Sling TV: Data Caps Are Cable Industry Tool To “Sabotage” Streaming Video

Since Comcast began expanding its years-long “test” of data caps and overage fees, complaints to the FCC about these new limits have skyrocketed. And some streaming video companies say that data caps are causing customers to either limit their use or drop these services rather than risk paying a penalty for going over their monthly allotment.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, an executive with Dish Network — which operates the $20/month Sling TV streaming service that’s intended to be a low-cost cable replacement — says companies like Comcast and AT&T that put strict limits on customers’ data plans, or charge premium prices for plans without caps, are deliberately targeting the over-the-top video market.

Jeff Blum, Dish’s deputy general counsel, tells the Journal that Sling is a direct competitor to cable companies, and so the industry’s “incentive is to sabotage over-the-top services, and data caps is a primary tool in order to accomplish that.”

By Sling’s math, if you stream 5.5 hours of HD video to your TV a day, you’ll easily blow past Comcast’s 300 gigabyte monthly limit in a few weeks — and that is solely based on video use, no other downloading, streaming, or web-browsing of any other kind.

A rep for Netflix was tempered regarding the issue of data caps, but the message was similar: They aren’t any good for streaming services.

“Restrictive data caps are an inefficient way to manage a network,” says the rep, “and have the potential to inhibit Internet innovation.”

Meanwhile, Comcast’s own streaming services are not counted against users’ data caps — a practice that regulators are currently looking into.

But Comcast — always good for a laugh on a Friday — maintains that data caps are all about making the heaviest users pay and have nothing to do with making over-the-top video options less attractive.

“We everyday contribute to the use and the growth of the Internet,” a rep for Comcast tells the Journal. “There is absolutely no anticompetitive belief or objective.”