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volume 13 number 12 december 2008 TipSheet

Welcome to the December Issue of MicroMetric's TipSheet.

This monthly newsletter is targeted at addressing the needs of our clients.

This issue will feature news from Comcast and information on MicroMetric's 2009 Rate Changes.

Tip 625   Comcast restricts internet usage for residential customers and signals beginning of the end of 'Free Internet'. Category:   Comcast

Internet analysts are pointing to the recent Comcast cap on the most active Internet downloader's as foreshadowing the beginning of the end of the "free Internet."

Comcast, a major Internet provider, set off the alarm when it announced it would limit the broadband usage of that small segment of its customer base with a record of the largest downloads.

Commencing October 1, Comcast will slap a 250 gigabyte-a-month cap on its residential users. Comcast states that 250 gigabytes is about 100 times the average residential usage. Typically, customers use two to three gigabytes monthly, a spokeswoman explained, adding that less than 1 percent of all residential customers exceed that level.

Comcast and other companies have long considered restricting their most active users, claiming the limits were necessary to ensure fair access to the network for all users. While the policy appears to target download abusers and excessive users, that is precisely the avenue providers such as Comcast are expected to take as they incrementally broaden the restrictions. Observers compare the restrictions to that seen in the telephonic world with Directory Assistance.

First the free service was subject to a cap, then the cap became progressively more restrictive and now all Directory Assistance calls are expensive fee-for-calls. Internet usage is constantly evolving as the Internet and the technology itself evolves. Web analysts argue that an "Internet year" is just 90 calendar days. Cisco reminded in report on usage last winter that "today's "bandwidth hog" is tomorrow's average user."

Comcast's new restriction could segue into "metering." Earlier this summer, Time Warner Cable began a metering experiment in Texas by offering various monthly plans and charging extra when bandwidth limits were exceeded. AT&T confirms it is considering a similar pricing plan. Such plans would resemble metering plans for water, natural gas and electricity.

Previously, Comcast had not defined "excessive use," and instead merely asked its most active customers to restrict usage. Most did so willingly, the company said. But those that did not were issued a second notice and told they risk termination. It seems that Comcast will be careful about its new quantified restriction plan. True, the 250 gigabyte cap is now defined as an upper limit, but users who breach that limit will not have their access cut off immediately, or suddenly surcharged. Rather, those customers will be reminded by Comcast of the cap. Comcast did not explain why they chose 250 gigabytes as an upper limit.

A customer would have to download 62,500 songs or 125 standard-definition films monthly to exceed the upper limit, industry sources assert. On the other hand, the high-definition video and video gaming Comcast is now marketing requires a higher amount of bandwidth. So Comcast actually encouraged the very excess it now seeks to restrict.

S. Derek Turner of the media policy group Free Press commented that broadband caps could create a disincentive to view online video. "As media companies put content online, consumers can bypass the cable companies and get their content directly from the Internet," Turner remarked. "A 250 gigabyte cap may seem very high � and it is for today's Internet use. But it's essentially the equivalent of four hours of HD television a day."

Not a few critics charge that Internet providers are simply trying to protect their cable TV and telephone businesses by restricting Internet access. That has lead to a schizophrenic policy. Comcast informs that its Fancast online video Web site will count against the 250 gigabyte limit, but its digital voice service will not. It is pick and choose for Comcast's new restrictions.

Comcast denied to reporters that there was a link between the caps and the August 1 finding by Federal Communications Commission that the company was improperly inhibiting customers who used BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing program. That in itself showed anti-competitive action, critics claim. But Andrew Jay Schwartzman, the president of the Media Access Project, which represented Free Press, asserted that indeed the Comcast announcement appeared to be a direct result of that finding.

Where this does become a concern is they do not count their phone and TV service in this limit but if you are using a service like Vonage that bandwidth usage is counted. This gives them the ability to protect their services over others.

Tip 626   Comcast removes Newsgroups Service Category:   Comcast

Effective October 25, 2008 the Comcast Newsgroups service has been discontinued. They apologize for any inconvenience! If you have already signed up for Comcast Newsgroups, please be aware that this service will be discontinued on 10/25/2008. Their announcement then has a link to "Newsgroup FAQ section. Suprise! No mention to Newsgroups on this page.

Tip 627   Comcast rates will rise 12 percent Category:   Comcast

While consumer prices posted a record drop last month, the cost of cable television is going up.

Comcast, the dominant cable provider in Sarasota County, is raising rates in December on some of its most-popular services. Fortunately, this increase will NOT affect their Internet rates

Tip 628   MicroMetric, Inc. Rate Changes for 2009 Category:  Rates

For our "Break/Fix" customers, a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas. Our labor rates, both on-site and in the shop, along with all of our Fixed-Fee rate will remain the same in 2009 as they were in 2008.

After seeing most of our business customers switch to our Managed Service during the past year, we were apprehensive about its impact on our revenue and concerned about whether our pricing was well targeted. An analysis of the first ten months appears to confirm that our cost estimates were close to the mark.

During the first part of December we will complete the changeover to another remote monitoring supplier, which we feel has a much more stable platform, with a greatly expanded report capability. These reports will begin to appear the first part of the new year, and will be distributed by MICRO NOTES, so that you will be able to pick and choose which you receive. Except for a couple of clients who received special pricing for 2008, there will only be a slight increase in Workstation management prices of $3.00 per Workstation, to cover the higher costs of remote monitoring.

Managed Service rates for all NEW customers will increase ten percent (10%) effective January 1, 2009. This might be a good reason to check out Managed Services, if you are not currently a client, or even if you are considering upgrading your level of service. But remember, to get this years rates for next year, you must sign an agreement BEFORE the new year. And for all our Clients and friends, a Happy New Year!

Copyright 2008, MicroMetric, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Permission to copy in total, with this statement and copyright, is hereby granted.

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