Comcast Web Caps May Signal End of an Era

Though limits affect only 1% now, high-def video will change that
By Caroline Miller,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2008 4:33 PM CDT
Comcast has imposed a usage cap on its customers, marking the close of the unlimited Internet era and drawing criticism from proponents of a free Web.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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(Newser) – With Comcast setting a limit on Internet usage beginning next month, the end of the Internet as we know it may be at hand, as ISPs move toward usage-based models like public utilities. Comcast, the second-largest US Internet provider, was careful to say that the bandwidth limit is so high—250 gigabytes per month—it won't affect 99% of customers. But "today's bandwidth hog is tomorrow's average user," one critic tells ABC.

The 250GB limit is the equivalent of 125 standard-def movies, Comcast notes, but high-def video will blow that out of the water. "If a cap had been imposed on the top 10% of Internet users in 1997, many Internet innovations of today would likely not exist," says a civil-liberties advocate. Time Warner Cable and Frontier Communications both have imposed lower usage limits.