is what it shall be.  Thanks!

Posted by
Mac Expert

Message 11 of 222
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Mrite,

 

The cap isn't going to affect gamers. The only folks this cap will affect are those who download/upload large quantities of multi-media files, and you almost have to do this 24/7 to exhaust your monthly bandwidth allotment of 250GB. 




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Message 12 of 222
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I am in Portland. I do not have access to the meter. Under My Devices it displays No device information is available.
Posted by
Problem Solver

Message 13 of 222
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Me, too, in Tallahassee.  We're not among the chosen few.
Posted by
Official Employee

Message 14 of 222
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dukeofhurl wrote:
I am in Portland. I do not have access to the meter. Under My Devices it displays No device information is available.

More areas are being phased in on Monday - all of your area to complete by end of year.

JL
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Message 15 of 222
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According to the "report" the meter itself does use bandwidth per she and it is also reporting the various, what I will call background traffic associated with sending and receiving Internet traffic.  The meter does use bandwidth according to your report.  Putting it in very basic terms, the meter< according to Compacts' announcement, reports traffic up and downline.  The "reporting" of traffic is generating the same "background traffic" that accounts for the 6.9% of every customers usage no matter how much bandwidth they use or do not use.

 

Nice time to change the plan was the reference of couching this in terms of letting the customer know how much bandwidth he or she uses.  My originally agreement was for unlimited use.  There was no mention of a bandwidth level that would result in being banned from the service but then again I started with AT&T and when AT&T disappeared for a time, Comcast automatically became my Internet, Cable TV, and VoIP supplier.  That's all I was saying.  The meter does require bandwidth to report usage and every user should remember that 6.9% of whatever the meter says they are using is really covered by the basic contract for Internet service and should be subtracted from whatever usage is reported.  Actually the .5% of error found by the independent tester should also be subtracted from the total number, whatever it may be.

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Message 16 of 222
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Is this meter optional?  Is it going to be on everyone's Comcast page or is there anything that needs to be downloaded to help customers understand their usage?
Posted by
Official Employee

Message 17 of 222
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tufop wrote:
Is this meter optional?  Is it going to be on everyone's Comcast page or is there anything that needs to be downloaded to help customers understand their usage?

The meter is not optional.  It will eventually be available for all customers.  It is web-based and customers need not download software to install it.

JL
Internet Services


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Posted by
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Message 18 of 222
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tufop wrote:

According to the "report" the meter itself does use bandwidth per she and it is also reporting the various, what I will call background traffic associated with sending and receiving Internet traffic.  The meter does use bandwidth according to your report.  Putting it in very basic terms, the meter< according to Compacts' announcement, reports traffic up and downline.  The "reporting" of traffic is generating the same "background traffic" that accounts for the 6.9% of every customers usage no matter how much bandwidth they use or do not use.

 


Umm... you're way off base. That 6.9% is just about the difference between a Gigabyte (1,073,741,824 bytes) and a billion bytes (1,000,000,000 bytes). The Comcast cap is measured in Gigabytes, not billions of bytes, so users aren't getting the short end of things like they do with hard drives.

Posted by
Customer Expert

Message 19 of 222
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In the post at the top of this thread, Jason noted:

Since we know many forum users will be curious about how the usage meter works, we commissioned an independent analysis of the usage meter by NetForecast, Inc. Their report on the system is available here on their website.  

 

I found that explained a lot.

 

Having the meter will help many people see that they are nowhere near the limit even with multiple devices used frequently.




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Posted by
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Message 20 of 222
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bethkatz wrote:

In the post at the top of this thread, Jason noted:

Since we know many forum users will be curious about how the usage meter works, we commissioned an independent analysis of the usage meter by NetForecast, Inc. Their report on the system is available here on their website.  

 

I found that explained a lot.

 

Having the meter will help many people see that they are nowhere near the limit even with multiple devices used frequently.


 

The report explained a lot but I think it also raises questions.

 

1. The report describes 6.2% measured overhead as a result of the testing. This overhead is added to the meter. Testing consisted of transferring files using FTP which is a low overhead protocol. Why didn't the testers use a higher overhead protocol such as HTTP, which would be more representative of a typical Comcast users experience?

 

2. The report goes on to identify several ways and devices that use the Internet that may be unknown to a user. The number of devices and their respective Internet usage will grow in time. There is no discussion in the report of how the bandwidth restrictions and monitoring will grow to accommodate growing use.

