Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
usage caps

Companies:
comcast



Comcast Expands Usage Caps, Still Pretending This Is A Neccessary Trial Where Consumer Opinion Matters

from the pay-more-for-less,-you're-welcome dept

As we've noted for some time, Comcast continues to expand the company's usage cap "trial" into more and more markets. As a clever, lumbering monopoly, Comcast executives believe if they move slowly enough -- consumers won't realize they're the frog in the boiling pot metaphor. But as we've noted time and time again, Comcast usage caps are utterly indefensible price hikes on uncompetitive markets, with the potential for anti-competitive abuse (since Comcast's exempting its own services from the cap).

This is all dressed up as a "trial" where consumer feedback matters to prop up the flimsy narrative that Comcast is just conducting "creative price experimentation."

Last week, Comcast quietly notified customers that the company's caps are expanding once again, this time into Chicago and other parts of Illinois, as well as portions of Indiana and Michigan. Comcast recently raised its cap from 300 GB to one terabyte in response to signals from the FCC that the agency might finally wake up to the problems usage caps create. And while that's certainly an improvement, it doesn't change the fact that usage caps on fixed-line networks are little more than an assault on captive, uncompetitive markets.

To sell customers on the exciting idea of paying more money for the exact same (or less) service, a notice sent to Comcast users last week informs them they're lucky to now be included in the "terabyte internet experience," as if this is some kind of glorious reward being doled out to only the company's most valued customers. The company also tries to shine up its decision to start charging users $50 more per month if they want to avoid the cap as an act of altruistic convenience, and tries to make the caps seem generous by measuring them in terms of gaming hours and photos:
"We know customers want a carefree online experience that doesn't require them to think about their data usage plan, and we offer a plan that does just that...What can you do with a terabyte? Stream about 700 hours of HD video, play more than 12,000 hours of online games, or download 600,000 high-res photos in a month."
How generous. You can also check your email account 8 billion times under our totally unnecessary restrictions. As we've long noted, caps are solely about protecting legacy TV revenues from Internet video, while creating new ways (zero rating) to distort the level playing field. And as AT&T and Verizon give up on unwanted DSL customers and cable's broadband monopoly grows in many areas, this incredible "experience" will be headed in your direction sooner than you probably realize.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 6:49am

    "We know customers want a carefree online experience that doesn't require them to think about their data usage plan, and we offer a plan that does just that...What can you do with a terabyte? Stream about 700 hours of HD video, play more than 12,000 hours of online games, or download 600,000 high-res photos in a month."
    Well, sure. But you know what's better than 1? 2!! See? I also know how numbers work!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 6:52am

    Stream about 700 hours of HD video, play more than 12,000 hours of online games

    As that is about 23 hours of HD video a day, or 400 hours of gaming a day, so why do they need caps, other than scaring people into paying to avoid a problem they are very unlikely to run into.

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

    • icon
      K`Tetch (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 7:09am

      Re:

      Actually, for netflix on 'high' quality, its 3gb/hour, which means 330 hours, or about 10/day.

      There's me, the wife, 3 kids and we can watch in 2 locations at once. 5 hours a day in 2 locations. Not that hard to do.

      If you have 4k, and use their 'ultraHD', thats 7gb/hour or 140 hours of watching, just 4-and-a-bit a day (and you get 3 locations).

      I counted up what I used back in Jan amongst all my devices - came to over 1.5TB without even trying, and that's only on a 60/4 connection.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 7:18am

        Re: Re:

        Bingo. The caps are pretending the future and increased demands for data do not exist.

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

      • icon
        John85851 (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 9:51am

        Re: Re:

        And it's this kind of analysis that needs to spread out to everyone so people wake up to what these data caps really mean.
        Most people will say that 700 hours a month is just over 23 hours a day and there's no way they can use that much data... until they factor in all the mobile devices and apps and streams for the entire family. Then, like you said, they're using 5T of data without even noticing.

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

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 7:05am

    Phrasing

    "Expanding usage caps" sounds like "making usage caps more generous". A better phrase would be "imposing usage caps more widely".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 7:08am

    I love how they claim it has been entirely for the customer benefit yet when actual competition comes in, like when google fiber announced my city was one of the possible future expansions, suddenly Comcast started upgrading speeds, providing deals and not a mention of data caps in my area.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 7:12am

    Hey, Comcast, what about 4k video? What about those times when you download 300+ goddamn Gb to restore your game library from Steam? What about the weekly online backup of my home storage that has several terabytes now that HDDs got so cheap? What about the fact that usage caps won't solve any problems or reduce costs in your end (you still need to have network capacity to serve all customers at full speed if they decide to use their caps at the same time)?

    We can add one more:

    Abusive data caps.
    Xfinity [x] / Google Fiber [ ]

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

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 7:31am

    Price cuts?

    Since Comcast is now transmitting less data, their costs go down, and so should the subscription fees.

    How much are they reducing the package prices?

