Comcast Raises Monthly Data Cap To 300GB
Comcast Corp. said on Thursday that it would raise its monthly data cap from 250 gigabytes (GB) per month to 300 gigabytes for basic plans, and would begin charging extra for customers who exceed the new limits.
“Today, the way people use video and access information has changed dramatically. Four years ago, when we first instituted a broadband Internet data usage threshold, the iPhone had just been introduced…the iPad didn’t exist…and the experience of watching streaming video on your home PC or through a Roku box or direct to an Internet-capable TV was much different than it is now,” said Comcast on Thursday in a posting on its corporate blog.
“As the market and technology have evolved, we’ve decided to change our approach and replace our static 250 GB usage threshold with more flexible data usage management approaches that benefit consumers and support innovation and that will continue to ensure that all of our customers enjoy the best possible Internet experience over our high-speed data service,” the company said.
Comcast, one of the nation’s largest Internet service providers, said it would begin test charging customers $10 for every 50 GB they use in excess of the new limit.
“In the next few months…we are going to trial improved data usage management approaches comparable to plans that others in the market are using,” the company said.
Although Comcast had previously limited users to 250 gigabytes per month, it hadn’t charged subscribers who surpassed that limit. Instead, it’s simply warned them, and threatened repeat offenders with cancellation of their service.
Other Internet service providers have experimented with lower data caps and over-the-limit charges, but discarded the plans amid fierce backlash from customers and lawmakers.
Internet providers say they need caps to prevent “bandwidth hogs” from slowing down service for everyone.
Comcast said it would be begin testing the new approach in a few select markets.
“We’ll be piloting at least two approaches in different markets, and we’ll provide additional details on these trials as they launch. But we can give everyone an overview today,” the cable operator said.
The first approach will offer multi-tier usage allowances that incrementally increase for each tier of high-speed data service from the current threshold.
This begins with a 300 GB usage allotment for the Internet Essentials, Economy, and Performance Tiers, with increasing data allotments for each successive tier of high-speed service.
Customers who use more data at each tier can purchase additional bandwidth for $10 per 50 GB, the company said.
The second approach will increase the data usage thresholds for all tiers to 300 GB per month, and also offer additional gigabytes in increments/blocks at $10 per 50 GB.
Both approaches will increase the initial data usage threshold from 250 GB per month to at least 300 GB per month, Comcast said.
David Cohen, executive video president of Comcast, said the new plans offer customers added flexibility to meet their data needs, instead of a strict cut-off at a pre-determined threshold.
Data caps are seen by some as inhibiting the growth of non-cable video services such as Netflix, which require significant amounts of bandwidth. Comcast’s 300 GB cap is enough to stream about 10 hours of video content per day for a month – an amount very few users would exceed.
Indeed, just 1.5 percent of U.S. broadband households use more than 250 GB per month, and only 1 percent surpass 300 GB, according to Sandvine Corp., which provides traffic measurement and management solutions to cable operators. The average North American household uses just 32 GB of data per month, the company said.
Comcast’s own video-rental service, Xfinity TV, will not count against the new data cap if content is viewed on its application on the Xbox game console. However, video from XfinityTV.com does count toward the limit.
Philadelphia-based Comcast has 18.6 million Internet subscribers, or nearly one in every four U.S. households with broadband.