Comcast Wireless Joins Verizon In Charging You More For HD Video

from the pay,-and-then-pay-some-more dept

One of the more subtle assaults on net neutrality has been the slow but steady introduction of arbitrary, often unnecessary restrictions mobile carriers will then charge you to get around. Sprint, for example, has toyed with plans that throttle all video, music, and games unless you pay extra. Verizon has also banned 4K video from its network unless you pay more for 5G (which isn't widely available). The company also now throttles all video on its "unlimited" data plans, charging consumers even more if they want to view content in HD as the originating service intended.

Comcast has now followed Verizon's lead, and its new wireless service will also now ban HD videoon its unlimited data plans unless you pony up an adidtional $20 per month. The company technically began throttling all video to 480p on its wireless network a week ago, but only just last week announced that users would now be charged more if they actually wanted to watch video in HD:

"Xfinity Mobile's unlimited data plan costs $45 per line per month, but video streams are generally limited to 480p resolution. Comcast yesterday announced a new $20-per-month HD Pass "for an upgrade to HD video resolution on Unlimited lines (720p on phone and 1080p on tablets)." That raises the monthly price to $65."

The problem with these efforts begins with the fact that Americans already pay some of the highest prices for 4G mobile data in the developed world. In exchange, they get mobile 4G broadband service that ranks somewhere around 30th worldwide in terms of speed. Studies also show that US wireless provider video quality is similarly some of the worst in the developed world due to many of the nickel-and-diming, erroneous restrictions being placed on mobile lines.

The other problem with these kinds of plans is one of precedent. Once you open the door to letting giant telecom companies impose arbitrary barriers you'll then have to pay extra to get around, you open the door to all manner of additional, problematic efforts (especially with the recent neutering of FCC authority and net neutrality). Want your games to work as intended? Pay us more. Want your music streaming to be free of arbitrary restrictions? Pay us more. Want to use Netflix instead of a telecom's TV services? Pay us more.

One way to help minimize these issues is to stop mindlessly signing off on competition-eroding megamergers that only act to reduce any incentive to genuinely compete on price. Instead of direct competition, wireless carriers adore saddling their plans with so many bizarre restrictions and caveats that direct pricing comparisons are often impossible for the average user. Frightened by what they don't understand, these users are then incentivized to buy the most expensive plan in order to avoid overage fees or other restrictions. It's a pricing funnel designed with one thing in mind: upselling you to a more expensive plan.

Another answer to this growing problem is for carriers to finally stop marketing clearly limited plans as "unlimited." For fifteen years or so US mobile carriers have marketed "unlimited" data plans with an ocean of very real, very confusing limits. Comcast's unlimited data plan, for example, throttles users back to DSL speeds (1.5Mbps download/750kbps upload) after 20 gigabytes of monthly use. Despite getting government wrist slaps for the better part of 15 years this practice has only accelerated, the number of caveats have grown, and it's a wonder Americans have any idea what kind of connection they're actually buying.

Enter the death of net neutrality rules, which not only prohibited many of the more elaborate, heavy handed nickel-and-diming efforts by mobile carriers, but mandated that wireless carriers be entirely clear about what kind of mobile connection you're buying. Wary of the rules being restored due to the state AG and Mozilla lawsuit against the FCC, many mobile carriers are trying to behave. But should the states and Mozilla lose their bid to restore the rules, this entire problem is going to get exponentially worse in relatively short order.

Filed Under: broadband, net neutrality, streaming, video
Companies: comcast, verizon


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Horst Laffer, 9 Aug 2019 @ 8:03pm

    "the recent neutering of ... net neutrality", eh?

    Did you even read that through ONCE? -- "neutering neutrality"! Sheesh.

    Minion, you write as though adjectives inform. They don't. Getting through your text is variously a hoot and a struggle. You are now worse than Geigner: at least he's improved.

    Anyhoo: what's NOT "neutral" about charging more for more? Simple question.

    You're not forced to watch 4K video, would do better not to. [You write kind of "4K text", add unnecessary distractions and thereby reverse intent, actually insure readers miss any point you might be trying to make.]

    PS: I'm being generous in providing target for ad hom so look like in interest here. DULLEST. WEEK. EVER.

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

  2. icon
    Gary (profile), 9 Aug 2019 @ 9:03pm

    Re: "the recent Trolling

    Heya Blue Balls - Neutral would be charging for the data you use. This is charging different rates for "different" data. There I answered your stupid question - so mine is "What do you support - civil rights, or copy rights?" I'll wait.

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

  3. icon
    techflaws (profile), 9 Aug 2019 @ 9:41pm

    Re: "the recent neutering of ... net neutrality", eh?

    DUMBEST. POSTER. EVER.

    clicks report
    You're welcome.

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

  4. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Aug 2019 @ 10:57pm

    Christ, what an asshole.

