Leaked Comcast Doc Admits: Data Caps Have Nothing To Do With Congestion

For years, as Comcast and others have rolled out data caps on home broadband usage, we’ve shown evidence that these artificial limitations on data are all about squeezing money out of consumers, and have nothing to do with congestion. Now, with Comcast prepping to make its first large-scale push of its “data thresholds,” we’re seeing how the company is telling its employees to spin the discussion.

In documents leaked online yesterday, Comcast explains to customer service staff the details of the data cap expansion we told you about earlier this week.

In addition to explaining the pricing plans and limitations for each of the affected markets (you can read the docs in full here: p.1; p.2; p.3; p.4; p.5; p.6), it contains a section on frontline customer service should and should not say about the caps:

You’ll notice a few things here. First, they’ve finally given up on the “data threshold” nonsense that Comcast has tried to force onto the media. Instead, reps are being told to just call them “Data Usage Plans.”

But the biggie is the last one, where reps are instructed to not use congestion as an excuse. As you can see in the document, it explicitly states:
Don’t Say: “The program is about congestion management.” (It is not.)

That parenthetical was not added by us. This is an admission by Comcast that its data cap has absolutely nothing to do with easing the load on its network.

Instead, it’s — according to the script — about “Fairness and providing a more flexible policy to our customers.”

We’ll give you a second to wipe off your screen from the spit-take you might have just done while reading that.

The reps are also told to not use the term “unlimited” to describe the access that Comcast customers in the rest of the country still enjoy. That’s because Comcast is now selling an “Unlimited” option to capped customers that lets them pay even more — upwards of $35/month on top of their existing bill — for broadband access.

Rather than label the not-yet-capped customers as “unlimited,” reps are told to explain that those lucky Comcast customer still have a 250GB/month data limit — but that “we are not currently enforcing this policy.”

The fact is that broadband is no longer about checking e-mail or watching YouTube clips. Walk into most homes in America and you’ll find multiple non-computer/phone connected devices — thermostats, lights, TVs, speakers, alarm systems, crockpots — and it’s a trend that isn’t going to reverse itself.

For years, Comcast and other ISPs could blame edge-case data hogs — video pirates, people who ran their own online gaming servers — and say “Why should you have to subsidize their use of your Internet?”

But between the increased use of connected devices and online video — and the higher quality of those video streams — a growing number of consumers are going to reach that monthly data limit, presenting Comcast and others with an opportunity to measure just how much these people will be willing to pay for unfettered access.

In 2013, former FCC Chair-turned-cable-industry-frontman Michael “Stop Asking Me About My Famous Dad” Powell exhorted cable providers to move with “some urgency and purpose” to introduce data caps before it was too late. It looks like Comcast has heeded this call.

[via DSLreports]