 

3. It is my understanding from the report that traffic tracking across the modem is captured and uniquely identified by the modem's ip address. The case where an ip address changes due to system maintenance, changed device connected to the modem, or other situation causing DHCP to assign a new ip addess is not addressed. What happens to the meter data when a new ip address is assigned? What happens to a user's account if the newly assigned ip address was one that during the month was previously assigned to a user who exceeded the 250GB limit? We've seen issues where ip addresses that were previously blocked were reassigned to subscribers.

 

The report was good to read but it was incomplete in my opinion. I don't think the testing process and procedures adequately represented a typical Comcast user's traffic. FTP is one of the least expensive protocols in terms of overhead and typical Comcast users probably don't use FTP as much as other protocols. The report described other protocols and devices that subscribers use. Knowing this why didn't the testing make use of these higher overhead protocols? I'm sure Comcast could have provided a breakout of protocols used by subscribers as a percentage to the testers. The testers could then have designed their tests to be more in line to typical subscriber usage. I'm sure the results would not have been as favorable if it instead of talking to 6.2% overhead included in the meter it had to explain maybe 20% or more overhead included.

 

It seems to me that traffic overhead should be a cost to Comcast of doing the business of providing Internet service. Measuring overhead and including this number in the usage meter is akin to FedEx charging $28 for a package then adding $1 for gas plus $1.50 for rent, plus ... Comcast IMHO should charge for the internet connection and not the overhead separately. Wait until they decide that Netflix users need to pay 10% overhead, HTTP users should pay 12% overhead, Internet TV viewers should pay 25% overhead, etc. Oh wait, that is exactly what this metering system does. If you are a high overhead protocol user you will reach the limit faster than a low overhead protocol user. So if for example Internet TV has an overhead rate of 20% (I have no idea what the real reat is) and FTP has an overhead rate of 6.2% and you are a user of Internet TV you will reach your limit faster than the FTP user based solely on the overhead. This will get worse as more content is delivered by the Internet. Just my opinion.

 

Message Edited by FishMan on 12-05-2009 03:40 PM
Posted by
Connection Expert

Message 21 of 222
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FishMan wrote:

The report explained a lot but I think it also raises questions.

 

1. The report describes 6.2% measured overhead as a result of the testing. This overhead is added to the meter. Testing consisted of transferring files using FTP which is a low overhead protocol. Why didn't the testers use a higher overhead protocol such as HTTP, which would be more representative of a typical Comcast users experience?

 

Way Agree !

 

2. The report goes on to identify several ways and devices that use the Internet that may be unknown to a user. The number of devices and their respective Internet usage will grow in time. There is no discussion in the report of how the bandwidth restrictions and monitoring will grow to accommodate growing use.

 

Agree here too.

 

3. It is my understanding from the report that traffic tracking across the modem is captured and uniquely identified by the modem's ip address. The case where an ip address changes due to system maintenance, changed device connected to the modem, or other situation causing DHCP to assign a new ip addess is not addressed. What happens to the meter data when a new ip address is assigned? What happens to a user's account if the newly assigned ip address was one that during the month was previously assigned to a user who exceeded the 250GB limit? We've seen issues where ip addresses that were previously blocked were reassigned to subscribers.

 

I believe that it is the Comcast private modem management IP address that they use here, and not the subscriber's public (WAN) IP addy that is assigned by CC's DHCP server to one's connection.

 


 

Message Edited by EG on 12-05-2009 07:12 PM



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Posted by
Customer Expert

Message 22 of 222
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Fishman, good points and good suggestions for what they should have included. But maybe they didn't need to. Maybe the limit should go up another 25% to include the overhead of other media.
 
I have three questions
1) What is the purpose of this meter?
2) Was the current limit set to curb normal users or to provide an absurdly high limit for abusive users? 
3) To highlight Fishman's point, if it's tied to IP address, is Comcast going to reset the meter associated with an IP address when it's reassigned to someone else? Many of us have been falsely accused of spamming and other nefarious activity based on a reassigned IP address.What has Comcast done to ensure we aren't accused of having high data usage? 
 
What I've heard from Comcast (maybe not what they intended) is that ordinary users won't come close to the limit. Having this meter can show users that they really do have plenty of room to explore other varieties of data usage.
 
The limit was set in a time when people weren't downloading high-definition movies as a matter of course. If we see lots of users bumping into the limits, maybe we'll need to lobby for a higher limit. Or maybe it will be a non-issue. I have a feeling that Comcast doesn't really know what a realistic unobtrusive limit is.
 




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Posted by
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Message 23 of 222
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EG wrote:

FishMan wrote:

The report explained a lot but I think it also raises questions.