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

  5. icon
    fairuse (profile), 9 Aug 2019 @ 11:39pm

    Trolling and writer's style

    1) Tonight I had time to catch up on news.
    2) Tonight I had time to post.
    3) I am wishing for thread level flag. That wish is not a request because that kind of flag is not going to solve anything in troll'ish posts. My one time free bitchy comment for trolls to snack on.

    I did not know Xfinity mobile was that messed up. I rarely watch video streams on mobile (T-mobile) but watch plenty on a Kindle.

    Since I have a wifi connection that states 780mb/s on last mobile check I cannot picture DSL speed. The only time I have noticed bad looking stream on Kindle was in mirror to big screen TV SD movie; TV has no reason to upscale DRM video. The SD movie looked fine on Kindle.

    The extra price for HD on mobile and tablets is plainly a money grab.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2019 @ 1:08am

    God help us we are going to AT&T soon. Comcast, Xfinity, NBC, Universal has worn out their welcome in our home, We will say good-bye to the internet at home as well, TV only, for her, for four channels.

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

  7. identicon
    Max, 10 Aug 2019 @ 2:03am

    ...but no worries, Stadia will surely never have bandwidth or lag issues. Surely! Also, I have this low-mileage bridge...

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2019 @ 2:16am

    Re:

    Hey blue - how's that copyright allowing artists to sue artists coming along? Copyright's best and brightest, ladies and gentlemen! Should rank up there nicely with your Paul Hansmeier defense fund!

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

  9. identicon
    Bruce C., 10 Aug 2019 @ 2:52am

    Be careful what you wish for...

    Be careful what you wish for. "charging for the data you use" is what they already do in the landline market already. At a rate of $10/50 GB or thereabouts.

    It's interesting that on the land-line network, they claim network congestion (when there isn't any) and charge extra for "excess" usage. On the wireless network, where there is some scarcity in bandwidth they just downgrade you and make you pay extra whether you use it or not.

    Now that I think about it, $10/50 GB would be a heck of a deal in wireless service (in the US, anyway).

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

  10. icon
    mechtheist (profile), 10 Aug 2019 @ 3:39am

    Re: "the recent neutering of ... net neutrality", eh?

    Wow, you talk as if you know something about writing. "neutering neutrality"--What's there to 'sheesh' about? Alittle alliteration never hurt anyone, I bet you're one of those people who think words are sacrosanct things one mustn't diddle with. As for adjectives not informing? You gotta be kidding? I don't know where to begin with such an absurdity, so I'll just say that's the dullest comment I've heard, speaking superlatively.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2019 @ 8:45am

    Re:

    EASY.. Billy..

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2019 @ 8:47am

    Re:

    These two skunk corporations stink everywhere they are.

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2019 @ 9:47am

    I dont, understand some companys are getting ready to launch game streaming services like google stadia,
    streaming under 4 k will be free on stadia .

    who can afford to pay for services that use terabytes of data
    in america the average broadbnd speed is so slow .
    Last time i had broadband it was 20meg per second, 500 gig data limit.
    theres no sign it will get better when 5 g is launched .
    Some telecom companys do not have enough spectrum to provide
    a 5g service Unless they buy it from another telecom provider.

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

  14. icon
    Gerald Robinson (profile), 10 Aug 2019 @ 12:20pm

    Threads a problem

    Aside from the above mos5 appear to be nonsense. This is plain commercial fraud! Fire Congress take back the airwaves!

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2019 @ 4:05pm

    add that one to the encyclopaedia of words you don’t understan

    “Minion, you write as though adjectives inform. They don't.”

    Actually hun. That’s literally the dictionary definition of the word.

    adjective
    /ˈadʒɪktɪv/
    a word naming an attribute of a noun, such as sweet, red, or technical.

    Also:

    encyclopedia
    noun: encyclopaedia
    a book or set of books with lots of words and pretty pictures

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2019 @ 5:57pm

    One could use a VPN so that cannot Comcast, Verizon, and Tmobile cannot determine what you are up to.

    One thing about Tmobile is that they block PPTP VPNs on certain UDP ports, but they do not block other VPNs.

    I found a clever way to circumvent that, being that Taco Bell blocks all VPNs.

    What I do is log into the SSL VPN on my home network, then log into the main VPN on my home work, by using the Internal address of 192.168.1.1, instead of the external address, and the firewalls on Tmobile and Verizon, as well as the one at Taco Bell, lets it through.

    I also did that at one hotel once that blocked VPNs. I logged onto the SSL VPN on port 443 on my home network, then logged onto the main VPN using the internal network address of 192.168.1.1, instead of the external address, and it let me through.

    This is becuase the firmware in firewalls are programmed not to block 192.168.0.x and 192.168.1.x because those are all internal addresses used on various networks. The firewall sees an connect attempt in that range and lets it through.

