Comcast is putting a data cap on its internet plans and presenting it like a feature

Comcast will expand its home internet data caps to 18 new locations on November 1st, the company announced on Thursday.

The cap, which Comcast calls the “Xfinity Terabyte Internet Data Usage Plan,” had already been implemented in certain parts of 16 states, but the latest move should reach the majority of the telecom giant’s customers.

The plan sees Comcast charge its internet users extra whenever they consume more than 1 terabyte (i.e., 1,024 GB) of data in a month. Comcast says it will not limit those users’ speeds in that case, but if they go over, it will automatically add another 50 GB of data to the plan for a $10 fee. If you exceed that, the company will continue to charge $10 for each additional 50 GB until you hit $200’s worth of fees. At the point, you’ll be able to use more data without paying extra.

To make you aware of your data usage, Comcast says it will send you an “in-browse notice” and email once you get 50% and 100% of the way to the cap. You can set up extra notification points beyond that, and can have those notices sent through texts.

If you already anticipate needing more than 1TB of data, the company offers an unlimited plan for an extra $50 per month. It also says that it will offer two free “courtesy months” for those who exceed the limit.

Now, to be clear, 1 TB is a lot, and most homes will not use that much data in a given month. Comcast itself claims that 99 per cent of its customers are unlikely to be affected by the new plan. It’s also much more generous than the 300 GB cap Comcast tried to implement in its initial “trials” — a limit it changed after numerous consumer complaints and a FCC ruling that barred Charter and Time Warner Cable from implementing data limits for seven years as part of their merger.

That said, before this, there simply were no limits on Comcast’s internet plans. The company is trying to sell the plan by advertising how large a terabyte of data actually is, but the policy itself doesn’t bring any new benefits to subscribers. Instead, it mostly gives the company a way of charging more from its heaviest users.

Comcast, for its part, pitches the move as being “based on a principle of fairness.” Those who use more, it claims, should pay more. But with the advent of cord cutting, digital distribution, and high-bandwidth 4K video streaming — and with the continued lack of internet service provider competition in most regions of the US — it’s very difficult to see its customers being happy with the change.

That’s especially the case when Comcast zero-rates some of its own streaming platforms. Using its Stream TV service at home, for instance, does not count toward an Xfinity data plan’s cap. (The company gets around this by saying the service is sent over its “cable system,” not the internet, though you’re still able to access it without any cable equipment.) That gives it a technical advantage over a service like Netflix, which, not coincidentally, has called on the FCC to stop data caps as a whole.

Whether or not that will ever happen remains unclear. For now, though, heavy Comcast users will want to keep an eye on how much data they consume.

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