Cloud

Are we going to be bandwidth hogs or cloud computing patrons? A three-way debate

Last month, Comcast stirred up a debate about bandwidth caps, excessive internet use, and cloud computing after it cut off Seattle resident Andre Vrignaud (pictured right) for using too much internet bandwidth when he uploaded his music collection to the cloud.

Now Vrignaud, a frequent blogger on his Ozymandias site and a former game strategist at Microsoft and Intel, is asking tough questions about what happens when we all start using cloud services and upload data in large amounts.

He twice exceeded his monthly data cap of 250 gigabytes on his cable modem. Comcast banned him for a year, then invited him back after he made noise about it. Now he gets his internet service from Qwest/Century Link, a digital subscriber line (DSL) provider that delivers the internet via phone lines. But regardless of how his personal situation works out, it’s part of a larger debate that’s just beginning for  the masses.

The basic questions are: What do broadband providers have to put up with when it comes to their customers, particularly as cloud computing starts to put the strain on networks? And what right do consumers have to internet access?

Vrignaud is raising some more focused questions about the way that internet service providers deal with heavy internet users. Comcast came back with answers to his questions. So did Qwest/Century Link. We’ve printed Comcast’s answers below, followed by Vrignaud’s responses to the answers. And then we have the Qwest/CenturyLink response as well.

Why Vrignaud got cut off

Before we get into the answers, here are the facts about Vrignaud’s own case. It all started on July 11, when Vrignaud came home and discovered he had no internet. Vrignaud had a $60 a month Comcast cable modem that could deliver 15 megabits a second to his home and carry data out at 3 megabits per second. A month earlier, Vrignaud said he had a “polite but irritated” conversation with Comcast’s Customer Security Department about how much data he was using. He told them he had no idea how he used so much and wondered if his roommates may have hit the limit because they watched Netflix HD streaming movies and listened to Pandora’s internet-streamed music radio. He also had an open access point that he reserved for guests. Vrignaud wanted to know his usage details, but Comcast wouldn’t share that.

Comcast reactivated the service and Vrignaud deactivated the visitor access point and asked his roommates to keep an eye on their bandwidth. Then he forgot about it, got cut off again, and found that he had now been banned for a full year “due to exceeding Comcast’s acceptable use policy limits.”

Charlie Douglas, a spokesman for Comcast, said, “More than 99 percent of our customers don’t even come close to using 250 gigabytes of data in a month. Nationwide, our customers’ median data usage is four to six gigabytes a month. Two hundred fifty gigabytes is an extraordinary amount of data and equivalent to downloading 62,500 songs or uploading 25,000 hi-res photos.”

Douglas didn’t mention it, but a Netflix HD movie consumes about 1 gigabyte to 1.5 gigabytes of data per hour. You would have to watch 166 to 250 hours of HD movies a month to hit the bandwidth cap. That’s about 80 screenings of The Big Lebowski.

Comcast started its bandwidth cap in 2008. In late 2009, the company rolled out a bandwidth monitor for those 1 percent of customers who are likely to come close to the data cap. Douglas also said that Comcast transparently explains all of its data usage policies, which customers agree to when they sign up. It also describes what it considers to be excessive use.

When Comcast finally cut Vrignaud off for good, he made it known to the world via his blog and contacts. He also figured out that he hit his limit because he uploaded many hundreds of audio CDs and high-resolution pictures to cloud storage accounts. Comcast offered to provide service to him again after he made a lot of noise, but Vrignaud decided to go with rival Qwest/Century Link.

Looking at the larger issue

Vrignaud is trying to gather political and consumer support for his plight, not just from the David vs. Goliath angle, but on whether internet service providers should be allowed to cut people off for overuse. While he is a heavy user, he is also an example of a typical user in the future who will tap a lot of cloud services; at some point, we will all use a lot more bandwidth. He noted that Public Knowledge has asked Comcast why it needs to cut off users for “excessive use” when those users are not themselves directly to blame for network congestion. Uploading data from midnight to 6 am will likely not lead to congestion, but it could still trigger a violation of the data cap. Vrignaud suggested that Comcast charge heavy users an extra $10 or $20 a month to pay for their extra costs.

