Comcast Battles Google Fiber In Atlanta -- With Threat Of Usage Caps Unless You Sign 3-Year Contract

from the almost-but-not-quite-competing dept

With Google Fiber now starting to encroach on some major Comcast territories, the company's suddenly finding itself in the unfamiliar position of actually having to compete on price. In Atlanta, where Google Fiber is expected to appear later this year or early next, Comcast has been circulating flyers urging locals not to fall for the "hype" of ultra-fast, relatively cheap Google Fiber service.

But given that Atlanta is one of Comcast's growing usage cap "trial" markets, many were wondering just how far Comcast was willing to go in terms of competing on price. With the company's announcement this week that it's beginning to deploy gigabit cable service (technically 1 Gbps downstream, 35 Mbps upstream) in Atlanta, Comcast's strategy has become somewhat more clear. According to the company, Comcast will offer its gigabit service for $70 a month if you sign a contract, but $140 a month if you choose to go without.

The press release not-too-surprisingly chooses to omit this, but if a customer chooses to go the non-contract route, they'll find themselves subject to Comcast's 300 GB monthly usage cap and overage fees:
"That's Comcast's attempt at price competition, given that Atlanta is one of the markets Google Fiber has targeted for deployment. Comcast tells me that while the $70 option will not feature the company's usage caps (which are being "trialed" in the Atlanta market) users on the no-contract, $140 plan will face usage caps. They also have the option of paying $35 per month extra to avoid said caps."
In other words, if you lock yourself down in a three-year contract to avoid usage caps, you'll obviously not be able to sign up for Google Fiber without a major penalty when the service arrives. If a customer chooses to go without a contract to leave their options open -- they'll face either a 300 GB cap and $10 per 50 GB overage fees, or the option of paying a $35 per month fee to avoid the usage caps entirely. So yes, Comcast's "competing," but in only the way Comcast can.

Much like its usage cap plans, Comcast states these early gigabit cable deployments (Nashville, Chicago, Detroit and Miami on deck) are just trials, and the company's pricing could shift depending on whether this latest long-term contract gambit is effective at keeping potential Google Fiber customers from jumping ship.

Filed Under: atlanta, contracts, google fiber, usage caps
Companies: comcast, google


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  • icon
    Johan (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 8:03am

    not that this applies to me, but with a difference that big breaking the contract after just 4 months is cheaper than going off contract (with unlimited* data)...

    *) not really unlimited

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 8:57am

      Re:

      It would take some work wording the contract right but a way for Google to make it even more tempting to switch, even for those that would have to take a penalty for dumping Comcast before the contract was over would be to offer a 'signing bonus/credit' to offset the penalty.

      Say something like, 'Switch to us from another ISP and if you get hit by early termination fees for doing so simply send us a copy of the relevant paperwork so we can verify it and we'll apply 50% of that amount towards your service costs with us'. In one fell swoop they'd bring attention to the penalties Comcast is using to keep their customers locked into their service and provide hefty incentives for people to switch providers by drastically cutting down on the cost of doing so.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 8:43am

    Comcast: 'You pay us for internet service not because we're the best, but because you have no choice.'

    Twice the price and capped if you want to avoid signing a contract that prevents you from jumping ship the second Google Fiber is available... you can practically taste the desperation from Comcast here, they really don't want their customers to be able to switch without being charged a hefty penalty for doing so.

    Either they get twice as much(or more) from customers who aren't chained to them and might switch providers at any point, or they get less from customers who can't do so and have to pay them for at least three years. They're making sure that they get as much money as possible either way, about as 'competitive' as Comcast can be I suppose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 9:41am

    This sounds like it violate anti-trust laws. It's anti-competitive behavior. The Govt should go after them.

    But of course the government never goes after those that actually engage in anti-competitive behavior. Anti-trust laws are just a red herring.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 9:44am

      Re:

      You forget that all of the broadband industry has laws in place to exempt/protect them from a lot of those rules that apply to everyone else. This is why they can engage in this type of behavior.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 9:48am

    Did I do the math wrong or literally can you burn your monthly cap in about 44 minutes.

    http://techinternets.com/copy_calc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 9:59am

      Re:

      But just think of how lightning fast your connection would be for those 44 minutes, surely that makes up for the insane overage costs for the rest of the month, right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 11:37am

        Re: Re:

        but it won't be because the crossover points will be choked so your speed will plummet...

        Imagine paying for gigabit and struggling to hit the 300gb cap in a month. That seems much more likely, and in no way would it be driven by Comcast demanding payments from online providers for allowing them better access to their customers.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Eponymous Coward (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:14am

      Re:

      Comcast hears your concerns, loyal customer. We have included the usage cap of 300GB for your protection, as our crack research scientists have determined that downloading at gigabit speeds will warp space and time in your vicinity. Sustained downloads of more than 300GB could cause unexpected time travel, catapulting users into the distant future or pulling velociraptors into the present time. We know you don't want that, so we added this feature for your protection.

