Apparently, Comcast has moved ahead with their infamous Comcast broadband cap and provided a Comcast broadband cap tool so that Comcast subscribers can see what they are using.

To be clear, my comments/opinions will reference Comcast but this is not meant to single out Comcast. I’ll just use Comcast since it is more succinct to use than the mouthful facilities-based Internet egress broadband provider which is often conflated with the term ISP. What I am saying applies across the board to all service providers going down this cap path.


Hi Future Man. Welcome to 1996. Here’s an AOL diskette with 20 FREE HOURS.

I stand by my comments during the recent TelcoTV panel “Dumb Pipe Strategy” at TelcoTV 2009 in Orlando. We had a very packed house for that panel. In a nutshell, my point was that any attempt to widely push this notion of a cap against a subscriber base is foolish — the tools that the industry vendor ecosystem is providing simply do not address the use case scenarios we are going to see from connected products. We are moving to a set and forget world of simplicity.

This is almost as ham fisted as the ubiquitous “Check Your Online Time” from the days of POTS dialup. That failed miserably as well when broadband arrived as an always on service. Why? It’s simple. It is not natural consumer behavior to launch another web page and sign in to see what you’ve actually used.

Furthermore, the analog dialup world analogy falls apart since we’re not dealing with nailing up circuits for dialup. Remember, this is the same Comcast shouting about how great DOCSIS3 is. The feedback already arriving as comments on the Comcast blog are very telling. Expect this to explode in Comcast’s face somewhere, sometime, someplace soon. As one comment puts it, Comcast is essentially promising a super fuel rocket car service that will allow you to run the ¼ mile… but crash into a wall of overage charges without a parachute. Sounds awesome.

The team within Comcast that is responsible for this cap needs to accept two facts:

1) A cap, while potentially a very profitable endeavor, sets an adversarial tone with subscribers much like those banking fees we read more about in the news in the wake of financial scandal. (see also: too soon?)

2) Subscribers will not accept (with a long term ARPU view) any ham-fisted iterations of a “cap” or a “bucket” or “tokens” unless it is a seamless and consistently pervasive part of the service. (see also: backlash)[

In short, Comcast needs to go back and put on their thinking caps with the internal project and not foist the alpha against all subscribers. The best practice would be to stick with friendlies —– not employees —– and gather feedback that is published for all subscribers so that everyone knows what is happening around them. Yes, that’s right. There should be a real time updated dashboard of the network utilization showing all their subscribers at the street, local, city, and aggregate view supplied if they really want subscribers to know that “we are all in this together”. If you’ve ever shopped or been a part of a mutual, membership, or a co-op you’ll know that sounds familiar. Comcast better have their playbook ready because you can bet the vocal opposition to the cap isn’t going to sit idle.

Granted, I actually think caps, once all the use case scenarios and vendors come together to support it properly, will have a place. However, it’s not the one Comcast is ready to accept and not the one they are chasing now — see my blockquote above — but it is one that is highly disruptive.

[and I’ll walk you to the side of your house to watch the power meter spinning with cryptic gauges that mean very little to most people.

Finally, Comcast has to be willing to accept a type of subscriber they do not have today. Comcast has to service any subscriber that desires a cap because for the 5 months that they don’t use the service out of 12, they get a bill for $0.00 dollars. Think about that one for a moment. It’s not that crazy an idea. As it stands today, the meter is running — but it isn’t running properly.