Starting November 1, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is expanding its new Terabyte Internet Data Usage Plan to reach a broader audience beyond its initial test markets. The new data usage plan will impose data caps – and penalties – on Comcast/Xfinity users who use more than 1,024 GB (1 TB) of data each month.
According to Comcast, a terabyte of data allows a household to:
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- Stream 600 to 700 hours of HD video (up to 21 hours of streaming per day), or
- Stream more than 15,000 hours of music, or
- Play more than 12,000 hours of online games, or
- Download 60,000 high resolution photos per month.
Users who exceed those limits will have to pay for data overages, and it will be costly. In an email to customers sent October 7, Comcast explains the new plan:
“One terabyte is a massive amount of data – less than 1% of our customers use that amount in a month. However, we still want to make sure you understand your options and choose the Data Usage Plan that works best for you. If you believe you will need more data, an Unlimited Data option is available. Our data plans are based on a principle of fairness. Those who use more Internet data, pay more. And those who use less Internet data, pay less.”
To help customers track and manage their data usage, Comcast has provided online tools including a Data Usage Meter and a Data Usage Estimator, both available online through the Xfinity Data Usage Center. Users enrolled in the 1 TB plan can set up notifications at specific usage thresholds and receive in-browser notifications as well as mobile text notifications.
Once the 1 TB limit goes into place next month in select markets, Comcast is offering a “free pass” to users the first two times they go over 1 TB. Users who this will affect should have received an email from Comcast last week, but they can check online by entering their zip code to see if which cities and regions of the U.S. are impacted. According to Comcast’s data usage Q&A page, the new regions being added to the plan include:
Florida (North Florida, Southwest Florida and West Palm)
Indiana (Indianapolis and Central Indiana; Fort Wayne and Eastern Indiana)
Michigan (Grand Rapids/Lansing, Detroit and Eastern Michigan)
Subscription Insider wrote about the Internet Data Usage Plan when it was first announced in September 2015. Comcast began testing the program in October in 17 markets.
Alabama: Huntsville and Mobile
Florida: Fort Lauderdale, the Keys, Miami
Georgia: Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah
Mississippi: Jackson and Tupelo
Tennessee: Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville
South Carolina: Charleston
The Internet Data Usage Plan has changed since initial testing began. When originally announced, the monthly plan allowed 300 GB of monthly data. Comcast also waived fees the first three times a customer exceeded the data caps.
When we first wrote about the new plan and data overage charges, we said the move felt desperate as the cable giant sought a way to “stop the bleeding” as cord cutters and cord nevers gravitated toward streaming, also called over-the-top, TV services like Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, CBS All Access and HBO Now. Since then, the market has continued to expand with more niche players joining the OTT world – REVRY, TuYo and Seeso, to name a few.
In this announcement, Comcast said they are trying to make the plans fairer for their customers with uber-users paying more than more casual users. If this new plan affects fewer than 1 percent of Comcast’s customers, we wonder why data usage plans and overages are even necessary. This move certainly doesn’t give Comcast customers the “warm fuzzies,” especially at a time when there are so many entertainment options available without cable.
We think Comcast is trying to recoup lost revenue as more cable users cut the cord, but also to secure its pound of flesh from users who go beyond video streaming to also streaming music and games and download photos. As streaming services and subscriptions become more popular, Comcast wants to be sure that it will benefit. From a business standpoint, we understand the importance of taking advantage of revenue opportunities, but Comcast may be doing so at the expense of cable subscriber retention.