Related to this is the recent problem that Netflix had: It had to raise the fees it charges users for its disk-based movie service, though it kept the movie-streaming monthly fee unchanged. At some point, will Netflix have to raise that too as bandwidth providers start charging fees to Netflix? If there are fees attached to the new video services based on data usage, then consumers won’t want to use them as much and those new services won’t disrupt the traditional media the way they were intended to do so. That reduces consumer choice, and that is why Vrignaud asked the FCC to look into the matter of data caps.

Hitting Comcast’s cap is not likely for most users, even if they are watching lots of Netflix HD movies. But it’s more of a problem if they are using lots of other cloud services too, Vrignaud says. In any case, Comcast could probably better address the coming data problem by introducing tiered fees, such as charging extra or slowing data delivery if a user exceeds the 250 gigabyte cap.

Comcast has a business version of its data plan, ranging from $65 a month to $395 a month, depending on the speed of data coming into and out of the house. There is no cap for the business users, but the installation fees, hardware leases, and time requirements for that business option aren’t that attractive. Even if Vrignaud wanted to get this option, he can’t, since it is not available to anyone who had been banned from the Comcast consumer service for a year. At least that is what Comcast told him before the media blitz hit. Vrignaud notes that the business versions appears to be just a re-branding of the consumer service, as it uses “high-end networking equipment.” That phrase actually just means a DOCSIS 3.0 modem from Comcast — equipment that Vrignaud already has.

Vrignaud asked six questions of Comcast and Qwest/Century Link. Charlie Douglas, a spokesman for Comcast, responded. Following each Comcast answer, we’ve put Vrignaud’s responses to Comcast, followed by answers to the same questions from Qwest/CenturyLink’s spokeswoman Meg Andrews.

Q&A with Comcast, Vrignaud and Qwest

Q1: Is your bandwidth data cap designed to protect your television distribution business?

Comcast A1:  No. Our number one priority is to help ensure that every customer has a superior Internet service. Consistent with that goal, the data consumption threshold is intended to protect the online experience of the vast majority of our customers whose Internet speeds could be degraded because one or more of their neighbors engage in consistent high-volume Internet downloads and uploads.  The threshold does not affect the online activities of about 99 percent of our residential customers. Our current median residential customer consumption is 6 to 8 gigabytes (GB) of data per month.  The threshold addresses potential problems that can be caused by the exceedingly small percentage of subscribers who engage in very high-volume data consumption (over 250 GB in a calendar month). To put this usage in perspective, 250 GB is the equivalent of: sending 50 million plain text emails; downloading 62,500 songs (173 days worth of music); upload more than 25,000 high-resolution photos; or streaming between about 100 to 800 hours of video (the range depends upon whether you’re streaming studio-quality video or good-quality, standard-definition video, which have different bit rates depending upon the provider.

By way of example, Netflix’s website reports that it offers three video quality settings for consumers, which range from up to 0.3 GB per hour for “good quality” to up to 2.3 GB per hour for “best quality.”

Our customers do, and are free to, use their Internet service for any purpose whatsoever — to stream, download, or upload data — up to the applicable monthly threshold.  Data consumed by all Internet-delivered services, including Internet voice, music, video streaming and download services, and uploading to online cloud storage, count against the usage threshold, including Comcast’s XfinityTV.com, an Internet-delivered service.  Comcast’s cable television service is not delivered over the public Internet (and is paid for by customers separately), so usage does not count against the threshold.  Similarly, if a customer had Comcast’s high-speed Internet service , but chose to subscribe to Verizon’s television service (which is also not delivered over the Internet), that television service would not be counted against the threshold.

