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Why you’re going to absolutely hate Comcast’s data caps

Updated 9 years ago
Why Comcast Data Caps Are Bad

If there’s one thing Comcast loves doing, it’s figuring out how to grab even more money from its subscribers. But Comcast has a problem: More and more customers are choosing to reject its beloved bundles and only subscribe to it for Internet services so they can watch their favorite shows through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other online streaming services. To squeeze more money from these rascally cord cutters, Comcast has now said that it plans to implement bandwidth caps that will slap its users with fees if they watch too many episodes of House of Cards over its network.

Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin does a good job of explaining just how much you’re going to hate these bandwidth caps, especially if you’re someone who watches most of your favorite shows and movies online. As Brodkin notes, new research from Sandvine shows that cord cutters in the United States “consume on average 212GB a month, more than seven times the usage of a typical subscriber” while watching “an average of 100 hours of video a month and account for 54 percent of total traffic consumed each month.”

What’s more, Sandvine’s research shows that the top 5% of Internet users consume around 328GB per month, which means that they’ll likely go over the 300GB cap that Comcast has started rolling out in many markets.

Why does this matter if it only affects 5% of users? Well, it matters because the future of video really is going to be online and not through cable television. Online streaming apps and services keep growing in popularity and soon more people will see that paying $200 a month for a package that includes 150+ channels they don’t watch is a complete waste of money. In other words, while only a few people will run afoul of such caps right now that number is only going to keep growing, especially once more people get 4K TVs.

And once this happens, you can just bet that Comcast will want to implement its pièce de résistance by copying AT&T’s proposed “sponsored data” plans that will let content providers fork over extra cash to make sure that their streaming data doesn’t count against customers’ caps. This way Comcast can not only collect overage fees from customers who watch too many videos from unsponsored sources, it can also rake in cash from Netflix, Amazon and others who want to make sure their subscribers aren’t punished for enjoying their programs too much.


At any rate, while it’s certainly true that we Comcast subscribers are going to hate this new bandwidth cap scheme the good news is that we’ll have plenty of company. After all, if Comcast ends up buying Time Warner Cable, then every TWC subscriber will know the joys of being slapped with fees for watching too much Netflix as well.

Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.