 

1. The report describes 6.2% measured overhead as a result of the testing. This overhead is added to the meter. Testing consisted of transferring files using FTP which is a low overhead protocol. Why didn't the testers use a higher overhead protocol such as HTTP, which would be more representative of a typical Comcast users experience?

 

Way Agree !

 

2. The report goes on to identify several ways and devices that use the Internet that may be unknown to a user. The number of devices and their respective Internet usage will grow in time. There is no discussion in the report of how the bandwidth restrictions and monitoring will grow to accommodate growing use.

 

Agree here too.

 

3. It is my understanding from the report that traffic tracking across the modem is captured and uniquely identified by the modem's ip address. The case where an ip address changes due to system maintenance, changed device connected to the modem, or other situation causing DHCP to assign a new ip addess is not addressed. What happens to the meter data when a new ip address is assigned? What happens to a user's account if the newly assigned ip address was one that during the month was previously assigned to a user who exceeded the 250GB limit? We've seen issues where ip addresses that were previously blocked were reassigned to subscribers.

 

I believe that it is the Comcast private modem management IP address that they use here, and not the subscriber's public (WAN) IP addy that is assigned by CC's DHCP server to one's connection.

 


 

Message Edited by EG on 12-05-2009 07:12 PM

EG, thanks for the clarification on point 3. Smiley Happy

Message Edited by FishMan on 12-05-2009 04:43 PM
Posted by
Connection Expert

Message 24 of 222
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bethkatz wrote:

 

3) To highlight Fishman's point, if it's tied to IP address, is Comcast going to reset the meter associated with an IP address when it's reassigned to someone else?  


Beth. See my last comment. I could be wrong. A authoritative confirmation by a CC employee in the know would be nice here.

Message Edited by EG on 12-05-2009 07:48 PM



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Posted by
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Message 25 of 222
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FishMan wrote:

 

EG, thanks for the clarification on point 3.


I could be wrong about that Fishy. As I said to Beth, a confirm by a CC employee would be nice.




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Posted by
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Message 26 of 222
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EG, I hope that you are right. But I was accused of having an infected machine knowing darn well I was falsely accused. They cut off port 25 for outgoing email with no warning. And we've seen it happen several times with other customers.

 

Jason, could you please let us know that Comcast is sure that the usage meter is tied to each customer's modem and not to the changing IP number?

 

Do we have any customer feedback from people who have the data usage meter available now? 




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Posted by
Email Expert

Message 27 of 222
7,125 Views

bethkatz wrote:
Fishman, good points and good suggestions for what they should have included. But maybe they didn't need to. Maybe the limit should go up another 25% to include the overhead of other media.
 
I have three questions
1) What is the purpose of this meter?
 
So customers can tell when they're nearing the 250 GB/mo bandwidth cap. 
 
2) Was the current limit set to curb normal users or to provide an absurdly high limit for abusive users? 
 
The latter. See the FAQ. 
 
3) To highlight Fishman's point, if it's tied to IP address, is Comcast going to reset the meter associated with an IP address when it's reassigned to someone else? Many of us have been falsely accused of spamming and other nefarious activity based on a reassigned IP address.What has Comcast done to ensure we aren't accused of having high data usage? 
 
I belive it's tied to the modem, not the IP. 
 
What I've heard from Comcast (maybe not what they intended) is that ordinary users won't come close to the limit. Having this meter can show users that they really do have plenty of room to explore other varieties of data usage.
 
The limit was set in a time when people weren't downloading high-definition movies as a matter of course. If we see lots of users bumping into the limits, maybe we'll need to lobby for a higher limit. Or maybe it will be a non-issue. I have a feeling that Comcast doesn't really know what a realistic unobtrusive limit is.
 
As ordinary use of the Internet grows, I full expect that Comcast will adjust their limit. Remember, to be an excessive user, you have to be above the cap and one of the heaviest users. If 50% of users are above 250 GB, simply going above that level obviously won't make you one of the heaviest users. For the limit to be useful, they'll need to adjust it so that it corresponds to the truly excessive users.
 


 




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Posted by
Official Employee

Message 28 of 222
7,127 Views
Replies in blue.
 

The report explained a lot but I think it also raises questions.

 

1. The report describes 6.2% measured overhead as a result of the testing. This overhead is added to the meter. Testing consisted of transferring files using FTP which is a low overhead protocol. Why didn't the testers use a higher overhead protocol such as HTTP, which would be more representative of a typical Comcast users experience?

