A Wired.com report details the plight of a Seattle Washington man who no longer has access to the internet, thanks to a Comcast decision to disconnect him after he went over monthly data caps two months in a row. Andre Vrignaud, a 39-year-old gaming consultant in Seattle (and a former Microsoft technology evangelist for Xbox 360 and Xbox live), had his broadband connection cut by Comcast on Monday for using too much data. Vrignaud used more than 250 GB of data (the monthly limit) on his Comcast broadband connection two months in a row, triggering the company’s overage policy that results in a one-year long ban from the service.
While Vrignaud admits that his shared Wi-Fi (with his entire house), cloud-based data transfers, online gaming, and video streaming usage such as Pandora, YouTube, and Netflix, were at times heavy, he did not know that his upload activity was being counted by Comcast. This is important because Vrignaud was transferring large amounts of data including a massive music connection to a cloud based storage service.
Vrignaud is now looking into other connectivity options, but true broadband connections are only available from Comcast in the Seattle area, leaving him to juggle between using friends’ Wi-Fi (who are Comcast customers) and Internet cafes, until he chooses a DSL or Clearwire 4G plan for his home.
While Vrignaud is down, he’s not out. He has vowed to plead his case to politicians and regulators.
"I struggle when I watch Comcast raising broadband speeds, and at same time, saying they can’t afford all this internet usage, without doing deep packet inspection and other invasive things," Vrignaud told Wired.com. "They haven’t laid new cable in 15 years. I’m pretty much a non-regulation guy, and I’d just rather let the market be competitive. But I get really frustrated in situations like this where what is truly a bad company is not being forced to improve because it doesn’t have to. I really don’t have any choices here."
For its part, Comcast says that it was justified in disconnecting Vrignaud’s account because he clearly went over the standard 250GB monthly data cap as dictated in its "excessive use policy."
"The excessive use policy we have in place exists in a few different places – in our Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy (LINK), which customers agree to when they sign up, as well as in numerous FAQs we have online (LINK)," Comcast Senior Director of Corporate Communications Charlie Douglas told GamePolitics. "In addition, we launched a bandwidth meter nationally for every customer so they have tools they can use to manage their data usage. You can read more about that on our Corporate blog (LINK)."
Douglas also pointed out that Vrignaud’s situation is an exception, with less than 1 percent of users ever going past the data cap.
"It is extremely rare that a customer would ever hear from us," Douglas continued. "It’s far less than 1% of our customer base. However, if a customer exceeds the 250 GB monthly usage threshold, then we have a process where we call the account holder’s phone number of record (and we keep contacting them until we get them live on the phone). During that phone call, we inform them that they have exceeded the monthly allotment and we ask them to curb usage. We also tell them that if they exceed the threshold for a second time within six months of that phone call, then we reserve the right to suspend their account."
"The overwhelming supermajority of customers we call voluntarily curb their usage and so it becomes a non-issue," he added.
We’ll leave it up to our readers to decide whether Comcast’s policy is unfair and heavy-handed, or Vrignaud is simply a bandwidth hog who stayed at the trough too long and paid a heavy price.