    Exploiting this flaw allowed me to circmuvent VPN blocking on Taco Bell, TMobile, Verizon, and the network at one now defunct hotel in Anaheim (Disney bought that hotel and demolished it to build on of their new parking lots).

    You could use this method to hide it from Verizon, or whatever, to use HD video while on the road. Your home network has to on a broadband connection that allows servers.

    Using this method to circumvent VPN blocking did not break any federal laws, or state laws in Oregon, Nevada, Utah, California, or Arizona, or in Mexico, Canada, or the Republic Of Alaska, so don't try to tell me I broke any laws when I did that, because I did not. I did any felony in any of those jurisdictions by using that method to circumvent VPN blocking.

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

  17. identicon
    James Burkhardt, 10 Aug 2019 @ 8:40pm

    Re: Be careful what you wish for...

    It's primarily due to a lack of competition landline service. wireless was the same as landline service until TMobile lost its bid to be aquired, and decided to 'compete' by zero rating, and then introducing the 'unlimited plan'. As happens, computers followed.

    There aren't any landline competitors. So the landline market is heading in the direction of price exploitation.

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

  18. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Aug 2019 @ 6:07am

    Re: "the recent neutering of ... net neutrality", eh?

    "Anyhoo: what's NOT "neutral" about charging more for more? "

    Charging more for more data regardless of the type, destination and source of the data? Nothing.

    Charging different rates depending on criteria that have nothing to do with the raw amount of bandwidth used? Everything.

    This has never been a hard subject, except for those whose income depends on pretending it is.

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

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2019 @ 9:26am

    Why the uproar?

    Want your games to work as intended? Pay us more. Want your music streaming to be free of arbitrary restrictions? Pay us more. Want to use Netflix instead of a telecom's TV services? Pay us more.

    We're talking about mobile devices here. Mobile games are not twitch-style and don't depend on having fast internet. For music, even 480p video speeds are more than adequate (music consumes very little bandwidth). And 480p is more than enough quality on any mobile device except the largest tablets; If you're watching enough video content on a large tablet that you need 720 or 1080 on the go, well, you're a large mobile data consumer and probably should be paying more than the average customer. The same goes for those who tether to their mobile device for business.

    ISPs have always charged more for faster connections. Like, since the inception of the internet. Why should mobile internet access be any different? I really don't understand all the indignation over this point because bandwidth is a finite (though expandable) resource and charging more for a larger share of the consumption of that data makes sense.

    The real Net Neutrality problem in this story is the same as ever: Not charging extra for high-speed data from the ISP's library when accessing the same quality from a source other than the ISP costs more. But if you accept that someone should pay more for more bandwidth then this issue boils down to being anti-competitive rather than immoral or a money-grab: They're trying to attract subscribers by offering their content at no extra charge. Bundling. The same kind of thing for which others such as Microsoft have been successfully taken to court.

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

  20. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Aug 2019 @ 9:34am

    Net Neutrality isn’t about a customer’s bandwidth speed in general. It’s about whether that speed is being throttled because of where data comes from — and whether that practice itself is driving people towards, say, an ISP’s preferred (read: an ISP-owned) source of data. In other words, it’s about whether Comcast is trying to use throttling as a way of moving people away from Netflix and towards a Comcast-owned video service (e.g., “It costs you nothing to watch our videos in HD, but if you still want to watch Netflix, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you about a bigger bill”).

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

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2019 @ 9:43am

    Re: Why the uproar?

    ISPs have always charged more for faster connections. Like, since the inception of the internet. Why should mobile internet access be any different? I really don't understand all the indignation over this point because bandwidth is a finite (though expandable) resource and charging more for a larger share of the consumption of that data makes sense.

    But paying extra for HD video doesn't get you a faster connection. It's still 4G either way.

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

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2019 @ 11:50am

    Re: Re: Why the uproar?

    But today only, don't miss out on this great promotional opportunity, for only $10.00 per month, we will re-label your connection from 4G to 5Ge...

    Who doesn't want 5Ge for only $10.00 more per month per line?

    But wait, that's not all, subscribe to our Two-Tear plan and we will lock you in at your current data speeds, but we will also increase the monthly cap from 10GB to 15GBx for the same flat rate of $10.00 more per line.

    Sign up today or miss out on this great promotional offer...
    5Ge stands for 5th Generation enabled (this is 4G service with a 5Ge label), aka the prestige upgrade, where you get nothing except a new name to impress your friends (be the first to have 5Ge).
    GBx are "Gigabite like' units, one GBx is equal to 75% of 1/2 of the MegaBytes in a single Gigabyte (yes, less 15GBx is less than 10GB, but nobody will read the fine print anyway, so who cares)

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

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2019 @ 2:36am

    out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

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


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