      Overage fees will placate the space-time continuum, allowing for more rapid closure of temporal wormholes. Actually, space-time wanted $20 per 50GB (can you believe the nerve?), but we talked it down to $10. You're welcome.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      t j, 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:47am

      Re:

      I'd love to see an infographic showing Comcast's (and AT&T's Gigapower, which has the same usage cap) promised monthly bandwidth vs. actual bandwidth in those 44 min. And then a calculation of the actual cost of full bandwidth for a month from those two providers vs. Google's flat fee.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:59am

        Re: Re:

        Going off the math of 300 GB's gone through in 40ish minutes, with $10 per 50GB overage fees, I imagine anyone using even close to the full theoretical limit of the connection could easily end up with a bill in the four or five digits range by month's end.

        If someone wants to crunch some actually numbers though for a more accurate amount that'd certainly be interesting to see.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          ThatDevilTech (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 11:30am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If I did the math right, I figured up a bill of around $64,740 for the month. Using the site here to figure up 1000 Gps daily usage then subtracting 300 GB for the first day and using the max for the remaining days for a 30 day month. If you want to check my math, Click Here

          This was a quick a dirty estimation. Not sure how accurate but I'd still take the ETF over this bs. Thank God I'm not in a Craptastic area.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 12:08pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          According to my quick calculations assuming that 1 Gigabit=1000 Megabit (There is some disagreement on if it is 1024 or 1000) and 1 Gigabyte = 1024 Megabyte:

          After the 300 Gigabyte has been subtracted you can download 316406.25 Gigabyte in a month.
          This makes 6329 fees of $10 which of course gives:

          $63290

          This is on top of the $140 you pay for the connection itself and assuming everything runs at top speed at all times (it's Comcast so who really believes that?).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 12:14pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Forgot to subtract the 300 gb in my calculations (I are very smart :) ).
            316106.25 Gigabyte in a month
            6323 fees of $10
            and final amount of $63222

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              ThatDevilTech (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 12:35pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              The rate though is in Gigabits, not Gigabytes a month. Changes the math a bit. Still a huge # that I'd rather pay the ETF and tell Comcast to pound sand.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 1:44pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                It takes 8 bit to a byte.
                So 1000 Mbit per second / 8 = 125 Megabyte per second.
                From there it is just a matter of calculating how many seconds in a month. I used 30 days as a basis.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  ThatDevilTech (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 3:34pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Fair enough. Either way it's a helluva lot more than I would pay and I'd just take thee ETF and tell Comcast where they could stick their cable. Someone needs to wake up and fight back against all of the bs going on. Nowadays, Internet is almost as important, if not on the same level, as electricity. People need it for work, communications, and fun yes, but to live their life nowadays. We do live in a first world country don't we...don't we?

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  John Fenderson (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 5:09pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Technically, it's more than 8 bits to a byte over the wire because there are additional bits added for error correction, etc. Also, you have to allow for protocol overhead (IP headers, etc.).

                  Computing throughput as if all bits are payload bits will be pretty far off.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 11:31am

        Re: Re:

        that is the best part is all speeds are promised as up to, so as long as you are getting 15kbps they are doing their job.

        And don't forget the infographic will show you all of these awesome things you can get when you pay them extra for tv programming and then can use their VOD system without it counting against your meter (which no one thinks works right).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:24am

    why do i get the feeling comcast will go back on their word and start charging customers locked into that 3 year plan high fees regardless of whatever price they were locked in at.

    I don't know why, maybe it's because they act like a criminal cartel more than a business

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:27am

    Doubling the price is pretty extreme. What's the Comcast early termination fee? May be worth it to people to use Comcast until Google Fiber is actually available then pay the fee to leave.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    blogagog (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:31am

    A 300GB cap would be exceeded if the user downloaded at full speed for a mere 40 minutes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:37am

    Comcast, proving once again that you don't make money by offering a better product, but by giving people no other choice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:57am

    Actually

    And now Comcast has gone after peoples 2nd child.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 11:23am

    If google fiber is so bad, why not allow your customers to give it a try so they come back to you and never leave again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bob Buttons, 17 Mar 2016 @ 11:38am

    Not Holding Back

    I currently have 'unlimited' data with Time Warner am I pretty reasonable with it. I use a good amount compared to others I know but I still don't go insanely overboard. If TWC were to enact a cap and require paying more to go back to unlimited, I can promise you I'd no longer hold back by any means. You want me to pay extra to get rid of a cap? My usage is skyrocketing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2016 @ 5:15am

      Re: Not Holding Back

      That's what I did, when Comcast capped my plan in Atlanta. 300 GB cap? My target usage had been from 80 to 120 GB for the three months prior to the cap. Thereafter, my target became 296 GB to leave a small safety buffer. Amazing how much bandwidth you can consume by adding a 24/7/365 Freenet node.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 1:19pm

    It is precisely these types of protection measures which favor in no way the customer, that would ensure I would wait and not pay anything to Comcast that locked me down until I could jump ship. I would do so for pure spite if for no other reason as I have a long memory of being screwed over or attempts at doing the same.

