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Pilot test launch begins in the Portland, Oregon area with plans for a nationwide system soon thereafter, and though monthly data cap will be 250GB its own chief tchincal officer has pointed out that their costs are fixed, their networks are engineered for the peak hour, and that it costs a measly average of $6.85 per home to double the Internet capacity of an entire neighborhood.Comcast is the latest and greatest ISP to take up monthly data caps under the guise of making customers pair their so-called fair share for network traffic consumption. For yesterday it announced the pilot market launch of its data usage meter in the Portland, Oregon area.“After a short period, we’ll roll it out nationally,” says Jason Livingood, Executive Director of Comcast’s Internet Systems. “It’s designed to be simple and easy to use and will help customers better understand how much data they consume in a month.”It had first amended its Acceptable Use Policy to establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB/month for residential customers last October, but had not begun testing out a formal data usage meter for them to monitor until now.“250 GB/month is an extremely large amount of data, much more than a typical residential customer uses on a monthly basis,” Comcast said at the time. “Currently, the median monthly data usage by our residential customers is approximately 2 – 3 GB.”It also pointed out that it still allows for the following:Send 50 million emailsDownload 62,500 songsDownload 178.5 700MB .XVID movies and shared to a 1:1 ratioSo it’s not all doom and gloom.ISP Time Warner began data cap trials in Beaumont, TX last June and had planned to do the same for additional markets in Texas, New York, and North Carolina until objections from consumers and some legislators prompted it to change its mind.Why? Reports pointed to $15 for up to 1GB a month of bandwidth, $29.95 for 5GB, $54.90 for up to 40GB, and an undisclosed amount for up to 100GB. The first package means you could never watch a movie online. Period.So long as Comcast stays true to a firm 250GB data cap customers shouldn’t have any problems, but unfortunately a firm usage meter could give rise to other types of billing. It could theoretically charge more for different types of protocols or for peak usage traffic like cellphones. It could also gradually throttle the cap to a lower amount being that it says median usage is around a measly 3GB.The real problem with all of this is that ISPs are still making profits while investment in network equipment is decreasing, and although some customers may use more bandwidth then others the networks are constantly being upgraded to handle peak network congestion hours.“All of our economics are based on engineering for the peak hour,” said none other than Tony Werner, Comcast’s very own chief technical officer this past April. “Just because someone consumes more data doesn’t mean they drive more cost.”Additionally, the equipment necessary to expand network capacity is decreasing all the time as technology improves. Comcast also told investors back in April that it only costs around $6.85 per home to DOUBLE the bandwidth capacity of an entire neighborhood. Think about how much your broadband connection costs each month and then stop to consider that your ISP is concerned over a measly seven bucks!It also told investors that the equipment necessary to provide 50Mbps costs less than it had paid for the 6Mbps equipment.For comparison, Comcast offers a 50Mb p/sec connection for $139 p/mo while JCom, Japan’s largest ISP, offers a 160Mb p/sec connection for only $60 a month!I fear that data caps are nothing more than an attempt by ISPs to turn dumb, fixed fee “pipes” into lucrative, per MB content delivery systems, especially as consumers turn more and more to the Internet for entertainment.