Most of us are used to seemingly infinite access to the internet at home without worrying about how many websites we visit or how much video and music we stream.
But one day, that worry-free feeling of unlimited consumption might come to an end.
In the last couple years, some internet service providers (ISPs) have been experimenting with limited residential internet plans in certain areas, and it’s similar to the data plans you have on your smartphone.
For example, Comcast has been offering internet service that caps out at a default of 300GB to some areas including Huntsville and Mobile, Alabama; Tucson, Arizona; Fort Lauderdale, the Keys and Miami, Florida; Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, Georgia; Central Kentucky; Maine; Jackson and Tupelo, Mississippi; Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee; and Charleston, South Carolina.
Whether customers want more, or accidentally go over the 300GB cap, Comcast will add 50GB chunks of data allowance for $US10 extra. Alternatively, they can get an unlimited plan that goes for an extra $US30, which would be the equivalent of getting three extra chunks of 50GB data allowance, or 450GB.
For context, a two-hour movie can use up to 4GB of data. If you stream most or all your video, you’ll blow through a 300GB pretty quickly each month. That can cost you.
These internet plans are structured nearly identically to a cellular carrier’s data plan you might have for your smartphone, where you get a monthly limit of how much data you can use to view websites, browse social media, and stream music and movies.
Why would ISPs do such a thing? Because cable companies, which are often ISPs, are losing cable customers to “cord-cutters,” who opt to consume media and entertainment from the internet rather than from a cable subscriptions.
In the second quarter of this year, 560,000 subscribers cancelled their cable subscriptions, according to estimates from MoffettNathanson, a media and telecommunications research firm.
And this year, 11.7 people in the US are paying for broadband internet but don’t pay for TV. That’s more than a 20% increase from last year’s 9.7 million, according to SNL Kagan, a media research firm.
These cord cutters are cancelling their cable subscriptions and relying instead on internet streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, for their media and entertainment. Cord cutters save money, cable companies lose it.
But cable companies are clearly adapting so that they get their money from the cord-cutters, too. So, if you thought you were being crafty by cancelling your cable subscription to save money while you stream your entertainment from the internet, don’t get too smug.
In fact, they’re adapting so well that they’re making their own apps for video streaming devices, like Apple TV and Roku, so you can watch cable TV over the internet.
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