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

  • icon
    metalliqaz (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 8:06am

    They aren't trying to measure user satisfaction with Comcast. They are trying to measure how much they can get away without boiling over into the news media. As long as they keep user rage under those levels they don't have to worry about regulatory action.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 14 Jul 2016 @ 8:06am

    Is this...

    pushed by the entertainment industry in the background? (RIAA-MPAA) Maybe a way to charge more to the people using peer to peer file sharing? A music industry tax, if you will.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 8:20am

    @2

    if a HD movie is 25GB

    4 = 100GB
    40 = 1 TB roughly

    so no you dont get 700 hours you get 40-80MAX

    also a HD stream from games might use for 10 hrs a play a day about 200+ GB
    think the 4K coming ripoff it gets 4 times worse

    so if mom n pop watch 2 movies a night 50GB times 30 = 1.5TB

    scenario 1 wth kids
    and say each kid plays 20 hrs a games so 60 HRS a month or about another 300GB

    scenario 2 with kids
    1 kid watches a movie each night at 25GB X30 =750 GB
    2 play games =200GB
    = 900 gb

    with #1 you need 1.8 TB
    wth #2 you need 2.4TB

    NOW imagine X4 all the above as 4K games and movies come out

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

    • identicon
      kallethen, 14 Jul 2016 @ 9:51am

      Re: @2

      also a HD stream from games might use for 10 hrs a play a day about 200+ GB
      think the 4K coming ripoff it gets 4 times worse

      Don't most online games have their art assets already loaded onto the computer/game console when you install the game and then later patch games?

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

  • icon
    A Dan (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 8:25am

    Where it really starts to add up

    Naturally, the things they don't talk to you about are the things that really add up. With games it isn't the gameplay that takes up large amounts of bandwidth, it's the installation. A few Xbox One games (like the handful that come free each month with Xbox Live Gold) really start to eat away at that allotment.

    Remember that one reason there was such pushback on Microsoft's attempt to kill physical discs was that we don't all have high-bandwidth plans with unlimited data to get our games.

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

  • identicon
    Rex Rollman, 14 Jul 2016 @ 8:42am

    I still don't understand why Netflix counts against the cap as Netflix is paying Comcast and I am paying Comcast.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 9:09am

      Re:

      Because money and greed. Comcast is filled with the later, and they'd really like more of the former, as much as they can grab.

      Caps and 'cap exception deals' are the modern protection racket essentially, a way of telling a company "That's a mighty fine business/service you got there, be a shame if something were to happen to the connection between you and your customers. But tell you what, you pay us a modest fee, and I'm sure that won't happen."

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

  • identicon
    psiuuuu, 14 Jul 2016 @ 8:47am

    Wonder if they are trying it in the Detroit area

    One of the few areas with competition - the Comcast areas generally have WOW (Wide Open West, in this area, formerly Americast) as direct cable competition. U-Verse also, for masochists.

    Scattered suburbs stuck on Bright House, soon to be Charter/Spectrum.

    PS the article title is unneccccessarily long.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 8:48am

    I've recently received Comcast's "trial" notification email a little while ago and I must say, if I had another choice in internet providers aside from A Fee and Fee or Comcast, I would be switching immediately after receiving this announcement. Talk about the future of awesome, a high speed internet connection that you burn through your generous allotment of data and have to watch it sit idle or pay exorbitant fees in order to use it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 12:07pm

      Re:

      Everyone affected should call, email, and web message (if they have any way you can contact them on their website) Comcast and tell them what you think of these caps. That they are a product of all the mergers and acquisitions and that they are an abuse of their monopoly power and their ability to coerce government into limiting competition. If you swamp them perhaps they will listen.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 11:33pm

        Re: Re:

        Comcast? Listen? Not a chance. They'll 'listen' when there's some actual competition in the area and they have to start treating their customers decently or risk losing them, and not one second before.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 9:36am

    But comcast is being so innovative right now. Just not in a pro consumer, FCC intended way.

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

  • identicon
    Ox, 14 Jul 2016 @ 10:28am

    Move over, Comcast. I want me some frog legs.

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

  • identicon
    Shilling, 14 Jul 2016 @ 11:11am

    New Comcast advertisement

    When you fully utilise your 75Mb/s internet connection you will reach our profit chosen cap in less then 4 hours. Plz try our 25Mb/s if you want to enjoy full utilisation of your internet connection for longer without paying extra.

    However if you want to enjoy unlimited data you can always pay 50 dollars more each month giving you the satisfaction to never have to look at our inaccurate usage meter that we have developed to pester the poor and to line our pockets with more green.

    Your welcome.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 12:13pm

    Neccessary?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2016 @ 1:05pm

    Kinda outraged

    I live in the area where this data cap was put into place. I live with a friend and the two of us are relatively heavy data users. That said, we only go through about 300 GB a month.

    Does this make what Comcast is doing ok? No. I remember years ago they said less than 1% of people use 200 GB. The letter they sent me said the same thing about 1 TB. They obviously have the foresight of what is going to happen with internet and they're trying to capitalize on it. But it looks like a losing battle. Any kind of competition makes them back off and their greed is probably going to be their downfall (hopefully).

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

  • identicon
    BSG, 14 Jul 2016 @ 7:08pm

    You know it actually costs money to deliver each and every *bit* of data?

