Comcast Tests Data Overage Fees In Additional Markets

Comcast will show users the months in which they have gone over the 300GB data cap.

Comcast will show users the months in which they have gone over the 300GB data cap.

In May 2012, Comcast announced it would eventually do away with its policy of throttling data speeds for home Internet users who routinely went over 250GB a month, and that it would instead start charging overage fees for customers who passed the 300GB threshold. The boys from Kabletown had been testing that model out in Nashville for quite some time, and now that test is expanding to at least three other markets.

DSLreports.com’s Karl Bode reports that, starting Sept. 1, Comcast customers in Central Kentucky, Savannah, GA, and Jackson, MS, will join in all of this data-capping and overage-fee-charging fun.

If customers in those areas begin nearing that 300GB limit, they’ll receive in-browser and e-mail warnings when they hit 80% and 90% of the cap. Once 300GB has been reached, the user gets an e-mail, letting them know that another 50GB has been allocated to the account.

Users are allowed to exceed the data cap for any three months in a 12-month period, but from the fourth time onward, they will be hit with an overage charge of $10 for each additional allocation of 50GB.

Not that long ago, the idea that a single-family home would approach or surpass 300GB in a month would have been laughable. For many people, that limit is still far above their monthly usage, but that is changing every day. Not only are we streaming more and more content to our home computers, but many new TVs have built-in apps for streaming. Gaming consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 also bring everything from Netflix to Hulu to NFL Sunday Ticket to your TV in HD, and the next generation of consoles coming later this year are only placing more emphasis on that functionality. Not to mention all the wireless devices in the home.

Comcast and others have claimed that they need to switch to tiered pricing and enforce strict data caps because all of this data going back and forth is causing congestion and that it’s expensive to deliver content at such high speeds. However, studies show that it’s actually become less expensive to deliver data and that these caps are really just a way for ISPs to cash in as streaming becomes the norm for how consumers receive entertainment content. Meanwhile, the cable industry itself admits that this congestion excuse isn’t based in reality.

Comcast has an FAQ for people in the affected markets. What makes little sense to us is why — on an FAQ for people who might be concerned about going over 300GB a month, Comcast makes every effort to sell its new, useless “Flexible Data” option that offers customers a $5 discount for staying under 5GB/month. That’s like trying to sell a tofu patty to steakhouse customers.