Charter To Start Enforcing Usage-Cap Limits

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Charter Communications next month will initiate a program to contact broadband customers who are exceeding the MSO's pre-set usage limits -- and is reserving the right to kick policy violators off the network if they don't cooperate.

"Our intent is to prevent the very small number of users who are consuming excessive amounts of bandwidth from negatively impacting the experience for the majority of our customers," Charter spokeswoman Anita Lamont said in a statement.

The MSO's security resolution team will use Sigma Systems' Active Media Platform (AMP) product to monitor bandwidth usage, Lamont said.

The operator's initiative to crack down on bandwidth abusers was reported Thursday by DSLReports.

In addition, Charter will introduce a "protocol-agnostic" congestion-management system, which doesn't distinguish among the online activities, protocols or applications a customer uses. With the system, only the heaviest users -- less than 1% of all Charter subscribers -- will have their bandwidth limited during times of congestion. However, according to Charter, no Internet activities will be blocked outright.

Charter's congestion-management system is based on the "fair share" model described by Comcast to the Federal Communications Commission in September 2008. Comcast implemented that system after being rebuked by the FCC for inhibiting the upload-connection speeds of BitTorrent users.

Charter's Acceptable Use Policy for residential service thresholds allows 100 Gigabytes of data usage per month for customers subscribing to Lite and Express services and 250 GBytes of bandwidth per month for customers subscribing to Plus and Max services. Previously Charter had not set a cap for its DOCSIS 3.0-based Ultra60 service, which provides 60 Mbps downloads, but will now limit usage for that tier at 500 GBytes per month.

The thresholds are substantially above typical use for approximately 98% of Charter's customers, according to Lamont.

In December, Charter will begin reaching out "to a select group of customers whose use is excessive to make them aware of their usage patterns," Lamont noted, to help identify possible causes such as an unsecured wireless routers or viruses. The MSO is currently working on a way to present data usage to customers so they can self-monitor their bandwidth usage. If the excessive usage continues repeatedly, their Internet service could be suspended.

The steps "will help us deliver the best possible Internet experience for our residential users," Lamont said.

Charter said the new AUP, for which the only change is the 500-Gigabyte cap for Ultra60, will be updated shortly at www.charter.com/aup.

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