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Comcast’s data caps are ‘just low enough to punish streaming’

Published Oct 28th, 2015 8:00AM EDT
Why Is Comcast So Bad

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If you’re a cord cutter who lives in an area where Comcast has implemented its data caps and you constantly find yourself running up against your monthly limit, there may be a good reason for that. The Associated Press recently published an interesting report on Comcast’s plan to meter the Internet through data caps and what really stuck out for me was a quote from one Comcast customer who pointed out that these caps are just the right size to discourage people from getting all their television through streaming services instead of through a traditional cable TV package.

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

“I think the idea of limiting your usage is absolutely insane,” Comcast customer Matthew Pulsipher told The Associated Press. “It would make sense if the cap was 2 terabytes, but 300 is just low enough to punish streaming.”

This isn’t just the anecdote of some broadband hog who’s streaming 4K porn through his computer all day. I’ve been seeing lots of stories of cord cutters who suddenly find themselves facing the threat of overage fees because their decision to watch TV over the web is now being subjected to limits.

Take this report from Stop the Cap earlier this month about Florida residents who suddenly found that they had to adjust their streaming habits after Comcast started subjecting them to a 300GB monthly cap.

“It’s no surprise what they are targeting with these caps,” explained Florida-based Comcast subscriber Austin Chilson. “If you watch Netflix or Hulu on a regular basis, 300GB is not enough. Netflix alone is responsible for about 17GB of video usage during the first three days of the month.”

The FCC also recently published a series of complaints about data caps from Comcast customers who similarly said that watching Netflix and downloading PlayStation 4 games from the web was easily enough to blow through their monthly limits.

Comcast, of course, would like us to believe that these caps are all about “fairness” and limiting the negative impact that all those greedy data hogs are having on its network, which apparently is as fragile as a tulip on a chilly winter’s eve. In reality, of course, this is all about trying to mitigate the effects that cord cutting is having on Comcast’s traditional pay TV business.

Comcast tells the AP that roughly 8% of its customers go over 300GB per month but you can definitely expect that number to increase the more people rely on streaming services for television. And once more people start buying 4K TVs and watching Netflix streams in 4K, then 300GB per month will seem like absolutely nothing.

It’s not just cord cutters that will increasingly feel the pinch but gamers as well. Consider that the digital download of 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.

So it’s not entirely accurate to say that Comcast’s data caps are just low enough to punish streaming because they’re also low enough to hinder advances in online commerce such as digital game downloads as well. That may be Comcastic news for at least one company but the rest of us shouldn’t be happy about it.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.