Do you agree with Andre that the Internet is a utility like water, gas or electricity?
SEATTLE -- Andre Vrignaud couldn't connect to the Internet this week. When he walked down to the basement of his Seattle home to check his connections, he saw the blinking blue lights of doom on his modem.
"I was irritated," he said.
Vrignaud's Internet provider, Comcast, had cut off his service for a full year because he had exceeded his data limit twice in the past few months. So, not only is Vrignaud not allowed on the internet, but the video game consultant can't log on to Xbox, limiting his ability to earn a paycheck.
Comcast caps its data usage at 250 gigabytes a month, a policy that has been in place for three years. That limit is far above what the average user needs.
Vrignaud is the first to admit he's not your average user, with thousands of songs, photos and videos, and several roommates streaming and gaming as well. But it was when he tried to upload a bunch of material to one of the new, popular "cloud" storage systems that he got in trouble.
Comcast counts downloads and uploads as the same thing. Vrignaud had no idea.
"I actually think most consumers don't think of it that way, either," he said.
Vrignaud sees the internet as "utility" like electricity, water and gas. He points out that none of those are cut off as long as you pay your bill, no matter how much you use.
"We're at a point now that the Internet has become such an essential utility that cutting someone off completely like Comcast did is just wrong,” he said.
Why should you care? As more households stream movies from Netflix, store photos and upload videos to YouTube, Vrignaud says that 250 gigabyte limit will soon be too small and has to go.
"People are going to be calling Comcast and saying, 'Hey, what's going on? This doesn't make any sense,’” he said.
Comcast said the cap is to keep extraordinarily heavy data users from slowing down Internet speeds for everyone else. Spokesman Steve Kip says more than 99 percent of the company's customers don't come close to hitting the cap.
“Nationwide, our customers’ median use is 4 – 6 GB/month. 250 GB is an extraordinary amount of data and equivalent to downloading 62,500 songs or uploading 25,000 hi-res photos. We offer online tools, including a bandwidth meter to help customers manage their data usage and we clearly and transparently explain all of our policies on our website and Terms of Service,” wrote Kip in a statement.
Vrignaud has blogged about his experience and you can read it here.