Comcast Filtering-For-Profit: A Three-Phase Plan to 'Right-Size' Consumer Bandwidth

Maximum PC Staff

Maximum PC intercepted the following memorandum from a high-level Comcast executive to the company’s Board of Directors. We suggest you read it once, and then immediately delete all traces of this text from your PC. This is seriously twisted stuff.


Date: October 6, 2007
To: Comcast Board of Directors
From: Alexis Luthoré, COO, Comcast Internet Services
Subject: Bandwidth Filtering; next plans of attack

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board,

You're undoubtedly aware of the brouhaha growing over our new traffic filtering software. By limiting the traffic of heavy users, we’re improving performance for the majority of our customer base, while protecting our bottom line. The complainers are upset because our methods forge packets that appear to originate from the user; in effect we pretend we’re the user, then transparently disconnect them from the offending services. It also seems we’ve been inadvertently filtering other, more legitimate applications as well. To offset the extreme financial liability of impending litigation by the offended parties, I propose further cost-saving measures. It’s all wrapped up in a simple, easy-to-implement, three-phase plan that should solve all our problems. We've recruited Hollywood legend Christopher Walken to help us introduce our customers to the "Comcast Happy Bandwidth Initiative" on its November 15 launch.

Phase One: Cap Unlimited Bandwidth
We need to establish reasonable bandwidth limits, especially among our greediest customers. By capping our generous unlimited plans with a 150GB Monthly Usage Limit (or MUL), we can minimize the impact of the our most rapacious users—the so-called “outliers”—on our bottom line. Typical users should never notice the MUL, ensuring that the vast amounts of revenue we exact from them remains intact. (After all, unlimited bandwidth only feels “unlimited” once you begin to thoughtlessly consume more than your fair share.)

Phase Two: Good Citizen Incentives
Phase two hinges on the rollout of a new Comcast toolbar. In addition to tracking our users' web surfing habits and favorite pornographic sites, this toolbar also alerts customers before they download any file larger than 75KB. A helpful pop-up bearing the question “Are you sure you really meant to do that?” appears, and if the user does the right thing, and opts out of his bandwidth-intensive download, he’ll be greeted by a clever multimedia ad unit for a free webcam. The Happy Bandwidth Initiative team will be using the webcams to track user eye movements, allowing our research department to identify the content that users enjoy most, so that we can charge them a modest premium to access these high-traffic pages. The toolbar will be a mandatory download for all of our customers.

Phase Three: Pay More for Popular Protocols
Our current pricing structure is needlessly oversimplified. Even the dimmest mouth-breathers understand that “faster” connection speeds are “better,” and it’s currently much too easy for customers to determine exactly what level of service they need. Users can immediately tell whether they should drop to a less expensive plan, or if the features of the higher-priced plan give them real benefits. You'll all agree that this policy has a negative impact on our revenue picture and long-term profit forecasts.

To fix this problem, we propose shifting to a per-protocol pricing structure. By implementing a sliding-scale pricing structure based on the popularity of various protocols, we can ensure that every customer pays for his or her fair share. For example, telnet makes up just 0.0001% of overall network traffic, so users who subscribe to our telnet service will pay a relatively minor $0.02/month fee for access. More popular protocols, such as HTTP and BitTorrent, will cost more. We’ve run some numbers, and are projecting that the average monthly fees for users of mainstream protocols would range between $10/month and $3,275/month.

BitTorrent, in particular, represents a large potential revenue stream. Modeling out the current traffic of customers who use BitTorrent to "download the latest version of Linux," we are looking at a minimum monthly spend of $135. More enthusiastic users would pay between $25 and $3,275 monthly to download their regular faire of what we must assume are license-free movies and music--which are all really quite entertaining. No, they really are. There’s some really good copyright-free content out there. Seriously.

In closing, we of Comcast Internet Services believe the Comcast Happy Bandwidth Initiative is a modest proposal that exposes us to virtually no liability, while promising exponential returns in revenue. We happily await the Board’s comments on this plan.

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