Here is Vrignaud’s overall response to Comcast’s answers:

Thank you for Comcast’s responses. Unfortunately, while I appreciate the effort in your writing responses, many of the questions haven’t been answered, or have been answered in an evasive way. I’m familiar with the art of spinning an answer, and am not criticizing you personally. I understand very well how hard these are to answer within the constraints of current company policies. However, I still feel Comcast is being evasive in answering these questions.

I’ll go into more detail below with each answer, but I’ll highlight a few examples here first. (Note that I will also send my responses to any press who request them, and grant them permission to use this letter in part or in whole as they wish.)

One example of an evasive answer is A1. In it Comcast continues to conflate the issues of data congestion (data being slowed) and data overuse (using “too much,” which leads to being cut off per your policies.) These are not the same thing.

Comcast has never adequately explained how cutting a user completely off serves any legitimate purpose. With my highlights below, let me quote a letter sent to the FCC by Public Knowledge:

“In 2008, Comcast drew an explicit distinction between throttling designed to ease network congestion and data caps designed to punish “excessive” users. It is unclear why excessive data use that does not cause network congestion matters to Comcast. It is further unclear how Comcast determined that 250 GB was “excessive” in 2008, and why it has not revised that level in the years since.

In fact, Comcast appears to now be contradicting statements it made to the FCC in the past about its data cap. In 2008, Comcast went to some pains to draw a distinction between congestion management practices such as peak time throttling and “excessive use” policies like data caps:

“These congestion management practices [such as throttling] are independent of, and should not be confused with, our recent announcement that we will amend the ‘excessive use’ portion of our Acceptable Use Policy, effective October 1, 2008, to establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB per account for all residential HIS customers. … That cap does not address the issue of network congestion, which results from traffic levels that vary from minute to minute.”

Yesterday, a Comcast spokesman exhibited just that confusion in defending Comcast’s actions by confidently stating “If someone’s behavior is such that it degrades the quality of service for others nearby – that’s what this threshold is meant to address.”

As Comcast recognized in 2008, but appears to have forgotten recently, data caps are a poor way to deal with network congestion. Uploading 250 GB of data between midnight and 6 am over the course of a month should not strain a network.  However, it could trigger the cap.”

Another example of an evasive answer is A2. The question is “why do you insist on completely cutting off data instead of using other more consumer-friendly options such as charging for overages or slowing internet use?” It remains completely unanswered.
Each of your answers is designed to evade discussion of the key point: Data caps are arbitrary and harm consumers by stifling innovation and choice. And they attempt to obscure the threat data caps pose to consumers. I could go on here, but instead I’ll do so below in response to each answer.

I’ve previously sent Comcast email suggesting policy changes that would address this issue. Only one was a “requirement” in my mind: Comcast would no longer completely disconnect users for “overuse,” and would instead shift their “data cap” policy to throttling or some other method after passing a certain point if required. (Note that “data cap” is in quotes, because data would not be cut off — it would be throttled or shaped.) Out of everything, this is the single biggest change you could make to address this issue in a positive manner, and I hope you will continue to consider it.

Here’s Vrignaud’s specific response to A1: As previously stated, this answer is evasive, and conflates the two separate issues of congestion and “overuse” of data. It doesn’t explain why the use of data in off-peak hours (such as between Midnight and 6 a.m.) has any impact whatsoever on the experience of the majority of your customers. It also ignores suggestions previously sent to you in email including charging for overages, throttling after reaching a certain point (i.e., in a manner different from your Bittorrent disconnecting history), and exposing your bandwidth meter applications programming interfaces that allow partners such as Carbonite and Amazon to utilize your network at low-data usage times.

In addition, It does not address at all the new wave of legitimate cloud services such as Dropbox, Carbonite, Mozy, Amazon’s Cloud Music Player, etc — all of which are distinguished from your examples by the use of significant amounts of ongoing upstream bandwidth. It also doesn’t point out that a subscriber to your Xfinity Extreme 105 plan using these same services could hypothetically hit your 250 GB data cap in five hours and be cut off.

