Instituting a data usage cap policy that limits a broadband subscriber’s monthly data usage is a contentious topic. A variety of wireline broadband ISPs including AT&T, Comcast, Suddenlink and others have done so (some on a market by market basis), while others like Verizon and Google Fiber have resisted. As a result, there isn’t a clear wireline broadband trend regarding the use of these capped data plans.
The issue is clearly evolving though. Comcast just announced they are raising their previous 300 GB cap to 1 TB in the markets where they have a data usage cap policy.
“Today, more than 99 percent of our customers do not come close to using a terabyte,” writes Marcien Jenckes, Comcast Executive Vice President, Consumer Services, in a blog post outlining the change. “Our typical customer uses only about 60 gigabytes of data in a month – that’s far less than a terabyte (in fact, 940 gigabytes less), or less than six percent of a terabyte.”
With a terabyte of data, Comcast says a broadband customer can “…stream about 700 hours of HD video, play 12,000 hours of online games, and download 60,000 high-res photos in a month.”
The move follows much activity regarding the data usage cap policy trend. AT&T recently made a change to their policy, allowing customers to avoid data limits on their U-verse broadband service by also subscribing to DirecTV.
Both companies also allow customers to pay for unlimited data. Comcast raised that fee to $50 from $30 for customers in their data usage cap markets who believe 1 TB of data is not enough and want unlimited data.
Perhaps Comcast’s move on this issue has something to do with FCC Chairman Wheeler’s recommendation to approve the Charter – TW Cable merger. Wheeler’s conditions for that merger approval include a ban on any Charter data usage cap policy for at least seven years.
Comcast may be trying to get ahead of (or influence) any regulatory action on data usage caps. They are also increasingly getting competition from new entrants like Google Fiber who don’t have a data usage cap policy.