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Comcast’s brilliant plan to make you accept data caps: Refuse to admit they’re data caps

Published Oct 2nd, 2015 12:40PM EDT
Why is Comcast So Bad

Comcast has a problem: It wants to implement data caps but it knows customers hate data caps. Its solution: Call them something other than “data caps.” As DSLReports points out, Comcast is bringing its capped data plans to lucky customers in Florida while simultaneously insisting that it isn’t implementing data caps.

RELATED: FCC complaints reveal the horrors of Comcast’s data caps

In short, Comcast’s plans are the same ones that AT&T and Verizon have implemented for years now with their 4G LTE networks: You’re offered an array of tiered plans that give you a set limit on data you use every month and then charge you overage fees if you exceed it. Comcast is also offering a more expensive unlimited data plan in which you can keep the unlimited data plan you’ve traditionally had for an extra $30 a month.

Traditionally, AT&T and Verizon haven’t made a big deal out of their capped plans being referred to as data caps. In fact, it’s widely accepted in the world of tech jargon that both carriers have data caps. Comcast, however, has a different take on the matter: The company says that real data caps only occur when you’re completely cut off from your Internet service after exceeding your monthly limit, whereas with these plans you’re only charged an overage fee.

“We don’t call it a cap,” Comcast spokseman Charlie Douglas tells Fortune. “We call it a data plan just like wireless companies have data plans.”

But why stop at boring old “data plans,” Comcast? Why not call them “happy plans?” Or if you want to go all red-white-and-blue, “freedom plans” or “liberty caps?”

What’s particularly galling about Comcast’s take on its capped data plans, however, is its insistence that they’re really about fairness. After all, the company argues, why should Mr. and Mrs. Normal Internet user have trouble viewing their favorite cat GIFs because some uber-dork is illegally torrenting 4K movies from his basement 24 hours a day?

The trouble with this, of course, is that the amount of data that Internet applications consume is constantly growing. So while using 300GB a month might seem like a lot to some people right now, it won’t be once more people start streaming Netflix in 4K. And anyone who downloads games from the web right now can easily go over their monthly cap in no time — for instance, consider that Grand Theft Auto V weighs in at just under 49GB, which means that downloading just one game can blow through 16% of your monthly cap.

Put simply, these happy freedom caps have nothing to do with fairness. Rather, they’re a business decision made by Comcast to help generate more revenue to make up for declining pay TV subscribers.

At any rate, if you live in Florida and Comcast tries to tell you that it doesn’t have data caps, don’t believe it. Unless, that is, you don’t believe AT&T and Verizon’s wireless services have data caps either.

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.