Finally, your distinction of Comcast’s cable television service not being delivered over the “public” internet is also evasive. While Comcast may have a completely separate, second backbone set up just for cable television, it’s much more likely you send all data (cable television and broadband internet) over the same fiber backbone networks (including peering agreements you have with partners) and split it at your headends. More importantly, your answer does not address the fact that cutting off data on the “public” internet threatens new, competitive services such as Netflix that deliver services comparable to your existing cable television business.

Qwest/CenturyLink A1: Our excessive use policy is in place to ensure that our high-speed Internet network is being used in ways for which it was designed in order to deliver an optimal Internet experience for all of our high-speed internet customers. CenturyLink offers broadband products designed to accommodate normal residential and small-business data usage, and high-end data products to accommodate commercial data usage (that of an enterprise customer).

We do not currently offer Prism (IPTV) in legacy Qwest markets; our excessive use policy is in place to ensure that our high-speed Internet network is being used in ways for which it was designed in order to deliver an optimal Internet experience for our customers.

Because we are a customer-focused company, CenturyLink works closely with customers who have been identified as excessive users in order to give them every opportunity to either reduce their usage or migrate to an alternative high-speed Internet service that better suits their broadband needs, such as one of CenturyLink’s commercial-grade Internet services.

Q2: If not protective of your television distribution business, why do you insist on completely cutting off data instead of using other more consumer-friendly options such as charging for overages or slowing internet use?

Comcast A2: Our goal is to meet the needs of our residential Xfinity Internet customers as they evolve.  While we do not currently offer a residential service with a monthly data allotment greater than 250 GB, we do recognize the Internet – and the uses our customers make of it – is constantly changing.  That’s why we regularly evaluate whether our usage policies are serving our customers.  We listen to this feedback, and, just as we introduce greater speeds when we think the market demands them, so too are we open to considering future products with higher bandwidth thresholds as the market demands them.

Vrignaud A2: Again, the question is “why do you insist on completely cutting off data instead of using other more consumer-friendly options such as charging for overages or slowing internet use?” It is completely unanswered here.
In addition, you now have significant feedback telling you that cutting someone off from the internet entirely is not acceptable. I’m sure you’ve seen the ongoing press coverage. It’s nice to hear you listen to feedback, but beyond not answering the core question, why doesn’t this answer explain how you are changing your policies based on this feedback?

Qwest/CenturyLink A2: CenturyLink does not currently offer Prism or iPTV in legacy Qwest markets

Q3: What ISP-offered services are excluded from the cap?  Specifically, are your voice telephony and video programming services excluded?  If so, why doesn’t your data cap apply to data consumed when watching television or making a phone call?

Comcast A3: All data that travels over the public Internet on our Xfinity Internet service (including data sent by one Xfinity Internet customer to another) counts against the threshold, regardless of the source.  We do not discriminate between Internet-based services that are affiliated with Comcast and those that are not, when our customers access them using their Xfinity Internet service.  Our affiliated services are treated exactly the same as any other Internet usage for purposes of the policy.  For example, all Internet-based video streaming and download services, including Comcast’s Internet-delivered XfinityTV.com, are included in the calculation of monthly usage.

Comcast also provides cable television and voice services that are not delivered over the public Internet, are not received using Xfinity Internet service, and are paid for separately by our customers.  That data is not counted toward the threshold.  These services operate on a separately managed part of the network, so the use of these services does not impact the Internet service of other customers in a neighborhood.  It is important to note that Comcast’s voice service, which is delivered in an IP format, is delivered over Comcast’s managed network, not the public Internet – in other words, a Comcast voice service customer need not be an Xfinity Internet customer.  Here is a related example: If a customer had Comcast’s Xfinity Internet service, but chose to receive Verizon’s television service (which is also not delivered over the Internet), their use of Verizon TV’s service would not be counted toward the threshold.

