Can Comcast’s usage meter be trusted? Last year we pointed out how Comcast had managed to somehow swap a user’s MAC address in their records and bill them for other customers usage. When Comcast’s meters expanded to Florida users complained that the company’s meter tracked usage that never happened. The FCC has received 13,000 complaints about Comcast’s usage caps this year, many of them also complaining that the company’s meter doesn’t match their router statistics.
Comcast, for what it’s worth, has long stated it pays a company by the name of NetForecast to confirm their meter’s accuracy. Those reports suggest that Comcast’s meters are reliable within 1% accuracy over a month.
But complaints about Comcast meter accuracy continue all the same. Ars Technica this week tells the tale of several users that were charged hundreds of extra dollars for bandwidth they claim was never consumed. Comcast consistently told one user that it simply wasn’t possible for Comcast’s consumption meter to make mistakes, and Comcast was only willing to investigate the problem (as is often the case) once the media became involved.
The entire, bizarrely long story is worth a read, but the core question it asks remains one we’ve asked for years:
The months of testing, without any firm conclusions, raise one question with no straightforward answer. If Comcast, the nation’s largest Internet provider, can’t determine what’s pushing its subscribers over their data caps, why should customers be expected to figure it out on their own?
We’ve noted for years that many ISPs are charging consumers for usage while they aren’t home, the modem was disconnected or the power was out. And for just as many years regulators have turned a blind eye to the problem that no objective third party ensures that you’re actually consuming the amount of bandwidth you’re paying for. But accuracy is only a part of the problem, given that usage caps on fixed-line networks aren’t necessary in the first place, and are simply ISPs taking full advantage of the lack of last mile competition in the broadband market.