We’ve been watching lots of streaming netflix recently and loving it. Since we’re watching it via a Comcast connection I’ve been worried about future issues including the bandwith caps, Comcast-owned traffic prioritization, and the recent peering squabble that has been in the news.

I’ve been monitoring my bandwidth usage for the last couple of months and with all our Netflix, Pandora, heavy surfing, and a bit of BitTourrent seeding, we are still under the limit by more than half. (btw: don’t read “bitTourrent” use as “illegal” use, its mostly open source downloads. I fully respect copyright, and although I do believe the system needs an overhaul, that’s a subject for another post).

I went back to the Comcast TOS to see what they had to say on the subject of the caps, and it reads like an astroturf marketing campaign to quell the public and prevent FCC complaints.

They include the following examples of why 250GB is so generous. You could:

  • Send 50 million emails
  • Download 62,500 songs
  • Download 125 standard-definition movies
  • Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos

I find this galling. 50 million emails? Really? How is this helpful to an end user in a real-world way? Even the “standard-def movies” is annoying, most people want to watch full HD which is 6.75x the pixel density. So here are my counter examples:

  • Get 37 hours of download time per month. You can be downloading at full speed for 5% of the month!* (additional Internet usage will require overage fees at substantially higher rates). That’s only $1.62/hr of downloading!* (doesn’t include the right to use what you download).
  • Download up to a full 5 blu-ray disks!* (doesn’t include the right to actually see the movie). That’s about 13 hours of content a month! All for $4.60/hr!* (again, doesn’t include the right to actually see the movie).

Sure these are unfair, but no less unfair than the items Comcast chose to point out.

  • 37 hours is derived from the simple math of 15Mb/sec and 250GB. So yes, if you download constantly at their advertised speed of 15MB/sec, you only get about 37 hours, for the list price of $59.95/mo. There may be counter-arguments, but the math is solid. Actually it may be less time if Comcast counts the upstream packets and the packet wrappers too, not just the content, and even less if it is over SSL. And I didn’t even include the modem rental fee.
  • A standard pressed Blu-Ray disk is a dual layer disk with a capacity of 50GB, and so 250/50 = 5 disks. Again, completely true, although there are counter arguments like when was the last time you saw a blu-ray disk filled to capacity, or really wanted to download those DVD extras?

They should have included real world stuff, like hours of playing WoW, video Skype hours, and Netfix hours. Alternately they could have given some typical usage profile examples, both average users and heavy users who are under the limit. As it is I feel compelled to fight FUD with FUD.