Starting next year, Comcast will impose new data caps on subscribers in 14 Northeast and mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia.
Subscribers in those states who consume more than 1.2 Terabytes of data per month will be charged an extra $10 per 50 Gigabytes.
Comcast currently deploy usage-based billing across around two-thirds of its footprint, but not in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic -- where the broadband carrier faces competition from Verizon's Fios. With the expansion, Comcast customers throughout its footprint will be subject to usage-based billing.
Comcast's move, first spotted by Stop the Cap, will affect customers in Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.
Currently, 5% of Comcast customers use more than 1.2 TB of data per month. Those subscribers account for 20% of the traffic on Comcast's network, according to a spokesperson.
The spokesperson says the surcharges will help "insure we can meet our customers' needs now and in the future."
Subscribers who want unlimited data will have two options: They will be able to purchase a plan without caps for an extra $30 a month; or can subscribe to XFinity Complete, lease a modem for $14 a month, and pay an additional $11 a month for unlimited data.Advocacy group Free Press, which has long criticized data caps, blasted Comcast over the decision.
“This move is a not-so-covert price increase on folks who want a truly unlimited connection,” Free Press policy manager Dana Floberg tells MediaPost.
“Data caps .. are not effective tools to manage their networks. They're really just cash grabs,” Floberg says. “This is even more true -- and, frankly, cruel -- during a pandemic, when so many people are relying on internet connections.”
Consumer advocates have long objected to data caps, arguing that the caps are arbitrary.
Advocates also argue that cable providers like Comcast have an incentive to price broadband at rates that will discourage people from replacing their cable video packages with streaming services.
Comcast first rolled out data caps in 2008, when the company set them at 250 GB per month. The broadband provider has since increased the caps several times, most recently in July, from 1 TB to 1.2 TB per month.
Earlier this year, Comcast suspended its use of data caps in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July, the company resumed imposing surcharges.