Vrignaud A3: As previously stated in A1, the distinction of Comcast’s “public” and “private” networks is odd. It’s a semantic distinction trying to obscure the fact that data from different services often flows on the same networks, eventually being split out and delivered by the same, single wire that flows into a customer’s house. The world is moving toward Internet Protocol (IP), and as you state above, you already deliver phone service via IP. You’ve also started TV over IP trials, and are likely aiming to send all data (television, phone, broadband) over fiber IP networks in the future.

In addition, you use the following carefully chosen example of Verizon’s television service as not being delivered over the internet:

If a customer had Comcast’s Xfinity Internet service, but chose to receive Verizon’s television service (which is also not delivered over the Internet), their use of Verizon TV’s service would not be counted toward the threshold.

As the Wall Street Journal article linked to above says:

“Others are moving in the same direction. Many major pay-TV providers, including DirecTV, use IP to deliver on-demand video. Cablevision Systems Corp., Verizon Communications Inc.’s FiOS and Time Warner Cable Inc. use it to deliver live video to tablets to subscribers in their homes. AT&T Inc. delivers its U-Verse video service entirely over IP.”

“The new technology could enable Comcast to deliver video service to any customer with an Internet connection, regardless of whether they live in an area covered by Comcast’s cable system. A move to do so would shake up the pay-TV market, where cable systems largely operate in separate regions of the country, known as “footprints.”

What happens when AT&T attempts to try to deliver their U-Verse video service (already entirely over IP) to one of your customers via the “public” internet service you provide? Per your answer to this question, that data would count against your data cap, and just as that data cap threatens services such as Netflix, so it would potentially block a potential competitor such as AT&T from offering competitive choices of services to your customers.

Qwest/CenturyLink A3: Since Internet use continues to evolve and grow, the definition of “excessive use” continually changes, which is why CenturyLink does not currently set a specific number that defines excessive use. However, we do reserve the right to manage our network with respect to the effects of excessive use. This is articulated in our (legacy Qwest) high-speed internet subscriber agreement (available on centurylink.com):

The High-Speed Internet Subscriber Service Agreement does require customers to agree to not use the service for high volume or excessive use. We currently identify excessive use when high-speed Internet customers use hundreds of times the normal use of the service – crossing into commercial-grade usage – and who are outside the terms of the High-Speed Internet Subscriber Service Agreement.

Q4: How are your data caps set?  What data informed that decision?  Why do different ISPs have different data caps when using similar networks and distribution technology?

Comcast A4: We can only speak for ourselves, not for other ISPs.  In 2008, we established a 250 GB per month threshold that was reasonable and fair to high-volume users, and would help us to ensure that all of our high-speed Internet customers would have a superior online experience.  We determined then that this threshold would affect an exceedingly small percentage of our residential customers.  Today, that is still the case.  We will continue to monitor whether our threshold remains fair and reasonable as Internet usage evolves.

Vrignaud A4: This answer does not answer what data was evaluated and the process in which the data cap was set. It also avoids discussion around why data caps between broadband providers are so different, even when using similar networks and distribution technology. The reason that’s important is that it highlights the inconsistencies in logic in setting these data caps if different providers can’t even land on similar values, reasons or justifications industry-wide.

Qwest/CenturyLink A4: We do not currently have data caps. CenturyLink works closely with customers who have been identified as excessive user customers in order to give them every opportunity to either reduce their usage or migrate to another plan.

For perspective, in any given month, less than 0.002 percent (~50 customers) of customers in legacy Qwest markets violate this excessive use standard. This small group of customers is on the extreme margin, downloading hundreds of times the amount of data compared to a normal customer – crossing into commercial-grade usage.

To help illustrate “excessive use,” transfer data may be considered equivalent to: Unique e-mails per month: 15+ million; photo downloads per month of 300,000 to 500,000; or streaming 1,000 to 3,000 30-minute TV shows per month.

