Comcast and Data Caps and Bandwidth Throttling

With Net Neutrality hitting the front pages again, it’s a great time to go over the nuances of your Internet policy. Trust us – there are nuances. Let’s take the Comcast (XFINITY) policy, for example.

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The Comcast Logo. Image copyright Comcast.

Comcast offers three major plans – its Terabyte Internet Usage Plan, the Unlimited Data plan, and a Flexible Data Option. According to the Comcast website, the Flexible Data Option is meant for people who use less than 5 GB per month. The Terabyte Internet Usage Plan is fairly straightforward about the amount of data it allows – 1 TB. (We say “fairly straightforward” because the site details limitations on this service as well, such as suspending it in Maine).

Exercising Semantics in the Comcast Unlimited Data Plan

First of all, you must understand that Comcast is playing with words from the very beginning. As a consumer, you probably assume that “unlimited data” means that you get premium service regardless of any data caps. However, Comcast defines “unlimited data” as simply providing the opportunity to you for unlimited data. The site says it all:

“Your use of the XFINITY Internet service must be consistent with our Acceptable Use Policies for residential services and network management system.”

In short, Comcast retains the right to throttle an Unlimited Data plan for reasons listed in its Acceptable Use Policies. Arguably, the most flexible language is contained in the policy’s assertions users can’t infringe on the experience of other users. In most cases, neighbors may only affect each other’s experience through more use of data. The language that is actually used in the agreement is as follows:

“[No user may] restrict, inhibit, interfere with, or otherwise disrupt or cause a performance degradation, regardless of intent, purpose or knowledge, to the Service.”

While most of the media focused on the Terabyte program, Comcast has basically included language in its Agreements that allows it to throttle users who are on its Unlimited Data plan. Users are responsible for their “own compliance,” eliminating the ability of customers to blame service errors on a data spike.

Comcast also holds the right to suspend or “apply other interim measures” to accounts in violation of its policies. While it does not name throttling in its list of tactics, news sources have outed that the throttling tends to begin around 20 GB of usage. Throttling of cellular speeds happens if the user provides services to mobile devices through a home Internet plan.

Pay Attention to the Quality of Service you receive from your ISP

The FCC, which once chastised Comcast to open up its data spigot on behalf of peer to peer networking apps, now appears poised to help Comcast segment its users into more tiers than ever before.

Regardless of any company’s data caps and bandwidth policies, regularly check for throttling. One visit to our website will let you know your download and upload speeds – so if you have to call your ISP you can do so with the right information on hand. Check out our article on Spectrum’s data cap policies for information on another Internet provider.