HTTP was not a suitable protocol for us to generate a huge volume of data transfer in a very short period of time.  Also, the point of the exercise was to try to minimize and control for the protocol overhead to the greatest extent possible so that we could more accurately gauge what the PC saw and then what each part of the measurement system recorded.  Thus, the goal was to measure measurement accuracy, and not to simulate the usage patterns of an "average user."  (Then we'd rathole on what average usage patterns are, etc., among other things.)  The other thing that is important to bear in mind is that many other protocols, and in particular HTTP, are highly variable in the overhead observed.  And so I didn't want to turn months of testing into years of testing.  If people have concerned over protocol overhead, I recommend participating at the IETF to make future protocols more data efficient (which often comes at the expense of functionality and extensibility).  ;-) 

 

2. The report goes on to identify several ways and devices that use the Internet that may be unknown to a user. The number of devices and their respective Internet usage will grow in time. There is no discussion in the report of how the bandwidth restrictions and monitoring will grow to accommodate growing use.

 

The NetForecast report is a study of the measurement system and it's accuracy.  It was not intended to address or examine Comcast policy changes, such as changing data usage policies.  However, the current system of using IPDR to collect usage statistics will continue into the future and will scale well, and it is built into DOCSIS 3.0.  I do not anticipate massive changes to the system, particularly as I am in the process of deploying it nationally after an extended development and testing period.  :-)

 

3. It is my understanding from the report that traffic tracking across the modem is captured and uniquely identified by the modem's ip address. The case where an ip address changes due to system maintenance, changed device connected to the modem, or other situation causing DHCP to assign a new ip addess is not addressed. What happens to the meter data when a new ip address is assigned? What happens to a user's account if the newly assigned ip address was one that during the month was previously assigned to a user who exceeded the 250GB limit? We've seen issues where ip addresses that were previously blocked were reassigned to subscribers.

 

IPDR is used to collect data usage statistics.  IPDR uses the modem's MAC address, and not the IP address.  As you indicate, the IP may change frequently, whereas the device MAC address does not change unless the device itself is changed. 

 

The report was good to read but it was incomplete in my opinion. I don't think the testing process and procedures adequately represented a typical Comcast user's traffic.

 

As indicated above, that was not a goal of the report.

 

It seems to me that traffic overhead should be a cost to Comcast of doing the business of providing Internet service. Measuring overhead and including this number in the usage meter is akin to FedEx charging $28 for a package then adding $1 for gas plus $1.50 for rent, plus ... Comcast IMHO should charge for the internet connection and not the overhead separately.

 

It is technically impossible in actual practice, and at reasonable expense, to separate out the protocol overhead from the actual data transfer.  The only way I could see to do it, which I would be strongly against, would be to deploy a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) Deep Packet Inspection system to examine the contents of all user traffic and perform content analysis and somehow separate out protocol-related traffic from data transfer.  This would involve a deep study of every protocol in existence and would be a moving target since protocol overhead, even for the same protocol, is HIGHLY variable and not fixed.  I simply don't see how such a system would be technically practicable or desirable.  Furthermore, it is not the state of the art to extract out protocol overhead when calculating data transfer.  It is understood that data transfer is inclusive of protocol communications, and this is how all data transfer measurement that I am aware of functions. 

 

Wait until they decide that Netflix users need to pay 10% overhead, HTTP users should pay 12% overhead, Internet TV viewers should pay 25% overhead, etc. Oh wait, that is exactly what this metering system does. If you are a high overhead protocol user you will reach the limit faster than a low overhead protocol user.

 

This is inaccurate and you are reading far too much into our statements about protocol overhead.  Without the exchange of protocol communications, not other communications can occur.  Protocol overhead is extraordinarily variable.  A very short communication, such an an IM, may have a lot of overhead relatively to the small payload of a message saying "Are you there?" (in such case, the protocol overhead would likely exceed that string of data transfered).  But a larger data download of, say, a movie file, would have a dramatically different pattern and the protocol overhead would be quite small in comparison to the data transferred.  Protocol overhead is not some "tax" it is inherent in how the Internet works.  

 


JL
Internet Services


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Posted by
Official Employee

Message 29 of 222
7,117 Views
Replies in blue

I have three questions
1) What is the purpose of this meter?
 
To enable customers to keep track of their Internet data usage.
 
2) Was the current limit set to curb normal users or to provide an absurdly high limit for abusive users? 
 
The current limit is 250GB.  Please refer to our FAQs on the 250GB limit for more information.
 
3) To highlight Fishman's point, if it's tied to IP address, is Comcast going to reset the meter associated with an IP address when it's reassigned to someone else? Many of us have been falsely accused of spamming and other nefarious activity based on a reassigned IP address.What has Comcast done to ensure we aren't accused of having high data usage? 
 
