Comcast has flipped the test switch on a broadband meter that actually tells customers how much bandwidth they're using before they reach the company's 250GB-a-month bandwidth cap.
This morning, the US cable giant announced a pilot launch of the web-based meter in Portland, Oregon, saying it would reach the rest of the country "after a short period."
According to Comcast, the meter measures all data streaming over a user's cable modem. "So, if a customer is using multiple computers and other devices, such as an online gaming console, 'over the net' VoIP applications or devices, or additional wireless devices (such as an iPod Touch), the meter will report data usage for all of those computers and devices combined."
On October 1, 2008, under pressure from the FCC over its surreptitious BitTorrent busting, the US cableco said that it would cap each user's monthly broadband usage at 250GB. The cap is considerably higher than those rolled out by competitors, but many complained there was no way for consumers to know when they were approaching the limit.
Under current policy, Comcast phones customers after they exceed the cap, and if they exceed it again within six months, their accounts are subject to termination.
In the weeks following the rollout of the new cap, a Comcast insider said a user-readable meter would arrive in January 2009. But that didn't happen. And it continued to not happen for 11 months.
But a trial is now underway. Portland users can access the meter by logging into Comcast's online customer center at customer.comcast.com and selecting the “Users and Settings” tab. The "view details" button in the top right hand corner of the screen then takes you to the meter page.
It is refreshed every three hours or so, but it will eventually measure usage for the past three months. ®