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How Much Usage Does an Internet User Usually Use?

The headline above doesn’t strictly parse, but it still points to an interesting question. In a world where the argument for flat-fee broadband is fought regularly in the public forums of tech blogs and Twitter, where does actual Internet usage stack up? Jeff Baumgartner is finding out as part of Comcast’s trial of its new bandwidth meter tool. He’s got the new bit counter up and running, and was (I’m speculating) hoping for a spiking graph to show off his geek cred. Despite streaming the final season of the The Wire in February, however, Jeff didn’t even break 1 GB of usage. He did push up to 6 GB last December, but even that mark barely registered under Comcast’s 250 GB monthly cap.

So is a cap really a cap if nobody reaches it?

I’m very curious to see more data as the Comcast bandwidth meter rolls out to more markets. Currently it’s in the Denver area, parts of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Utah. Will my own usage register? I work from a home office quite often and regularly stream Slacker music stations. However, my online video watching isn’t extensive.

The main argument against bandwidth caps is that they don’t allow room for innovation. But using Jeff as an example, there’s a pretty big space between 6 GB and 250 GB. Perhaps online gaming would create a significant spike, but we’re short on data for the moment.

Meanwhile, if we do see consumers start to run up against caps more frequently, I imagine we’ll also see further advances in offline media caching and compression, and a lot more discipline in locking down open Wi-Fi networks.

Cheers to bit counters, and to the data they’ll bring us.

9 Responses

  1. Welcome to the new lame-o-meter. Guess it shows I still watch most of my video the old way. But my kiddos may be helping us lift the bar a bit pretty soon. And it goes without saying that they are much cooler than I am. Jeff

  2. The final season of The Wire is 4 DVDs. That’s a minimum of 2 gigs of HD streaming, which makes me think the measurements of usage are off.

    My wife and I use 2 gigs a week just using facebook and youtube. When we use Netflix’s instant view or I’m playing an online game our usage can spike up to 20 gigs a month. It was really quite shocking how quickly we could eat up the bandwidth without noticing.

    Out current limit is 50 gigs, so it isn’t a big concern, yet.

  3. The streaming total also depends on the bit rate required for the Comcast Fancast offering…i’m guessing it’s alot less that the numbers you’re suggesting for HD streaming, but i’ll keep my eyes on the meter to see how my totals fluctuate. But i was pretty surprised to see where things have been the last 3 months.

  4. You might try checking your meter, then going to Hulu, watch an hour show in full HD, then check the meter again after it updates (the next day or whenever)

    I’d be curious if it picks up the HD…an hour of Hulu HD should be about 2 GB

    • I watched a couple of HD On Networks video segments via the Blu-ray player, roughly 12 min each, yesterday… looks like i’m at 4GB for the month. but i’ll try a little experiment tonight and see where i end up. JB

  5. If you’re a Comcast customer watching Comcast’s Fancast content, wouldn’t it make sense that they wouldn’t charge you for the bandwidth, or at least charge some sort of reduced amount? I mean, I know that there is still a server that has to spring into action somewhere, and that there’s a cost associated with getting the data from said server to the end user, but the same could be said about On Demand content, which is “free”.

    Am I missing something here?

  6. Vince- Comcast can’t prioritize its own content over another provider’s. Everything has to count toward the bandwidth cap or you’ve got anti-competitive behavior. VOD, on the other hand is a service consumers are paying for. They’re not just paying for the pipe in that case, but the specific content. And from a technical standpoint, cablecos are using a different section of their pipes to deliver VOD than they are to deliver Internet access.

  7. well, we’re at 15GB for the month thus far, so that sounds about right. But i will note that my youngest was home sick yesteray and spent a couple hours streaming kids stuff on netflix 😉

  8. My wife and I watch Netflix via an Xbox 360 and have one laptop computer and we are always over 200 GB a month (this month we are already at 232 with 6 days left to go!

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