We have a very large number of customers using Netflix, Dropbox, Carbonite and Amazon’s Music Cloud Drive and, as I mentioned before, less than 0.002 percent (about 50 customers) of customers in legacy Qwest markets violate this excessive use standard in any given month. More specifically, even if you streamed 48 TV shows (30 mins each) a day on Netflix – every day of the month – you wouldn’t run into an issue.

Q5: How are your data caps evaluated on an ongoing basis?  What customer input do you seek?  What are the conditions under which those caps could be raised and/or eliminated?

Comcast A5:  We recognize that Internet usage patterns are constantly evolving, and we regularly evaluate what policy changes we should make in order to best serve the vast majority our customers.  That is always our first and primary focus.  We regularly evaluate our products, review traffic and top usage volume and patterns, and conduct focus groups and surveys with our customers—all of this work factors into the decisions we make about what products and services to offer, including speeds tiers, usage thresholds, and other components of our service.

We provide a Data Usage Meter to help consumers keep track of their usage, even though the threshold affects only a tiny percentage of users – in fact, only about 1% of our customers exceed the limit in a month.  And when we contact customers who have exceeded the limit, we have found instances when the high-volume use is unintentional (e.g., a bot has infected their computer and forces it to send data at all hours, or someone is using their unsecured WiFi connection without their knowledge.)  These are situations that can be resolved.

Vrignaud A5:  I will give partial credit to this answer, as you state how you evaluate usage, volume, and conduct focus groups and surveys with customers. However, it doesn’t address this original question at all: “What are the conditions under which those caps could be raised and/or eliminated?” It also doesn’t provide transparency. Per my earlier email to Comcast, I made a recommendation around being more transparent. I quote that section below:

A second issue is the lack of transparency and change in the current data cap policy. As you know, the current policy was set without customer or industry feedback three years ago, and doesn’t reflect the reality of internet use today. While my data use may have been significant, the “upload to the cloud” scenarios that put me over the top are understandable. And as your own internal data no doubt shows, more and more people are going to hit this cap over time. So the second point I would suggest is that Comcast agrees to review the “data cap” yearly, with an advisory group that consists of a mix of people from places such as tech blogs, small businesses, college students, etc. I’d also be happy to donate time and support this council as well. You’d buy some pizza, show data about how many people are hitting the cap, have a conversation for a few hours about changes in the industry, new technologies to consider (OnLive is a great example), and listen to the advisory groups input. Then you’d publish updated limits advised by that input each year. (Note that “data cap” is in quotes, because based on the previous point, data would not be cut off – it would be throttled or shaped.)

A second issue with this answer is that the Bandwidth Meter currently provided is very limited and/or broken. It simply doesn’t appear on the website at all for many people (myself included), and doesn’t give any real information about what is consuming data (types of traffic, upload vs. download data, etc.) Below is another snippet from that email I sent to Comcast:

A third point would be that Comcast would commit to exploring why many users cannot see their bandwidth meter online (including myself), and work to address it. Related, I might suggest that you also say that you are “exploring” exposing bandwidth meter APIs to software developers so they can better help their customers manage their bandwidth before they get slowed (not cut off). As a specific example, Carbonite or Amazon could implement these APIs, and with the user’s permission, check the meter daily and stop uploading at a certain point until the clock is reset the next month. I would not insist on the API point, but I do believe it’s an opportunity for Comcast to show you’re working to make things better here.

I would add after the fact that implementing a bandwidth API could also allow Comcast to offer a “Comcast Certified” logo to companies such as Amazon and Carbonite. If those companies implemented your APIs, they’d be allowed to state that use of their uploading tools would not count against your data consumption as they’d work with you to send that data at off-peak, or non-congested hours (such as from midnight to 6 a.m.).

Qwest/CenturyLink A5: Per your example, internet use continues to evolve in terms of the types of activities for which people use their high-speed internet service. That is why, at this time, we do not currently specify a hard and fast number that defines excessive use.

