Comcast's data restrictions are going from testing to reality for most of its customers. Its 'XFINITY Terabyte Internet Data Usage Plan' is already in place in a number of places, and will roll out to 18 new markets (including California, Michigan, Florida and others listed on its FAQ) beginning November 1st. For its part, the ISP claims 99 percent of customers use less than 1TB of data per month, and that median use is just
75MB (correction: 75GB). Of course, with digitally delivered games and software, and streaming video that is increasingly coming in HD and 4K resolutions, that could change rapidly.
So what happens if you go over 1TB per month? For the first two months in a 12 month period that it happens, nothing. Also, Comcast customers can adjust their settings for notifications via email, browser or text when they reach thresholds like 50, 70, 85 or 125 percent of the cap. The third time it's exceeded within a 12 month period, however, the "courtesy months" go away and users will be charged $10 for an additional 50GB of data, which will continue happening to a limit of $200 per month. If you want unlimited data access, you can buy it up front, for an additional $50 per month over your current internet bill.
So what if you're like me, and you use a lot of data? Between downloading games on Xbox One and PS4, streaming in 4K and everything else, I used 1.2TB of data last month. Even for me, that's a bit extreme, but with games pushing out multi-gigabit updates and high-res video streaming available from more sources, eventually more of us will be nudging up against the limits. I have cable and do most of my TV viewing there, but for cord-cutters leaning on streaming from services like Sling TV or PlayStation Vue, the 1TB red line could be approaching even faster.
It's probably not a coincidence that this move is taking place at the same time Comcast is allowing Netflix streaming via its X1 cable boxes. In the first section of its FAQ, Comcast says this decision is about "fairness," but unless someone's internet usage is so extreme that it negatively impacts neighboring connections, that falls flat. Sure, it is also offering a "Flexible Data Option" for people at the other end of the spectrum, but they can only save $5 by using less than 5GB per month. If people try to switch their news and entertainment consumption away from cable TV to internet sources, Comcast is going to charge them more. Just how fair that really is, depends on your perspective.
Netflix has called on the FCC to fix "unreasonable" caps, but it referenced limits of just 300GB per month. The commission is looking into caps and zero rating, but at least for now, this is the reality for the majority of Comcast's home internet customers.
XFINITY Internet customers in the following locations have the Terabyte Internet Data Usage Plan:
Effective November 1, 2016:
- Alabama (excluding the Dothan market)
- Florida (Fort Lauderdale, the Keys, and Miami)
- Georgia (excluding Southeastern Georgia)
- Northern Indiana
- Southwestern Michigan
- Eastern Texas
- South Carolina
- Southwest Virginia
- Alabama (Dothan)
- Florida (North Florida, Southwest Florida and West Palm)
- Southeastern Georgia
- Indiana (Indianapolis and Central Indiana; Fort Wayne and Eastern Indiana)
- Michigan (Grand Rapids/Lansing, Detroit, and Eastern Michigan)
- New Mexico
- Western Ohio
- Texas (Houston)