Comcast Testing 300GB, up to 600GB Data Caps in Two Cities

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2012 - 01:24 AM |
Tagged: isp, data cap, Comcast, bandwidth

Comcast’s 250GB per month data cap was proved an unpopular but necessary evil (in the sense that it cannot be avoided). The company suspended its data capping earlier this year to reevaluate its data caps and how they affect users. That temporary freedom is not slated to last, however as Comcast will be re-instating caps in the future (as soon as next year, by many reports). Currently, Comcast is testing a single 300GB cap across all tiers in Nashville, Tennessee, and on October 1st it will begin another data cap strategy in Tucson, Arizona.

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In Tuscon, Comcast will be mixing things up a bit by pairing the higher (faster) tiers of service with larger data caps. For example, the Blast tier (25/4 in many markets) will have an additional 50GB for a total cap of 350GB per month. The next highest tier – Extreme 50 – will get a 450GB cap, and so on. This is a good thing, because it allows the caps to scale with speed. Otherwise, the faster the speed tier, the worse value it becomes as it will just allow you to burn through your data cap faster. When the caps scale with speed, that problem is eliminated. Interestingly, this method seems to be the one that Comcast is leaning towards using, because a source –when talking to DSL Reports – has stated that when Comcast reinstates caps nationwide, customers will have a 500GB caps while lower tiers will Performance tier users will receive only a 300GB cap. Specifically, the source stated “faster speed tiers will see higher caps.”

Personally, if I have to endure caps, I would much rather have this scalable cap system rathen than a one-size-fits-all number for every tier like the company is implementing in Nashville (and has in the past with its 250GB per month cap). It will be interesting to see exactly how it will scale the caps once they are official, and how often Comcast will consider raising its caps as more and more services move "to the cloud."

Comcast Internet Packages and Accompanying Data Caps
Comcast Internet Tiers Data Cap (Nashville, TN) Data Cap (Tucson, AZ) Overage Charge (both cities) - $/50GB
Economy 300GB 300GB $10
Economy Plus 300GB 300GB $10
Internet Essentials 300GB 300GB $10
Performance Starter 300GB 300GB $10
Performance 300GB 300GB $10
Blast 300GB 350GB $10
Extreme 50 300GB 450GB $10
Extreme 105 300GB 600GB $10
Extreme 305 Unknown Unknown $10

Another bit of (surprising) news is that Comcast is being rather reasonable in its overage policy for customers that exceed the cap in the test markets. Customers that go over the cap in a month will be notified by both an email and webpage notification. Should the customer wish to continue to use the Internet service, Comcast will provide additional 50GB blocks for $10 each, which works out to 20 cents per Gigabyte. That is not bad at all, especially compared to wireless data overages that customers have begrudgingly become accustomed to. 

Even better, Comcast will give each customer up to three warnings before charging for additional data. If customers go over their caps for three months in one year, they will not be charged for additional data usage. After the three “courtesy notices,” it’s back to $10/50GB. The overage charge and three warning system applies to both test markets, which seems to suggest that it has a good chance of being implemented nationwide.

At least in the testing markets, Comcast is being much more generous than it has in the past. I’m interested to see what the cable providing-giant that is Comcast actually ends up doing once it puts caps in place around the nation. Specifically, how standardized the caps and overage charges are across all of the markets, and whether it will be more aggressive in areas where it has a monopoly where customers can not fall back to AT&T’s U-Verse or Verizon’s FIOS service (among other options, though I don’t count satellite or dial up as those are not really competitive to wired broadband). Right now though, I think Comcast is moving towards a system that is an acceptable compromise between customer freedom and its business interests. [Please don’t mess this up, Comcast.]

What are your thoughts, do you think the proposed caps are fair? I do concede that data caps suck, and it is definitely possible to exceed the caps with legitimate services, but it does look as though caps are here to stay. Here's hoping Comcast remains at least as reasonable with the entire US as it is with its test markets.

Read more about Comcast's data cap test markets.

Image courtesy Chauncey Davis via Flickr Creative Commons. Thank you.

Source: Ars Technica

Comcast Launches Low Cost Internet Essentials Program

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2011 - 07:32 AM |
Tagged: Internet, Comcast, computer

This week saw the national launch of Comcast’s internet connectivity program for low income families. As a result of the Comcast-NBC merger, the company was required to create a low cost option for families in the US to connect to the internet. Dubbed the Internet Essentials program, it is undoubtedly a good thing to come out of the deal despite the more nebulous aspects.

comcast_c2.jpg

The Internet Essentials program entails a $9.95 plus tax per month cable connection with 1.5 Mbps download speeds and 384 Kbps upload speeds, which is a good value compared to more expensive DSL or slower dial up connections. In addition to the Internet connection, families who sign up will receive a voucher through Acer or Dell for a computer in the amount of 149.99 plus tax. While specific specifications of the computer have not been given, Comcast describes it as a netbook computer with Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and the Windows 7 Starter operating system. It may also be bundled with productivity software when available. Families will also have access to free training materials in print, online, or in person. The service will be available throughout the Comcast service area for eligible families. In order to qualify for the service, families must have at least one student eligible for free lunches through the National School Lunch Program, must not have any overdue Comcast bills or unreturned equipment, and the household must not have had Comcast service for the past 90 days. Unfortunately, those families with students who only qualify for reduced price (but not free) lunches will not qualify for the Internet Essentials program.

The ISP will begin taking customers starting in the 2011 to 2012 school year, and will continue taking on new customers for three years following the initial roll out. Customers who are already using the Internet Essentials service will continue to be eligible for it so long as at least one child is eligible for free lunches, they do not close their Comcast account, and they do not violate the company’s residential ISP service agreement.

I for one am glad to see Comcast offering this service as the Internet is becoming increasingly important for students as a learning, collaboration, and productivity tool. Students can now be on a more level playing field in their school work, and this is great news, even if Comcast was forced to offer it as a condition of their merger approval. If you are interested in or know a family that might benefit from the Internet Essentials service, please head over to the company’s website or call 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376) for an application.

Source: Comcast