First, the good news: Comcast is upping its data cap for broadband Internet customers from 300MB to 1TB (terabyte) in the markets where it's testing usage-based pricing. Those tests are now going on in more than two dozen locations around the United States.
At the same time, the company is saying it won't charge any customer more than $200 each month for exceeding that cap. Now for the bad news: Comcast is increasing the price of its unlimited data usage plan at the end of the year from $35 to $50. That fee is added to customers' basic monthly charges.
As we've explained previously, we're not big fans of data caps or usage-based pricing, especially now, when more people are looking to loosen their pay TV strangleholds by turning to streaming entertainment options, which can burn up a lot of data.
Comcast calls its data cap program a "data usage plan." For customers who have to live with it, the higher cap will obviously be a welcome change when in goes into effect on June 1. In a letter to customers, posted on DSL Reports, a Comcast Cable executive VP put the new cap in context by stating that it will allow viewers to stream more than 700 hours of HD video each month.
If that's not enough data, you can buy addition 50MB blocks of data for $10 each; they get added automatically. But no matter how much data you use, you won't be billed more than $200 in overage fees during any month. Comcasts says it will notify customers—using in-browser, email, or mobile alerts—when they hit 90 percent, 110 percent, and 125 percent of their monthly allotment. There's a two-month grace period for exceeding the cap so customers can get used to the new plan.
While Comcast presents this as a good deal for consumers, the changes may just serve to push high-use customers, fearful of $200-a-month overages, to Comcast's unlimited service tier. The price hike on unlimited service applies to new customers starting in June, but anyone currently on the plan can keep the lower rate through the end of the year.
You'll have to figure out which approach represents a better deal. But, in general, broadband caps can be seen as a way for Internet providers to boost their broadband revenues while limiting Internet alternatives to traditional pay TV services. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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