It is not tied to IP address.
 
What I've heard from Comcast (maybe not what they intended) is that ordinary users won't come close to the limit.
 
Correct.
 
Having this meter can show users that they really do have plenty of room to explore other varieties of data usage.
 
Correct.
 
The limit was set in a time when people weren't downloading high-definition movies as a matter of course. If we see lots of users bumping into the limits, maybe we'll need to lobby for a higher limit. Or maybe it will be a non-issue. I have a feeling that Comcast doesn't really know what a realistic unobtrusive limit is.
 
The limit was established at a time when HD movie downloads were in fact being observed.  The limit is high and fair.  Compared to any other ISP with a limit that I am aware of in North America, 250GB is the highest, and in many cases by a long-run.
 


 

Message Edited by jlivingood on 12-06-2009 09:41 AM
JL
Internet Services


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Posted by
Connection Expert

Message 30 of 222
7,109 Views
Thanks for your clarifications and your usual candidness as well Jason. 



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Posted by
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Message 31 of 222
7,117 Views

jlivingood wrote:
Replies in blue.
 

The report explained a lot but I think it also raises questions.

 

1. The report describes 6.2% measured overhead as a result of the testing. This overhead is added to the meter. Testing consisted of transferring files using FTP which is a low overhead protocol. Why didn't the testers use a higher overhead protocol such as HTTP, which would be more representative of a typical Comcast users experience?

HTTP was not a suitable protocol for us to generate a huge volume of data transfer in a very short period of time.  Also, the point of the exercise was to try to minimize and control for the protocol overhead to the greatest extent possible so that we could more accurately gauge what the PC saw and then what each part of the measurement system recorded.  Thus, the goal was to measure measurement accuracy, and not to simulate the usage patterns of an "average user."  (Then we'd rathole on what average usage patterns are, etc., among other things.)  The other thing that is important to bear in mind is that many other protocols, and in particular HTTP, are highly variable in the overhead observed.  And so I didn't want to turn months of testing into years of testing.  If people have concerned over protocol overhead, I recommend participating at the IETF to make future protocols more data efficient (which often comes at the expense of functionality and extensibility).  ;-) 

 

2. The report goes on to identify several ways and devices that use the Internet that may be unknown to a user. The number of devices and their respective Internet usage will grow in time. There is no discussion in the report of how the bandwidth restrictions and monitoring will grow to accommodate growing use.

 

The NetForecast report is a study of the measurement system and it's accuracy.  It was not intended to address or examine Comcast policy changes, such as changing data usage policies.  However, the current system of using IPDR to collect usage statistics will continue into the future and will scale well, and it is built into DOCSIS 3.0.  I do not anticipate massive changes to the system, particularly as I am in the process of deploying it nationally after an extended development and testing period.  :-)

 

3. It is my understanding from the report that traffic tracking across the modem is captured and uniquely identified by the modem's ip address. The case where an ip address changes due to system maintenance, changed device connected to the modem, or other situation causing DHCP to assign a new ip addess is not addressed. What happens to the meter data when a new ip address is assigned? What happens to a user's account if the newly assigned ip address was one that during the month was previously assigned to a user who exceeded the 250GB limit? We've seen issues where ip addresses that were previously blocked were reassigned to subscribers.

 

IPDR is used to collect data usage statistics.  IPDR uses the modem's MAC address, and not the IP address.  As you indicate, the IP may change frequently, whereas the device MAC address does not change unless the device itself is changed. 

 

The report was good to read but it was incomplete in my opinion. I don't think the testing process and procedures adequately represented a typical Comcast user's traffic.

 

As indicated above, that was not a goal of the report.

 

It seems to me that traffic overhead should be a cost to Comcast of doing the business of providing Internet service. Measuring overhead and including this number in the usage meter is akin to FedEx charging $28 for a package then adding $1 for gas plus $1.50 for rent, plus ... Comcast IMHO should charge for the internet connection and not the overhead separately.

 

It is technically impossible in actual practice, and at reasonable expense, to separate out the protocol overhead from the actual data transfer.  The only way I could see to do it, which I would be strongly against, would be to deploy a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) Deep Packet Inspection system to examine the contents of all user traffic and perform content analysis and somehow separate out protocol-related traffic from data transfer.  This would involve a deep study of every protocol in existence and would be a moving target since protocol overhead, even for the same protocol, is HIGHLY variable and not fixed.  I simply don't see how such a system would be technically practicable or desirable.  Furthermore, it is not the state of the art to extract out protocol overhead when calculating data transfer.  It is understood that data transfer is inclusive of protocol communications, and this is how all data transfer measurement that I am aware of functions. 

