Let’s be honest: The only reason we tolerate mobile data caps at all is because we at least have wireline networks at home that we can fall back on. Comcast and other ISPs seem determined to end unlimited data for home networks as well, however.
Last month, Comcast unveiled yet another iteration of its wireline usage caps that encompass many major markets in the southern United States as well as the entire state of Maine. Comcast apparently discovered from its earlier trials that a low-level data cap of just 250GB per month was too small for most users’ tastes, which is why it’s “generously” offered them an upgrade to a 300GB monthly allotment.
While Comcast may claim that 300GB of data is enough to meet most of its customers’ data needs right now, the amount of data that popular applications consume is increasing by a significant amount and it won’t be long before these usage caps are woefully insufficient.
Consider, for example, Microsoft’s ambitious plans to roll out Windows 10 updates every week. Or think about the increasing amount of Netflix streaming that will be in 4K, not to mention how many more online video streaming options Americans have now compared to last year thanks to Sling TV, HBO Now and Showtime’s standalone streaming option.
If you’re still not convinced, think about how more people now are choosing to download console games straight from the web instead of buying them on disc. The newest version of Madden, for example is just under 20GB and that’s before any patches roll in. Grand Theft Auto V, meanwhile, weighs in at just under 49GB, which means that downloading just one game can blow through 16% of your monthly cap.
And let’s be clear about this: These data caps are not necessary tools for network management. Even Comcast executives have admitted that the choice to impose a 300GB data cap is a “business decision” and not an engineering one. ISPs only want data caps to extract more money from customers or from tech companies that are willing to pay them off as part of “sponsored data” schemes.
And this is why tech companies need to come out and take a stand against these caps. Companies like Microsoft, Netflix and EA can’t be happy that some of their users might hesitate to use their services because they fear doing so would get them hit with overage charges. If they want to see their ambitious plans for digital content distribution succeed, then they’ll have to start actively calling out unnecessary data caps that hurt both their own businesses and the customers they serve.