Man exceeds Comcast's bandwidth limit, gets banned

Man exceeds Comcast's bandwidth limit, gets banned »Play Video
SEATTLE -- Andre Vrignaud admits to using a lot of Internet bandwidth. That is until Comcast, his Internet service provider, cut him off for using too much bandwidth. Now he's been banned for one full year from Comcast as a penalty.

His story maybe a sign of things to come as Internet service providers wrestle with customers using more bandwidth to take advantage of the ever increase cloud services being promoted by tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon and Apple.

Vrignaud is not a newbie Internet user. Inside his Montlake neighborhood home, he has multiple Xboxes, Playstations and Wii gaming consoles. He has streaming music devices, and streams Netflix movies on his HDTV. He has multiple computers, roommates with their own digital devices and even a bathroom scale that all connect to the Internet. He also admits to having an open Wi-Fi network that lets anyone connect to the Internet that's within range of his home's Wi-Fi signal.

But he says all those bandwidth-intense devices aren't what got him into trouble with Comcast. It was when he began to take advantage of all the new digital cloud services, which allow him to back up nearly every digital file he has for very little money, that led to the disconnect.

"I never got a call from Comcast. I never got an e-mail. I just got cut off," he said.

For the last eight years, Vrignaud had been a happy customer with Comcast. He says he never had a problem with the standard residential Internet service he was paying nearly $50 a month to receive.

But he recently took advantage of a promotion to upload his entire music collection into Amazon's digital cloud service and another promotion that let him back up his system's hard drive using a service called Carbonite he says got him in trouble with Comcast.

"I was doing what these services are all about, and I got cut off. I exceeded Comcast's 250-gigabyte limit," said Vrignaud.

It wasn't the first time. Months earlier, Comcast turned off his Internet because he had exceeded 250-gigabyte transfer limit policy that Comcast has had in place since 2008. The limit is part of the terms of service every residential Internet customer agrees to in order to get Comcast Internet.

"I'll admit I may be at fault for not following my usage, but Internet service providers are constantly promoting the big download speeds" said Vrignaud. "They are not updating their usage limits reflecting these services available on the Internet."

But what frustrates Vrignaud even more is what he calls Comcast's inflexible policies that prevent him for paying for the extra bandwidth he uses. Comcast is the only cable company that offers high bandwidth Internet to his neighborhood. There are DSL providers, but Vrignaud believes they don't offer the bandwidth that cable provides.

Comcast does offer a business plan that cost more money but there is no limit to the amount of data a user can upload or download. Unfortunately, Vrignaud does not meet the requirements set by Comcast as a business.

"But even if I became a business, I still couldn't get Internet service because I've been banned for a year," said Vrignaud.

Comcast's excessive use policy clearly states: "If you exceed 250 gigabyte again within six months of the first contact, your service will be subject to termination and you will not be eligible for either residential or commercial Internet service for twelve (12) months."

"So I'm caught in a strange limbo," said Vrignaud.

A spokesman for Comcast in Seattle said Vrignaud is not a typical customer.

"More than 99 percent of our customers do not even come close to using 250 gigabyte of data in a month," said Steve Kipp, vice president of communications for Comcast's Washington Region in a written statement.

"Nationwide, our customers' median use is four to six gigabytes a month. We offer online tools, including a bandwidth meter to help customers manage their data usage. And we clearly explain all of our policies on our website and terms of service," said Kipp.

Vrignaud thinks he will be a test case for Comcast. He believes Internet service should be treated like a utility -- the more one uses, the more one pays.

"There's no reason why they need to cut me off completely," said Vrignaud.

Vrignaud is currently looking for an alternative to Comcast. He is also getting Internet service to his home, thanks to a kind neighbor. A Wi-Fi antenna in his window allows him to tap into an Internet signal coming a neighbor's house.