Heavy internet users with Comcast subscriptions take heed because your days of unlimited data are numbered. Starting November 1st, Comcast will start imposing a monthly 1 terabyte data limit for much of the U.S.
The announcement shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. They’ve been experimenting with a cap on their Xfinity internet service for some time now in various markets across the country. Next month, they plan to add 18 new markets to the list which will cover most of their service areas. Places like California, Michigan, and Florida are part of the roll out while New York and a lot of the Northeast are notable exceptions. You can find the full list in their FAQ.
But the question has to be asked why Comcast would set a limit at all. In their own announcement, they word it as a matter of fairness: “Our data plans are based on a principle of fairness. Those who use more Internet data, pay more. And those who use less Internet data, pay less.”
They want to make it clear 99% of their subscribers will never even reach 1TB of data a month so there’s really no need to give this topic anymore attention and we should all just move on to other things. According to Comcast, the average user only consumes 60GB per month (6% of the cap). But if you’re a heavy gamer or if you stream a lot of HD and 4k videos, it’s not impossible to get to that 1TB mark. Plus, with online content continually moving toward higher resolutions all the time, what seems like a generously high ceiling now could end up looking more meager in the future.
Last month, Netflix submitted a filing to the Federal Communications Commission arguing against the idea of data caps as they pose a barrier to accessing online content. Still, they mostly focused on unreasonably low limits of less than 300GB. And while the FCC has come down on internet providers in the past to enforce net neutrality rules, it’s harder to make the case that a 1TB data cap would have as much of an adverse impact on consumers.
So what happens for those 1% of people who do go over the cap? Customers get two “courtesy months” in a year without being billed. After that, they’ll start accruing overage charges the same way a phone data plan might work. It’ll cost $10 per 50GB of extra data (up to $200). Comcast is also offering an unlimited data plan for an additional $50 per month.
But remember that Comcast does want to be fair. If you can manage to get your internet consumption down to 5GB per month, you’ll get a $5 savings on the cost.
Customers can adjust their notification settings so they’re not blindsided with overages in any given month. And they can use this calculator to check past usage and start their data diet as they deem necessary. Considering Comcast is pretty much the only choice for high-speed internet in many parts of the country, there really isn’t an alternative.