Comcast's Christmas Present To Broadband Users: More Usage Caps In More Places

from the captive-markets dept

Comcast has quietly announced that the company is expanding its usage caps into nearly a dozen new markets just in time for the holiday season. And by announced, I mean the company buried the freshly capped markets in a FAQ over at the Comcast website. As we’ve been noting, Comcast has slowly but surely been expanding a “trial” of usage caps whereby users face a 300 GB cap with $10 per 50 GB overages, or pay $30 to $35 if they want to bypass the usage cap entirely. Apparently, Comcast believes if it moves slowly toward capping all users, people won’t notice they’re the frog in the boiling frog metaphor.

As the press and public have grown increasingly critical of the cash grab, Comcast has responded — by first pretending it didn’t actually have usage caps (they’re “usage allotments,” Comcast insists), then by claiming these limits are necessary to establish “fairness” in the broadband market. In this latest e-mail sent to customers, Comcast falsely informs customers that they have nothing to worry about, because the majority of customers will never hit the company’s cap:

“The median usage for XFINITY Internet customers is 40 GB of data in a month. And based on your recent usage history, it appears this new 300 GB data plan will not impact you. If you are not sure of your monthly data usage, please refer to the Track and Manage Your Usage section below…While we believe that 300 GB is more than enough to meet your Internet usage needs, if for any reason you exceed the 300 GB included in your plan in a month, we will automatically add blocks of 50 GB to your account for an additional fee of $10 each. We?re also implementing a three-month courtesy program. That means you will not be billed for the first three times you exceed the 300 GB included in the monthly data plan.

Isn’t that sweet. Of course it’s irrelevant what the median customer consumes, because we’re on the eve of the cord cutting revolution, and every house in the country will soon be burning through 300 GB as entire families consume streaming video (and soon 4K streaming video) like popcorn shrimp. Comcast knows this, and wants to get usage caps in place before this inevitable future delivers a round house kick to the face of its traditional TV revenues. You’ll note the e-mail to customers doesn’t even try to provide a reason for the caps, since Comcast long ago gave up on the bogus claim that such limits help police congestion.

Historically, Comcast has aimed these usage cap “trials” at less competitive markets, where users can’t really vote with their wallet. But this latest expansion includes Chattanooga, Tennessee, home of one of the more notable municipal fiber broadband deployments by the name of EPB broadband. Comcast not only tried to sue EPB out of existence, it effectively bought a state-level protectionist law to ensure EPB couldn’t grow. As such, it’s odd Comcast is now eager to drive its customers to a competitor it tried for a decade to destroy, though EPB likely appreciates the sentiment all the same.

Historically the FCC has been utterly tone deaf to the anti-competitive, anti-innovation implications of both usage caps and zero rating, seemingly buying the broadband industry’s claim that rate hikes imposed on captive markets are somehow about “creative experimentation.” There have been some reports that the FCC is watching Comcast closely, but it’s far from clear if the agency will ever actually act, and our new neutrality rules don’t specifically forbid caps. The only real solution to Comcast’s cash grab is competition, but unless you’re lucky enough to live in an area with Google Fiber or municipal broadband (like the EPB example above), Comcast’s got you exactly where it wants you: captive and capped.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “Comcast's Christmas Present To Broadband Users: More Usage Caps In More Places”

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AJ says:

What they actually meant to say was. “We are implementing this cap in markets where there is no competition”.

There is competition in my market, they try that shit here I’ll switch in a second. They already tried to up me to a “faster” connection for a fee automatically. One phone call and not only did I get the upgrade, but I’m paying $10 less a month.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Self-defeating argument

If the number of accounts that go over are so tiny, then Comcast is wasting a ton of effort rolling out a program to deal with a minority of their users. Much easier to deal with the small handful on their own and leave the majority be, rather than introducing a program that applies to everyone, but will only affect what they describe as a very small number of people.

Of course, the above only makes sense if you take them at their word that the ‘super users’ are the reason for the caps, rather than a blatant cash-grab to get the caps in place, and get people used to them before people start really switching to streaming options for their entertainment, when those caps will suddenly seem a lot less ‘generous’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sadly Americans have shown they are complacent and willing to be part of the false dog and pony show that leads to these artificial fake rate hikes. Just look at the traditionally free airline baggage fee’s or hotel resort fee’s or all the fee’s piled on phone bills, fuel surcharges, water shortage fee’s etc… Most of these fee’s are blatant pure profit money grabs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Cable/broadband providers are a one trick pony company.

1: Buy politics to acquire regional monopolies

2: Merge to acquire even stronger monopolies

3: Resist upgrades and improving your service

4: Provide poor customer service

5: Raise prices

Their entire business model has always revolved around these concepts and continues to do so. Competition is entering the market and it may cut into our profits? Can’t have that. Who can I buy to keep them out!!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

you forgot to add….

6. cheer like simpletons when net neutrality was passed and enforced by the organization that started the problem to begin with.

7. Watch FCC remove the fast lanes BS that was affecting business as little more than a highways tax by brigands only benefiting consumers indirectly.

8. Still not doing anything to ISP’s playing this fucking game by just moving the bandwidth strategy away from business to business traffic and right down to the end consumer where no one is protected AS USUAL!

Keep cheering for net neutrality as the FCC see it folks, you will find out there is more than one one trick pony at this show!

LauraTee (profile) says:

Okay, my curiosity was piqued

I went to check my own Comcast data usage after thinking that 40GB number seemed awfully low. The past three months, I used 333GB, 295GB, and 296GB, respectively. And there’s a little notice that “Enforcement of the 250GB data consumption threshold is currently suspended,” so I guess I’m over it every single time.

And the thing is, I’m not a cord-cutter. I have a Comcast TV package that I use constantly (I just happen to be online while I’m watching). Even so, I’m over the limit? Ridiculous.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Okay, my curiosity was piqued

Back when Comcast first added the 250G cap to their Terms of Service, I checked how much data I was using. 400G that month. Don’t even remember what I was doing back then. I wasn’t torrenting and this was before I got heavy into Youtube and other streaming services.

I can only guess how much I’m using now since Verizon doesn’t even count past 175G. They just tell me I’m using a lot of data and I might be better served by upgrading to their Quantum service.

zerosaves (profile) says:


I’m a cord cutter since 2008, and I had Comcast back then. We had 3 adults living in the house, and had only Netflix at the time, and our area was under the original Comcast 300gb caps when they would disconnect you if you exceeded it 3 times. We did twice, and for the rest of the months we would literally not do anything the last few days to not go over again. That was until they revoked the caps entirely a few years later. I’m not sure if they were reintroduced around here again, as I left Comcast when we moved.

Its not hard to go over.

radix (profile) says:

Fight locally?

What would prevent pissed-off customers from petitioning their local city council to not renew the Comcast franchise agreement, or to roll back their tax breaks/rights of way on utility poles?

Remember, Comcast relies on city-by-city regulations to exist. They can only get away with this because city officials let them. Don’t wait for the FCC to do something, fight this from the bottom.

radarmonkey (profile) says:


…We’re also implementing a three-month courtesy program. That means you will not be billed for the first three times you exceed the 300 GB included in the monthly data plan.

That’s a bit ambiguous, no? Is it 3 months or is it the first 3 times? It’d be interesting to see if someone is charged then sues in Month 4 because of this statement.

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