 

Wait until they decide that Netflix users need to pay 10% overhead, HTTP users should pay 12% overhead, Internet TV viewers should pay 25% overhead, etc. Oh wait, that is exactly what this metering system does. If you are a high overhead protocol user you will reach the limit faster than a low overhead protocol user.

 

This is inaccurate and you are reading far too much into our statements about protocol overhead.  Without the exchange of protocol communications, not other communications can occur.  Protocol overhead is extraordinarily variable.  A very short communication, such an an IM, may have a lot of overhead relatively to the small payload of a message saying "Are you there?" (in such case, the protocol overhead would likely exceed that string of data transfered).  But a larger data download of, say, a movie file, would have a dramatically different pattern and the protocol overhead would be quite small in comparison to the data transferred.  Protocol overhead is not some "tax" it is inherent in how the Internet works.  

 



Thank you for your comments. They are much appreciated and contribute significantly to the discussion. I would like to comment on your last item.

 

I think you may have misinterpreted what I was trying to say, or maybe I did not say it well. In any case let me try again. The meter shows all traffic, both high-overhead and low-overhead, across the modem. So say for example I am a huge Internet TV and online movie user. Also assume these activities have an overhead rate of 20% of the traffic associated with these activities. Now lets assume you are a heavy FTP user and the overhead associated with that activity is 10%.

 

You and I both access or send a total of 1GB of actual data content (payload) through our resprctive connections. My meter will show, ignoring rounding for this discussion, 1.2GB and your meter will show 1.1GB yet we both only accessed or sent exactly the same amount of content.

 

Even worse, using your text example, your meter shows 1.1GB based on your FTP activity but your neighbor who only uses the Internet for texting sent or received 1GB of text messages has a meter indicating 2GB transferred due to the high-overhead of texting.

 

The report does indicate a good job with respect to the testing performed and it reports on the accuracy of the meter. I still think the process and procedures were inadequate to address the larger scheme of traffic monitoring, measurement, and reporting. It does not mater how accurate a meter is if it is not capturing and reporting the correct data. Once again this is only my opinion. I have not had the benefit of conducting months of testing and analysis as did the authors of the report.

 

Message Edited by FishMan on 12-06-2009 08:33 AM
Posted by
Customer Expert

Message 32 of 222
7,095 Views

Jason, thank you very much for your answers. 

 

I expect that what we will see when this is rolled out to all of us is that the vast majority of us use a small fraction of the bandwidth we have available. 




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Posted by
Official Employee

Message 33 of 222
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Replies in blue
The meter shows all traffic, both high-overhead and low-overhead, across the modem. So say for example I am a huge Internet TV and online movie user. Also assume these activities have an overhead rate of 20% of the traffic associated with these activities. Now lets assume you are a heavy FTP user and the overhead associated with that activity is 10%.
Keep in mind that overhead also includes packet retransmissions, also impossible to predict ahead of time and I have no idea how I'd account for that after the fact, with millions of users. 

You and I both access or send a total of 1GB of actual data content (payload) through our resprctive connections. My meter will show, ignoring rounding for this discussion, 1.2GB and your meter will show 1.1GB yet we both only accessed or sent exactly the same amount of content.

 

This is likely one reason the meter is so very high, as compared to other ISPs in the North American market, at 250GB instead of, say 20GB.  Oftentimes, these concerns are overblown when people see what their usage actually is.    

 

The report does indicate a good job with respect to the testing performed and it reports on the accuracy of the meter.

 

Thanks.  NetForecast had unprecedented access to everything we do.  I am not aware of any other ISP who has implemented a meter that has had a third party do such a study and release a public report.  We tested this meter for months upon months, and strove to be incredibly transparent about the subject.

 

I still think the process and procedures were inadequate to address the larger scheme of traffic monitoring, measurement, and reporting. It does not mater how accurate a meter is if it is not capturing and reporting the correct data.

 

The way we calculate data transfer is the way the entire (Internet) industry does so.  I am not aware of any company that does this differently, by somehow identifying and subtracting protocol traffic and the like.  I know you feel differently and all I can tell you is that this is how IPDR and other data transfers are measured - by just looking at the network interface and counting bytes moving across the interface.  That approach is simple, and it does not examine the contents of traffic.  To do it differently would likely require very invasive packet inspection that I would not be comfortable with, and it likely wouldn't scale particularly well.


