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Comcast Expanding Broadband Meter Trials

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) must be happy with the results of field tests of its Internet usage meter, because it's bringing the broadband bit counter to several more markets.

A Comcast spokeswoman confirmed that the MSO expanded the pilot to some Seattle customers in January and expects to add parts of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Texas by the end of February. She said this phase of the field trail expansion is also slated to involve Comcast systems serving parts of Utah and Colorado.

Light Reading Cable caught wind that an expansion was underway when blogger Dave Zatz re-Tweeted a claim that the meter was being rolled out in Boston.

The MSO official didn't say how many customers will be involved and stressed that access to the Web-based meter won't be offered to every customer in the chosen systems right away. Customers chosen to test the meters will be notified via email.

Comcast launched the pilot last December to some customers in Portland, Ore. The Internet usage meter is meant to help users gauge how close they are to hitting the monthly 250-Gbyte consumption cap that the MSO put into place on Oct. 1, 2008. (See Comcast Draws the Line at 250GB and Comcast Lights Up Broadband Bit-Counter .)

That's particularly important as consumers continue to go over the top to use bandwidth-intensive, Web-fed video downloading and streaming services, including Comcast's own Fancast Xfinity TV. (See Comcast to Expand 'Xfinity' to DSL Subs and Comcast's 'Xfinity' Goes Live .)

The meter counts all bits that travel through the customer's cable modem: upstream and downstream traffic, overhead packets, and even retransmitted packets -- but not any packets flowing to or from Comcast's managed, facilities-based VoIP service. Comcast has hired NetForecast Inc. to validate the meter and to verify that the bit counts are on the up-and-up.

Comcast has not said when it plans to offer the meter on a nationwide basis.

As for the cap, Comcast doesn't charge extra if customers breach it. However, customers that exceed it multiple times and don't moderate their usage or upgrade or move to a commercial services account face possible termination of service.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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