Tag Archives | Comcast

Comcast to Debut Bandwidth Usage Tracking Tool

comcast_c2DSL Reports says Comcast sources are saying the cable provider is set to begin offering subscribers a method to track their bandwidth usage through the company’s online account management tool. The company had previously implemented a 250GB cap in October after mulling a limit for almost a half a year.

Data would not be delayed three hours, although it would have the ability to store up to three months of usage history and provide data on multiple MAC addresses (cable modems).

Comcast is not commenting on DSL Reports’ claims, only saying that it is “currently evaluating this service” according to BetaNews.

The cable provider has recently gotten much more heavy handed with its bandwidth management. It now is terminating chronically heavy users,  sending them a letter informing them of their usage and blocking their accounts.

However, up until October there wasn’t an official limit, and these letters did not indicate how much bandwidth the guilty party was using.

Head on over to DSL Reports (link above) for as screenshot of this new functionality in action, set to debut in January .


The Big DVR in the Sky: Good News For You and Me?

Here’s a major development in a tech legal tussle I wasn’t even following: The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that it’s okay for Comcast to offer a digital video recorder service in which the DVRing is all done at its facilities and delivered over the cable system–rather than via a box with a hard drive inside it in the consumer’s living room, which is how DVRs have worked since the dawn of TiVo and ReplayTV.

Media companies had sued to prevent this form of networked digital recording, fearing that it would make DVRs more pervasive, and therefore increase the odds that TV watchers will skip the ads that pay for their content.

Over at Barrons, Eric Savitz has a good post on the implications of today’s ruling. It’s obviously good news for Comcast and bad news for the media companies who had hoped to prevent it from offering this technology. Eric says it’s also a bummer for DirecTV and Dish Network, since there’s no way to deliver networked DVR functionality via satellite. I imagine that TiVo isn’t thrilled with the ruling, either–anything that helps make DVRs provded by cable companies more popular presumably hurts the sales of the box that’s still synonymous with “DVR.”

Mostly, though, I’m wondering: Should consumers be pleased with this ruling?

One benefit seems to be obvious: If Comcast can put the DVR at its end of the network, it should be able to let its customes sign up for DVR service without having to swap a non-DVR cable box for a new one. It should also allow folks with multiple cable boxes in their homes to get access to their recorded TV from any TV set.

I’m not enough of a cable-TV technology guru to know whether a cable box will be required at all to get access to a networked DVR. I’d like to think that a TV set with a CableCard would be up to the task, but I assume that it will require the elusive piece of technology known as the two-way CableCard.

If any of this happens, it would be pleasant but far from earthshaking. But centralizing the DVR would also open up the possibility of letting people get access to their recorded TV from any PC or phone with an Internet connection–in other words, providing the functionality of Sling Media’s wonderful SlingBox without requiring the SlingBox. You might even be able to get at your shows from any TV with Comcast service.

That would be neat. I’m not holding my breath that we’ll see it anytime soon, though–and even when it does show up, I suspect it might be in a form that’s nowhere near as usable and lovable as the TiVo/SlingBox combo I’ve been using for awhile to watch my favorite programs anywhere at any time. (I haven’t used Comcast’s current DVR box, but as far as  can tell, you can divvy its users up into two groups: Those who find it adequate, and those who can’t stand it.)

Of course, as a Court of Appeals ruling, this decision is subject to further change. It may be a long while before Comcast or any other cable company gets to put DVRs in the cloud. But to answer the question I asked a few paragraphs ago, I hope that they do–I can’t see any way that such a technology would be anything but a happy development for consumers. (Unless you take the “If consumers skip past all commercials, advertising, and therefore advertising-supported TV, will go away” scenario into account, which you probably should–but that’s a subject for another post…)