Comcast Prepares to Screw Over Millions With Data Caps in 2021

Illustration for article titled Comcast Prepares to Screw Over Millions With Data Caps in 2021
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Next year, Comcast will start charging Xfinity customers in northeastern US states overage fees for exceeding their monthly data cap. As The Verge reports, customers not on an unlimited plan who exceed 1.2 TB of data in a month will have to pay $10 for every 50 GB of data they go over, topping out at $100. To put that into context, streaming HD video over uses about 3 GB per hour. Cloud gaming over something like Stadia uses about 10 GB of data every hour at 1080p. So if you’re not watching your data usage carefully, you could end up with a higher than normal monthly bill.

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The change affects Xfintiy customers in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, as well as parts of North Carolina and Ohio.

The new fee won’t start right away, though. I suppose that’s some sort of consolation, but not the news anyone wants to hear right now in the middle of a pandemic that’s only getting worse in the U.S. Comcast will give Xfinity customers not on an unlimited plan a “credit” for the months of January and February 2021 to ease them into the new policy. Basically, for those two months those customers won’t see any overage fees on their account. After that, customers get one “courtesy” credit every year in case they accidentally go over.

If you look on the Xfinity website now, you won’t see the changes listed at the moment. According to Ars Technica, it appears Comcast removed the notice sometime after Friday, November 20 last week, but a spokesperson confirmed to Ars that the data cap is going nationwide in January 2021. Stop The Cap has a screenshot of the webpage before it was changed.

Comcast says customers will be notified as they approach their monthly data limit, but the ISP currently doesn’t give its customers a way to independently verify meter readings. If you have Xfinity but use your own router, you might have the option to see traffic statistics in your router settings. If you do, you should be able to see real-time data usage as well as data usage over a set period time. For example, the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC2900 router has options like Statistics, Bandwidth Monitor, and Traffic Monitor under the Traffic Analyzer setting. If you currently rent your router from Comcast, now might be the time to think about owning your own so you can monitor your own data usage to avoid any overage fees—especially if you live with multiple people who stream all kinds of media on multiple devices for hours every day.

Until the FCC rules data caps are arbitrary and ISPs stop squeezing every dime out of customers, we’re all screwed. Past research has shown that data caps don’t do anything to lessen the strain on ISPs networks, and our current internet infrastructure has held up just fine over the course of the pandemic. Back in March 2020, several major ISPs suspended data caps, waived overage fees, and even raised speeds. The internet didn’t crash and burn. Yet data caps and overage fees still exist when millions of people still need any and all amount of financial relief they can get because the pandemic is still nowhere close to going away.

Staff Reporter, Reviews at Gizmodo. Formerly PC Gamer, Maximum PC.

DISCUSSION

Don’t get me wrong here, Comcast SUCKS. Always has, always will. Anything the company does is doing to be motivated by the urge to seek bigger profits and increase market share.

However, you have to have a household of full of power users to regularly hit a 1.2 TB data cap. Also, most of the streaming services are available through the Xfinity box and I’m pretty sure that data doesn’t count against the cap. I think that’s mostly so people stream through Xfinity instead of through a Roku or a smart TV, thus allowing Comcast to get a slice of the pie from outfits like Sling, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Of course, Peacock is free because Comcast owns it.

The takeaway is the cap is aimed at cordcutters in an effort to get them to knock that shit off and return to getting their TV through a cable again. Also gamers who use a lot of data and are generally hooked, so they’ll pay whatever it takes to stay connected. Easy money.

Most people who are using Zoom and and other conferencing software for work or school aren’t going to be in meetings all day—personally, I can only handle so much of it before I have a “glitch” or I “lose my connection.” Besides, these are relatively low bandwidth programs compared to streaming 4K, hi-res videoconferencing, or gaming.

The bottom line for me is that I live in a city where Comcast is the only game in town as far as high-bandwidth Internet is concerned. There is one competitor but they can only offer DSL right now, which really isn’t much competition. The result is that the cost of just getting Internet and and using streaming service for pay TV versus just paying Comcast for cable TV is basically a wash. With a data cap it might actually cost me more to cut the cord.