Comcast Data Caps — Cause for Bandwidth Concern?

Recently, the word about Comcast planning the expansion of its monthly Internet data caps to other markets filled the technology news. As one of the nation’s leading providers of Internet service, Comcast’s data cap policy might be implemented by other ISPs. If you are someone who leverages your home Internet service to download or stream HD-quality movies, videos, and TV shows, you need to pay attention to see if your ISP plans on implementing data caps.

Comcast Data Caps

Let’s take a closer look at the details concerning Comcast’s data cap policy.

Standard Comcast Data Usage Plans Allow 300 GB of Data per Month

Comcast recently announced plans to expand its data cap policy in a variety of markets as of December 1st. These cities include Little Rock, Arkansas; Houma, LaPlace and Shreveport, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Greenville and Johnson City, Tennessee; and Galax, Virginia. You can find a full list here. Chattanooga making this list is surprising considering the city’s own “One Gig” Internet service.

In the locations where Comcast has implemented a data cap, customers can expect to pay an extra $10 for each 50 GB of data used over a monthly 300 GB limit (250 GB in some locations). An option to pay a one time fee of $30-35 on top of your normal monthly service cost for true unlimited data exists in some markets. At this time, only 15 percent of Comcast’s customers are affected by a data cap, but that number is growing.

Comcast feels the data caps are about fairness, as their median customer only uses around 40 GB each month. Less than 10 percent of customers in data-capped service areas consume more than 300 GB of data in a month. Chances are data caps won’t affect you, provided your Internet activity isn’t over the top. A customer needs to stream around 75 two-hour movies per month to exceed a 300 GB limit.

The Future of Data Caps

As more users drop their Cable TV and Satellite subscriptions in favor of streaming options, Internet data usage is expected to grow, especially when 4K and Ultra HD formats are added to the equation. As Google Fiber and other Internet providers increase their national coverage, giving more consumers an ISP option, it becomes difficult for companies to implement a capped-data policy and stay competitive.

Ultimately, the customer must manage household data usage, especially by keeping any HD video streaming to “regular” instead of the bandwidth-intensive 4K or Ultra HD options. Always be sure to perform periodic speed tests to ensure your ISP is keeping up their end of the bandwidth bargain.

It remains to be seen if Comcast data caps (or those from other providers) will ever see a wider rollout into markets where the ISP competition is fierce. Internet customers across the country — no matter their provider — need to stay tuned.