 

JL
Internet Services


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Posted by
Bronze Problem Solver

Message 34 of 222
7,090 Views

jlivingood wrote:
Replies in blue
The meter shows all traffic, both high-overhead and low-overhead, across the modem. So say for example I am a huge Internet TV and online movie user. Also assume these activities have an overhead rate of 20% of the traffic associated with these activities. Now lets assume you are a heavy FTP user and the overhead associated with that activity is 10%.
Keep in mind that overhead also includes packet retransmissions, also impossible to predict ahead of time and I have no idea how I'd account for that after the fact, with millions of users. 

You and I both access or send a total of 1GB of actual data content (payload) through our resprctive connections. My meter will show, ignoring rounding for this discussion, 1.2GB and your meter will show 1.1GB yet we both only accessed or sent exactly the same amount of content.

 

This is likely one reason the meter is so very high, as compared to other ISPs in the North American market, at 250GB instead of, say 20GB.  Oftentimes, these concerns are overblown when people see what their usage actually is.    

 

The report does indicate a good job with respect to the testing performed and it reports on the accuracy of the meter.

 

Thanks.  NetForecast had unprecedented access to everything we do.  I am not aware of any other ISP who has implemented a meter that has had a third party do such a study and release a public report.  We tested this meter for months upon months, and strove to be incredibly transparent about the subject.

 

I still think the process and procedures were inadequate to address the larger scheme of traffic monitoring, measurement, and reporting. It does not mater how accurate a meter is if it is not capturing and reporting the correct data.

 

The way we calculate data transfer is the way the entire (Internet) industry does so.  I am not aware of any company that does this differently, by somehow identifying and subtracting protocol traffic and the like.  I know you feel differently and all I can tell you is that this is how IPDR and other data transfers are measured - by just looking at the network interface and counting bytes moving across the interface.  That approach is simple, and it does not examine the contents of traffic.  To do it differently would likely require very invasive packet inspection that I would not be comfortable with, and it likely wouldn't scale particularly well.


 


Thanks again for responding. I personally am not concerned about the meter's implementation and as the report indicates it appears accurate. I just wanted to ensure I understood the testing process as well as the report and the rationale for its findings.

Posted by
Contributor

Message 35 of 222
7,043 Views

jlivingood wrote:

dukeofhurl wrote:
I am in Portland. I do not have access to the meter. Under My Devices it displays No device information is available.

More areas are being phased in on Monday - all of your area to complete by end of year.


 

Sounds good. Hope to get it today!
Posted by
Networking Expert

Message 36 of 222
7,012 Views
 
The limit was set in a time when people weren't downloading high-definition movies as a matter of course. If we see lots of users bumping into the limits, maybe we'll need to lobby for a higher limit. Or maybe it will be a non-issue. I have a feeling that Comcast doesn't really know what a realistic unobtrusive limit is.
 
The limit was established at a time when HD movie downloads were in fact being observed.  The limit is high and fair.  Compared to any other ISP with a limit that I am aware of in North America, 250GB is the highest, and in many cases by a long-run.
 


While this may have been done before, to try to put a little perspective on this.....
There are posts on BBR that indicate a good AVERAGE data transfer for a Netflix HD movie is APPROXIMATELY 1.5Gb (ignoring the 1000 vs 1024 bit arguments...notice I emphasize approximations here). Apparently, Netflix use VBR encoding, so different movies have different downoad sizes...
So, at 1.5Gb/movie, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation says that to get close to your bandwidth limit, you would have to watch 6hrs of HD Netflix movies EVERY DAY for 30 days.
That's some pretty intense movie watching...... :

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Posted by
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Message 37 of 222
6,982 Views

Got the email today. Finally!

 

Secondary account is still not synced with primary though so no device information shows up as well as voicemail on account. Whaaa...

Posted by
Customer Expert

Message 38 of 222
6,941 Views

I have a few more questions prompted by questions in the forum ...

 

1) Does the customer need to log in as the primary account holder to see the data usage meter? Or will it show up for the secondary account as well? It's my understanding that both accounts should show the same usage meter and that both should have access.

 

2) Does the customer need to be connecting from their home and through the modem that's measured or can they check their usage from some other location? I'd think that it would be tied to the account. It should be tied to the account rather than physical location. Otherwise, you could be at someone's house, use their computer, and look at their data meter. That doesn't make sense. And I should be able to check the data usage of my home network from work once my area has the data meter deployed.

 

3) When all the customers in the Portland area have the data meter available, could you please post that it has been completely deployed in that area?

 




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Posted by
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Message 39 of 222
6,938 Views
Inline.
 

bethkatz wrote:

I have a few more questions prompted by questions in the forum ...