    Comcast might be evil. They are certainly trying to increase profits - all companies are.

    But there is so much wrong with the entire premise of this "argument" about usage caps.

    If you break down the costs of providing an Internet service, there is (very broadly):
    - customer support
    - last mile access (so the cost of a physical dsl phone lines or cable systems)
    - metro-backhaul
    - core routing
    - access to the rest of the world

    Each one of those things has a cost, and the costs for all but customer support scales with how much customers download. Obviously the costs vary, but if there is a population of users that download double compared to another population, they COST MORE.

    Offering services without caps disadvantages customers that do not download large amounts, because what Comcast and TW and everyone else is averaging usage and costs across all customers and charging accordingly. Like all you can eat buffet's, if your not that hungry and only eat a salad then your not getting value for money.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 14 Jul 2016 @ 9:14pm

      Re:

      "Offering services without caps disadvantages customers that do not download large amounts"

      If this is actually something that ISPs are worried about, then caps are still not the answer. The fairest thing to do is to just meter usage and charge a flat rate per Kb or whatever.

      However, two things make it clear this is not the issue: what the ISPs are telling their shareholders, and that the cost of bandwidth is low enough that the the price impact of heavy users is barely noticeable.

      This is nothing more than a naked money grab -- which in our system is not necessarily an "evil". The objectionable thing is that Comcast, like other ISPs, keep trying to sell it as something more than that.

      They're simply lying. Comcast isn't the only one -- I was in an AT&T store today, and they had a big poster advertising their "unlimited" service. In the fine print at the bottom, it mentioned that if you used more than a preset amount, your connection speed will be reduced.

      Which makes the "unlimited" claim a lie. That sort of thing is the actual problem.

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

      • identicon
        BSG, 14 Jul 2016 @ 10:56pm

        Re: Re:

        "In the fine print at the bottom, it mentioned that if you used more than a preset amount, your connection speed will be reduced.

        Which makes the "unlimited" claim a lie. That sort of thing is the actual problem."

        Yes, thats a problem. It should be a straight consumer protection issue though right?

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

  • icon
    magusat999 (profile), 15 Jul 2016 @ 5:59am

    I knew it, and finally some proof...

    I'm glad for this article because about a year and a half ago a Comcast Business installer (well actually two) told me they have PLENTY of bandwidth. They told me they are just trying to manipulate people into holding onto the TV services, which the internet is a threat to. At that time I couldn't find too many stories on this, but this stories proves what they said was true. The tech told me that the whole "not enough bandwidth" excuse is a lie (which I always knew). Companies like Comcast are teaching people those lies, and publicizing those lies so they can control the internet (usage) in a way that they profit from the Internet AND TV services. They are trying to "balance" the two in a way that they win on both fronts - but the shady part about it is creating lies to make people accept it. If the internet has limited bandwidth (which is actually physically impossible) it is because companies like Comcast are not letting it run at it's natural speed. Yes, it's a form of throttling, and letting out only as much as to make an excuse that there is only so much "bandwidth". They are just a bunch of corporate crooks and liars. just like the lie they started with - that they were EITHER going to get paid by subscription OR Advertising -but see what we are doing now? They get paid for BOTH; they went back on that lie as soon as they got the networks under their thumb. Well, we should have know a snake when we saw one.

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

  • identicon
    Grodatroll, 6 Oct 2016 @ 4:11pm

    Houston, Tx - Incoming Data caps...

    Just received and email from Comcast stating they're implementing a 1tb data cap.

    You can A> Pay $50 a month additional for 'unlimited' data or B> pay an additional 10$ per month for each block of 50gb over the 'cap'.


    I work 8-9 hours a day, with another 2 hours spent commuting to/from work. The kid, pretty much gone 10 hours a day himself. Figure avg min 6 hours sleep a night...figure a rough 400 hours 'free' to stream movies, surf the net & play games a month.
    So seriously, we were using 2-3gbh constantly? Replace the modem and suddenly that dropped by 300-500gb per month... that'd be a $50 difference if I pay for this new 'cap', or $60-$100 paying by month.

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

  • icon
    magusat999 (profile), 7 Oct 2016 @ 1:16am

    My wife watches Big Brother online, we are in Georgia and we kept hitting the cap within the first week (about 2-3 days). At this time the cap was much lower 250gig. I got a tool to see how much bandwidth and it was going so fast just from her watching the Big Brother live stream that if she were to watch it 24/7 it would have exhausted the bandwidth in less than 2 days! So even a terabyte is anemic - I cannot imagine a house full of kids all with computer access (and schools nowadays make children use the computer as a resource). it's ridiculous how Comcast is ruining the internet for their greed - they aren't rich enough already?

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

  • icon
    magusat999 (profile), 7 Oct 2016 @ 1:25am

    Anyways - they don't need no stinking TRIAL and they KNOW IT. All they need to do is ASK PEOPLE. Its called a SURVEY. This trial malarkey (and I wanted to cuss there) is a bag of horse manure (another place I wanted to cuss). But they obviously aren't even intelligent enough to hide what they are doing - or perhaps they just don't care how evil they are looking.

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


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