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Comcast announces monthly Internet usage threshold

Comcast last week said it would impose a monthly Internet traffic threshold of 250GB on its broadband subscribers beginning Oct. 1.

In making the announcement, the company pointed out that 250GB is equivalent to 125 SD movies or 50 million emails. Subscribers who exceed the threshold will be asked by the company to scale back. As of the second quarter this year, Comcast had more than 14 million high-speed Internet subscribers.

The company’s announcement comes less than a month after the FCC ordered Comcast to cease discriminatory Internet management practices that interfered with customer use of peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent. (See: “FCC orders Comcast to cease ‘discriminatory network management’ practices.”)

While the current move reflects a desire to address network congestion, the FCC found in its Aug. 1 order that Comcast had a motive to interfere with peer-to-peer applications to impede subscribers from watching high-quality video distributed by such applications that could compete with the company’s own VOD service.

The drive to connect HDTVs to the Internet for “over-the-top” delivery of programming via the Internet continues to gain momentum. This summer, Netflix announced it would begin making a library of 10,000 titles available in subscribers’ living rooms via the Internet and a special set-top box connected to the television.

Tighter integration of the Web and TV got another boost Aug. 20 when Intel and Yahoo! announced the Widget Channel, an application framework optimized for TV. The goal of the Widget Channel is to let viewers enjoy rich Internet applications designed for the TV while watching their favorite TV programs.