    Were I in Atlanta, Google could not come soon enough and I could not throw money at Google fast enough to show my disapproval of present day methods used by the major telcos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 2:13pm

    At $140/month + $35/month to remove the bandwidth cap, after 14 months it is cheaper to get the three year agreement with Comcast for $70/month and then sign up for Google fiber at $70/month paying for both services for the last 22 months (ignoring taxes and fees). If you don't care about the bandwidth cap the break even point on cost is after 18 months (ignoring taxes and fees). So how long until Google fiber is available at your address in ATL is the question to be asking. Then assuming you get your Google fiber service at the breakeven point, if you terminate the Comcast agreement, as long as the termination charge is less than $1,540 ($1,260 for bandwidth cap) you save the difference by terminating the Comcast service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Scott (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 2:57pm

    Comcast is Afraid

    Being an Atlanta resident who just had need of a Comcast service call this weekend because line quality (noise in the line)has been horrible, I had an "off the record" chat with the guy who came out. He said they were really worried about Googles roll out in ATL. He said they are working so hard to upgrade lines that they keep screwing stuff up (thus noise in the lines...not very good with internet service). Really though, it doesnt look like Comcast is trying very hard, if you ask me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ThatDevilTech (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 3:39pm

      Re: Comcast is Afraid

      While I can't wait for Google to take a bite out of the big cable provider/ISP guys, I feel sorry for those that are stuck with the idiots while Google gets installed in every neighborhood but theirs. The town I live in was actually on one of the first lists to fight for Google to come to us, but sadly our town leaders weren't able to win that battle. Eventually we'll get it. Thankfully, for now, we have a non-Comcast/TWC/Charter/Verizon/AT&T cable provider that works just fine.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 17 Mar 2016 @ 3:15pm

    Why yes, Comcast, I would love to spend twice as much for a whole 44 minutes worth of 1Gbps/35Mbps Internet service a month, or two-and-a-half times as much for unlimited Internet service, than I would for 1Gbps/1Gbps Google Fiber the day it becomes available.

    Said nobody, ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 7:51pm

    Location, Location, Location

    I am leaving one of the Atlanta areas under the "trial" for the 300 GB cap. AT&T is a painful joke of an alternative. Comcursed's lie of "competition" can only be defeated in and around Atlanta by changing location to one served not at all by Comcursed or in the promised but indefinite future one served by Comcursed *and Google*.

    I told Comcursed to drop dead about six months back, when they insisted that I had to pay $10/month to continue receiving paper bills.

    I'm currently in the midst of moving to a new flat outside of Comcursed's demesne. I'm straddling two places at the moment. At the new flat, I've got accounts with two ISPs that together give me (only) about the same bandwidth potential as Comcursed used to (Comcursed charged just under $80 monthly for that). One of the new services comes with a 250GB cap - the other is unlimited bandwidth. Total, monthly cost is initially a couple of cents under $60, and after the 12 monthly honeymoon period (if I stay - no penalty, if not), it will be a couple of cents under $90.

    Are you listening Comcursed...your asshattery didn't make me move but strongly influenced my choice of locations, i.e., anywhere to avoid you. You should feel *special*.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 8:38pm

    Crapca$t must think people are stupid. They act like no one knows that GF is coming to their area and they're so desperate for GB service, that they'll jump at this option.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    morganwick (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 11:41pm

    So, if I don't want to sign a contract and just want to try out Comcast's gigabit service before deciding whether to go with Google Fiber, I'll be hit with nasty usage caps that will make my decision a certainty.

    Hey Comcast, no matter how bad you may paint Google Fiber to be, they're still not the most hated company in America.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    David (profile), 23 Mar 2016 @ 7:15am

    Real speed?

    I keep seeing people calculating the speed as really a gigabit. I have hard wired gigabit in my house and I never see anywhere near that speed. There is protocol overhead, collisions, listening delays, PC architecture and all kinds of other issues the prevent Ethernet from reaching its theoretical speed limit. At best, you will see 50 to 60 percent throughput.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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