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Comcast admits its 300GB data cap serves no technical purpose

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:04PM EST
Comcast Data Caps

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Say what you will about Comcast and their customer service, but the company does provide the fastest internet speeds amongst all nationwide ISPs. As we highlighted earlier this month, Comcast Xfinity delivers an average download speed of 104Mbps alongside an average upload speed of 12.7Mbps.

That’s great and all, but with Comcast simultaneously implementing a rigid 300 GB data cap on its users, the company has naturally been accused of teasing users with download speeds that can quickly eat into the 300 GB threshold and subsequently result in fines for going over.

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Curious about the rationale behind the data cap — is it technical? is it arbitrary? — a Twitter account last week asked Jason Livingood — Comcast’s VP of Internet services — to chime in on the issue.

Livingood, perhaps surprisingly, responded with an honest and candid answer. In short, he said he didn’t know the underlying reason, though his answer effectively confirmed that the data cap limitation has nothing to do with improving the overall user experience.

So clearly, the data cap limitation wasn’t borne of engineering considerations, but rather a seemingly arbitrary business policy.

Is this cause for outrage? Not really. Truth be told, Comcast has indicated that more than 98% of its customers don’t ever go over the 300 GB cap. Still, given how much data usage has increased in recent years (we’re lookin’ at you, Netflix), it’s nice to know that the limit is somewhat arbitrary and (one would imagine) subject to change once bandwidth usage increases dramatically in the months and years ahead. Once 4K video streaming becomes commonplace, for instance, 300 GB of data a month will all of a sudden seem like nothing.

Putting 4K video aside for a moment, even Apple’s rumored TV subscription service might warrant a re-evaluation of Comcast’s data caps. It’s one thing for folks to browse the web and watch Netflix here and there, but if Apple’s TV subscription service catches on, the amount of video coming down the pipes of all ISPs will be incredibly higher.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.