Comcast Users Now Need To Pay A $30 Premium If They Want To Avoid Usage Caps

from the screw-you dept

Comcast has slowly but surely been expanding the company’s usage cap trials since around 2012, largely focusing them on less competitive markets where annoyed users can’t vote with their wallets. In these seventeen (and counting) trial markets, Comcast broadband customers face a monthly usage cap of 300 gigabytes. After that, users need to shell out $10 for each additional 50 gigabytes of data consumed. The trials have expanded slowly but surely in the hopes of minimizing user backlash. Basically, Comcast is the hot water slowly coming to a boil, and you’re the frog.

It appears that Comcast has now added a new wrinkle to the mix, and has started charging these trial users an extra $30 if they want to bypass usage caps. The company’s FAQ for the new option tries to argue that the change is being made to provide consumers with greater “choice and flexibility”:

The Unlimited Data Option provides additional choice and flexibility for our customers who may make heavier use of the Internet. Enrollment is optional. The Unlimited Data Option costs the current additional fee of $30 per calendar month, regardless of actual data usage. The 300 GB plan will not apply to customers who enroll in the Unlimited Data Option.

Yeah, that’s bullshit. Back in 2012, users in these trial markets used to get uncapped Comcast broadband service as a matter of course. They now get to pay $30 more a month for the honor of avoiding Comcast’s totally arbitrary and unnecessary usage restrictions. And it’s all thanks, of course, to the painful lack of competition in most Comcast markets. While this “unlimited” option is currently only being tested in the Florida cap markets, Comcast has made it clear for years it hopes to impose this kind of punitive pricing system in all markets.

You’ll recall the cable industry used to claim usage caps on fixed-line networks were necessary due to congestion (fear the Exaflood!). But as bandwidth costs dropped and intelligent network gear offered far more sophisticated ways of managing network load, the cable industry finally admitted that congestion had nothing to do with it. And while the cable industry now tries to argue that usage caps are necessary due to “fairness,” they’re really about one thing and one thing only: taking advantage of limited competition and protecting legacy TV revenues from Internet video.

If you peruse the Comcast usage cap FAQ you’ll notice that Comcast doesn’t even really bother with an explanation or justification as to why the caps are necessary, since even the nation’s least-liked company knows any defense of this position is futile. This is about as close as Comcast gets to delivering a coherent explanation as to why these limits were imposed:

As the marketplace and technology change, we do too. We evaluate customer data usage, and a variety of other factors, and make adjustments accordingly. Over the last several years, we have periodically reviewed various plans, and recently we have been analyzing the market and our process through various data usage plan trials.

So yeah, we’re not a massive incumbent telecom exploiting uncompetitive markets and lazy regulators, we’re just experimentin’ and changin’ and what have you! Comcast has made it abundantly clear that it plans to keep expanding these usage caps (and charging you to avoid them) until either the competition fairy somehow materializes better broadband options out of the ether, or regulators wake the hell up and realize that usage caps on fixed-line networks are a predatory assault on captive customers, an affront to innovation, and an aggressive abuse of monopoly power.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “Comcast Users Now Need To Pay A $30 Premium If They Want To Avoid Usage Caps”

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36 Comments
W_underdog says:

Re: Class Action Lawsuit time

Unfortunately, they can. This is from their residential services agreement.

4. CHANGES TO SERVICES
Subject to applicable law, we have the right to change our Service(s), XFINITY Equipment and rates or charges, at any time with or without notice. We also may rearrange, delete, add to, or otherwise change programming or features or offerings contained in the Service(s), including, but not limited to, content, functionality, hours of availability, customer equipment requirements, speed, and upstream and downstream rate limitations. If we do give you notice, it may be provided on your monthly bill, as a bill insert, e-mail, in a newspaper or other communication permitted under applicable law. If you find a change in the Service(s) unacceptable, you have the right to cancel your Service(s). However, if you continue to receive Service(s) after the change, this will constitute your acceptance of the change.

jraama says:

Re: Class Action Lawsuit time

If you check your Comcast account carefully (as I did about a month ago), you may find that your internet package already has a usage cap listed. My cap is 250GB/month, but it is currently listed as “temporarily waived”.
I have been with Comcast for over 5 years and have never had the cap imposed, but I know it is there to ensure they can turn it on at any point they wish.
Also, many customers (like me) are not under a long term contract with Comcast, we get our services on a monthly basis. Terms of service can be changed monthly (hello biannual rate hikes) without prior consent of the customer (only requires timely notification).

Anonymous Coward says:

Remind me, why are we still using Comcast’s term “trials” for this? They’ve been “trying” the caps for three years now, and by the way they keep expanding them to new markets, they obviously concluded the caps work in the manner they desire years ago. As such, the only reason to call them “trials” is to try and give the impression that they might deem the “trial” a failure at some point and stop capping users. They only thing about usage caps they can be said to be “trying” at this point is they’re trying to see if they can get away with expanding them to all markets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 1st, 2015 @ 12:19pm

The “Variety of other factors” is that people are cord cutting and using more data to stream their choices in programming and Comcast is just adding the $30 that they WERE making on the cable TV part of the bill (before you cancelled it) onto the internet bill. Thank you, now nothing changes on their bottom line.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

If Comcast were an honest company

If Comcast were an honest company, they’d simply acknowledge that this is a $30/mo price hike. If they were a slightly kinder company, they’re offer alternative, capped plans that were $30/mo cheaper.

Instead, they’re going for a standard marketing pricing lie: reduce service, then charge a premium to get the reduction removed. That way they can avoid announcing the price hike.

John David Galt (profile) says:

There are always going to be physical limits on the capacity of any data service. The only question is how the company deals with that fact.

If they promise “unlimited” service, then they have a duty to keep it unmetered and unthrottled, even though it will likely result in a few big users hogging most of the capacity. So I’d much rather they not use that word, but instead set a specific limit and tell us what it is and exactly what will happen to people who go over it, whether that’s an extra usage charge, throttling, or even termination of service. Then we can make our choices intelligently.

Even better would be a way for us to find out (perhaps on the router’s control panel IP address) how close we are to hitting that limit at any given time. Maybe even an app to show it in a corner of the screen.

So I’d say this new ComCast policy is a step in the right direction, and I hope the other ISPs will be made to follow suit.

Blue Adept (profile) says:

People dont call them ComCrap for no reason.

I also found out that they now charge $40 for a service call with a technician being dispatched, even if it is a problem on their end.
To avoid being charged, they asked if I wanted to subscribe to their maintenance plan for $4.99 a month. I told them what a load of crap that is and refused.
I did get it taken off my bill after 2 hours on the phone.

They screw you every chance they can. Comcrap is THE WORST company in the US, if not the world!

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