Dealing with ridiculous COmcast data usage claims
February 22, 2017 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Hi All, Comcast has claimed for the past few months that we are using well over a terabyte of data at an alarming clip. We "exceed," the cap before the month is half over, and are now responsible for overage fees of $150+. I have tried all the recommended steps, changing my wi-fi password, virus scans, etc. No luck, and COmcast is stonewalling and insisting they've done all they can. Any help in dealing with them, or suggestions of whom I can contact with this complaint, would be appreciated.

I am totally blind. I don't watch Netflix myself, and hardly do anything which might qualify as remotely bandwidth-intensive. My mom, who does watch, was out of the country for the first two weeks of this month, when the majority of this phantom data usage happened. The router unfortunately does not keep logs, and asking Comcast for a by-device breakdown of usage has resulted in nothing.
posted by Alensin to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard of people getting good results via Comcast's Twitter account Comcast Cares.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:20 PM on February 22, 2017

Here's a long article on Arstechnica about problems with Comcast's bandwidth meters. And another one.

Some ideas:

* Make sure your modem's MAC address is recorded properly in your account with Comcast

* Is it your wireless router using WEP encryption or WPA2? WEP is an old method which is insecure and can be cracked. Make sure its firmware is fully updated and the encryption is WPA2.

* Is it an Xfinity modem+wireless router provided by Comcast? Some have a public hotspot feature (your bandwidth is available to other Comcast users when they're out roaming). They claim that bandwidth doesn't count against your account, but something's going wrong here. I've never liked those features and always opt for my own purchased modem and (separate) purchased wireless router.

* Do you have any IoT (internet of things devices) connected to your router? Like security cameras, wireless smoke detectors, etc. Basically dumb devices which might be compromised and sucking down data?

* Do you have a new AppleTV? They have a download screensaver feature which can be set to daily/weekly/never. Not that it would take down that much bandwidth.
posted by bluecore at 4:24 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Try contacting your local newspaper's consumer reporter, and/or local TV stations. "Comcast Cheating Blind Person" is a story they'd LOVE to jump on.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:26 PM on February 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is a provided modem/router combination. We're using WPA2. The only iOT thing I can think of is a printer, and it seems innocuous enough, and in any case was off the network for a week or more and didn't impact data usage at all. I have an Amazon FireTV stick, which we thought was a possible culprit, but that's been disconnected and we're still downloading.

The only thing Comcast says is that 97% of the data usage is from downloads, not uploads. Unfortunately, I saw those articles earlier, and they just seemed to confirm the problem.
posted by Alensin at 4:35 PM on February 22, 2017

Just a random idea: without telling Comcast, turn off your home network equipment, cable modem and all, for a day (or two, if you can stand it) and then call several days later and ask them what amount of usage they measured during that period.

If they claim there was usage during time when all of your equipment was powered off they are obviously mistaken and you have pretty convincing evidence of that fact.

Do keep in mind, however, that many ISPs that measure usage can shift the time a bit between measurement and recording -- for example the data that you use on Friday might be totaled up at midnight Saturday morning and recorded on your account under Saturday usage.

But if your equipment is powered off for a full 24 hours and there's no corresponding dip in their measurement then they are measuring wrong.
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:49 PM on February 22, 2017

Also, you say you have no IoT devices, and I believe you, but have you considered "Smart" TVs?

I have a colleague with impeccable tech credentials who nevertheless had significant problems caused by the penetration of his home network due to a woefully insecure "Smart" TV.
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:56 PM on February 22, 2017

My TV isn't new enough to be a "smart," TV. :) It's apparently an old Panasonic.

I did unplug the modem for around 12 hours, during which the meter didn't seem to go up. Of course, given the lag time between measurement and recording, it might just be coincidence.
posted by Alensin at 5:18 PM on February 22, 2017

You absolutely should not have to do this, but you can buy your own router (or maybe borrow one from a friend?), and get one that has bandwidth stats available. That would give you a reliable independent source of data on how much bandwidth is being used, and which devices are using it. I'm not on Comcast, but that's definitely one thing I appreciate about using my own equipment rather than the ISP's. Of course, I imagine if there's a dispute they'd trust their numbers over yours. But at least you'd be coming in with some actual data, and if something on your network is using a lot of bandwidth, you'd be able to pinpoint it.
posted by primethyme at 5:32 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you looked at the admin panel for your Comcast router where it shows what devices are connected? On my Comcast router the very first page shows the currently connected devices, with a button "View Connected Devices" which takes you to a page showing both current and offline devices.

If there's some device you can't identify, then you can click on its host name and get its MAC address, and/or click the X to disconnect it (but I don't know whether a device you force-disconnect will stay disconnected, and I'm reluctant to experiment in case I clobber a family member).
posted by anadem at 6:28 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you want to check if you are enabled as a public hotspot and try disabling it, here's instructions.
posted by gennessee at 7:32 PM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the excellent ideas, all. :)

I've looked at that admin panel many times, and can't see anything unusual.

At this rate I will probably be contacting the media, as I don't like being put on the hook for data we didn't use. They've tried to up-sell us on the unlimited data plan, but spoiled the effect somewhat by pointing out that we'd still be liable for the overages if we decided to go with the $50 extra.

I'm just baffled by the fact that 99% of customers apparently get by just fine on 1 TB of data, and they don't seem to think this is worth investigating. I submitted an angry, four or five tweet rant to their Twitter account this afternoon, but heard nothing back.
posted by Alensin at 7:33 PM on February 22, 2017

Also maybe try running something like Glasswire to check bandwith use on your end.
posted by gennessee at 7:44 PM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I recently ran into an overage on my Comcast account (and I'm a pretty heavy internet user) and it turned out to be a badly-behaved program (GOG Galaxy, if you're curious) that was trying to update itself and failing, and it would redownload the update over and over again. So something like Glasswire can definitely help you track down that sort of situation.
posted by Aleyn at 10:09 PM on February 22, 2017

Point of clarification: as a pretty heavy user, I rarely exceed 600 GB/month, normally, and the average is closer to 400.
posted by Aleyn at 10:11 PM on February 22, 2017

When I went over on cable internet, it was because I was connected to a client's dropbox and he was moving a lot of files around. (It wasn't in the terabytes, but it was enough to cost a couple of hundred bucks in overage charges in Canada, where data is more expensive. ) Check what and who you're connected to.
posted by zadcat at 6:28 AM on February 23, 2017

Point of clarification: as a pretty heavy user, I rarely exceed 600 GB/month, normally, and the average is closer to 400.

Agree. I run several businesses with servers from my home, stream a bit from Apple TV (which has the aggressive screensaver settings on) and my average monthly is about 250GB.

It's either a measuring error or you have a rogue device on the network.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:04 PM on February 23, 2017

So I finally got around to running GlassWire on my PC this morning, and it looks like iCloud Drive is somehow responsible. I saw it pull down 4.4 GB in 20 minutes, which is absurd. I have disabled it on the PC and am planning to talk to Apple on Monday to see WTF is going on.

Thanks to gennessee for suggesting that program. Now comes the question, can I get COmcast to give us a break on $200 in overage fees? :)
posted by Alensin at 1:59 PM on February 25, 2017

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