Our excessive use policy is designed to ensure that our high-speed internet network is being used as it was designed in order to deliver the most optimal Internet experience; however, if we enforced the same 250 GB/month usage threshold you mentioned with your previous provider, the number of customers who violate would be 20 times more than it is now!

I want to be clear, when a customer crosses the line we’ll work with them vs. cutting them off. Our process includes up to two electronic notifications via a walled garden message and three letters to those customers identified as an excessive use customer per the terms of their subscriber agreement.

These customers are given direct phone numbers to contact a specialized engineering team that works to assist the customers in either reducing their usage or migrating to an alternative broadband product. In other words, if we get to that point we will work with you first rather than cut you off.

As demand for Internet capacity grows, ISPs will face increasing pressure to lower caps or charge usage-based fees, as certain wireless carriers have started to do. And because the FCC’s Open Internet rules largely require ISPs to recover all network costs from end users instead of content providers, regardless of whether those providers are willing to pay some of the cost for delivering content to their customers, it may be necessary that consumers pay for capacity, regardless of the volume they use. Accordingly, as the costs that must be recovered from end users grow to meet rapidly escalating demands, it may be more fair — perhaps even necessary — to ask all to pay for what they consume.

Q6: Do you practice selective enforcement of data caps?  (Many ISP users report being over their supposed limits for months in a row without action.)

Comcast A6:  We seek to be reasonable, fair and transparent with our customers – and we always invite suggestions on how to improve.

While our policy places a data limit of 250 GB per month, we do not contact every customer who exceeds the threshold.  Customers have the benefit of the Data Usage Meter, and can take steps themselves to monitor or, if necessary, moderate their usage, or call us for help.  In practice, we strive to affect the fewest number of customers possible while taking steps necessary to maintain a great experience for all of our customers.

We contact customers who have repeatedly exceeded the threshold in geographic areas where those excessive users are, or could, negatively impact the experience of other customers in their area.  We inform them of the issue, discuss the policy with them, and work with them to moderate their usage.  In our experience, when we contact customers who have exceeded the limit, nearly nine out of ten voluntarily moderate their usage.  The small minority of customers who, despite our efforts to inform and help them, exceed the threshold for a second time in a six-month interval, may have their service suspended for a year.  Our goal is always to work with a customer to address the issue, and it is only in the rare circumstance that a customer does not moderate usage to comply with the policy that we take these steps.

Vrignaud A6: Another partial credit answer. I appreciate that for the first time you disclose that you do selectively enforce your data caps. However, the problem with that approach is that you cast a chilling effect on the use of your service.
Many broadband customers have reached out to me after this whole situation became public. And they’re afraid. Some are concerned because they can envision hitting the caps using cloud services such as I did. Some are concerned because they fear what might happen to competitive services they love such as Netflix and Hulu. And some are afraid because they regularly exceed the cap but aren’t contacted, and they just don’t know what’s real or not, and fear the axe.

The answer of “go use our business class service without data caps” isn’t really a legitimate one. For one, your current policy is to not allow a customer to use the business class service if they’ve been cut off from the consumer class service for data overage. Secondly, it’s a bit odd that you conflate “congestion” and “overuse” as an issue in earlier answers, but don’t address how using a business class account on exactly the same network and line into the home suddenly uses “less.” It doesn’t — if I’d suddenly switched to being a business class customer I’d have been using the same network, line, and DOCSIS 3.0 modem, but would suddenly not be considered to be somehow impacting my neighbors—solely because I was paying more, and not because of any structural changes.

Qwest/CenturyLink A6: As previously mentioned, we do not currently have data caps. As you know, CenturyLink recently completed its acquisition of Qwest Communications.  We are currently reviewing each company’s policy to determine the approach for the combined company.  In the interim, we are maintaining the broadband usage policies in place for each company and its legacy territories.