 

1) Does the customer need to log in as the primary account holder to see the data usage meter? Or will it show up for the secondary account as well? It's my understanding that both accounts should show the same usage meter and that both should have access.

 

[JL] The primary acct holder can see the meter.  The secondary cannot, unless the primary gives them bill / acct level permissions.  That's pretty easy to do, and I do this on my acct, so my wife who uses a secondary has such access, FWIW.

 

2) Does the customer need to be connecting from their home and through the modem that's measured or can they check their usage from some other location? I'd think that it would be tied to the account. It should be tied to the account rather than physical location. Otherwise, you could be at someone's house, use their computer, and look at their data meter. That doesn't make sense. And I should be able to check the data usage of my home network from work once my area has the data meter deployed.

 

[JL] Anywhere that you can access Customer Central you can access the meter in cCentral.

 

3) When all the customers in the Portland area have the data meter available, could you please post that it has been completely deployed in that area?

 

[JL] Sure.  That should be next week sometime.

 


 

JL
Internet Services


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Posted by
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Message 40 of 222
6,932 Views
Jason, thank you for the answers. I also have the secondary account although my husband rarely reads his Comcast email or does any account management.



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Message 41 of 222
6,944 Views
We are going with FIOS!
Posted by
Connection Expert

Message 42 of 222
6,936 Views
CYA...



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Posted by
Problem Solver

Message 43 of 222
6,928 Views

laurie-beaverto wrote:
We are going with FIOS!

Enjoy their usage meter!

 

Posted by
Email Expert

Message 44 of 222
6,885 Views

laurie-beaverto wrote:
We are going with FIOS!
I could understand it if you were leaving because of the bandwidth cap, but it seems like you're complaining about the bandwidth meter instead. That seems backwards. Isn't the meter a good thing?

 




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Message 45 of 222
6,700 Views
Apparetnly it's time to start looking for another ISP. While it would take me quite some time to reach the 250GB cap, I did not sign up with comcast to be told how much bandwidth I can use. My cost keeps going up and the service keeps getting worse. Time to more on.
Posted by
Mac Expert

Message 46 of 222
6,703 Views
You do realize that the cap has been in place for over a year now, and that it's just the meter that is now being released? In other words, this has probably had no effect whatsoever on your service (nor on the service of about 98% of Comcast's subscriber base).
Message Edited by Joel on 12-17-2009 05:17 PM



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Message 47 of 222
4,920 Views
I do not appreciate the "big brother meter" that was just announced.  Why attach this to everyone if "overusage does not apply to 99% of our customers"?  This service is VERY overpriced as it is..... stand by for a new fee schedule for us 99%ers..... It's time to shop elsewhere!
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Message 48 of 222
6,686 Views
I'm afraid I don't have a lot of content for you yet, but the general direction is excellent.  I know that I as a customer appreciate being able to see where I'm at on the bandwidth limit.  Good work, good direction. 
Posted by
Cable Expert

Message 49 of 222
4,917 Views
You should be happy to have a means of reassurance that you aren't among the 1%. 



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Message 50 of 222
6,668 Views

As a new member to the forum, I must wholeheartedly disagree with this statement.  

 

How can you tell what people are going to do with their connection?  Do you go to everyone's home and ask them politely, or perhaps take a ethernet capture, of what they are doing with the bandwidth that they pay for?  Probably not.  

 

As we continue to enter the digital age, to say that 250GB of data is "a lot" is folly. I download game demos (1GB each), trailers, and HD movies (7GB each) quite often.  As Hulu and other streaming services become popular, the notion that ISP's can continue to limit a person's ability to gain access to these services will become obsolete per the statements made by Julius Genachowski, the FCC Chairman. 

 

So I question the intent of Comcast to continually undermine not only the will of the customers, but the will of the FCC.  What is the intent here?

 

 In October of this year,  the FCC approved a notice of proposed rule making on the subject of net neutrality.  Essentially, sometime in 2010, ISPs will be forced, under penalty of law, to maintain unfettered access to the services that a customer as bought based on net neutrality.  This means no more 250GB limit, no more rate throttling and no more discriminating behavior.  

 

So again, I ask the question why Comcast continues to impose dictator-like rules and regulations on broadband customers?   It only serves to make Comcast appear as though they would rather sell smoke and mirrors to a customer than upgrade their networks to be more competitive in the market place   

 

I, for one, cannot wait for Comcast and other's to be put in their place by these new regulations.   Suppressing innovation and competition will only be tolerated for so long in this day and age. 

 

Chastise me if you must for my statements above.  Facts and evidence tend to have that affect on the irrational and incompetent individuals among us.