Enlarge /. A Comcast van in Sunnyvale, California in November 2018.
Comcast is delaying a plan to enforce its 1.2TB data cap and obsolescence fees in the northeastern US through 2022 under pressure from customers and lawmakers in several states.
"[W] We are delaying the implementation of our new data plan in our northeastern markets until 2022," Comcast said in an announcement yesterday. "We know our data plan was new for our Northeast customers and while only a very small percentage of customers need additional data, we're giving them more time to familiarize themselves with the new plan."
Comcast has enforced the data cap in 27 of the 39 states it has been operating in since 2016, but not in the northeastern states where Comcast faces competition from Verizon's unlimited FiOS fiber-to-home service. In November 2020, Comcast announced that it would increase the cap to the other 12 states and the District of Columbia from January 2021. However, with yesterday's announcement, Comcast will not be charging anyone in these 12 states and DC in 2021 obsolescence fees.
"It is the right call to postpone this data cap until at least 2022," Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said yesterday. "I've heard of families across Connecticut who have easily exceeded this limit for studying and working remotely. Far from so-called superusers, these were stories of typical Connecticut families merely trying to stay busy during a global pandemic and Raising their Children The prices for these families were simply incomprehensible at the moment when they were most dependent on broadband access and least able to pay more. "
The delay applies to Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
Comcast vague about plans for 2022
Comcast's original plan for the Northeast saw the cap in January 2021 and provided courtesy months during which newly limited customers could exceed 1.2TB without penalty, resulting in the initial overcharging of data usage in the April 2021 billing cycle . This plan has been condemned by lawmakers, including legislation in Massachusetts prohibiting data caps and price increases until the pandemic is over.
Comcast responded by delaying the overhead in late January until the July billing period, but the extra months did not calm the controversy. In yesterday's announcement of a delay until 2022, it was not specified in which month of 2022 the first excess costs would arise. We asked Comcast if it intends to set the northeast limits in January 2022 or sometime later, but received no response.
Unhappy customers in 27 other states
Comcast has told us that there are no changes in the other 27 states where customers continue to face caps and obsolescence fees. Comcast's insistence on continuing to levy obsolescence charges in most regions maintains the uneven status quo, with a customer's state of residence deciding whether to deal with Comcast's least popular policies. Comcast's excess cost is $ 10 for each additional 50GB block, up to a maximum of $ 100 per month. Customers can avoid the overhead by spending an additional $ 30 per month on unlimited data or $ 25 on the "xFi Complete" plan, which includes unlimited data and rental costs for the Comcast xFi gateway modem and router contains.
As mentioned in previous coverage, Comcast didn't start charging users in the Northeast until April for unlimited data plans. "Customers in our Northeastern markets who signed up for xFi Complete or Unlimited were not billed because of the free months, so no refunds or credits are required," Comcast said today.
Although Comcast claims the 1.2TB limit only affects "super users", the percentage of internet users reaching this mark is steadily increasing, and broadband usage has grown faster than usual during the pandemic. OpenVault research found that more than 14 percent of US-based subscribers were consuming more than 1TB per month in the fourth quarter of 2020, up from 8.8 percent of subscribers in the third quarter of 2020, as we reported last week. The percentage of customers using more than 2 TB per month has more than doubled to 2.2 percent over the same period. The average monthly usage in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 293.8 GB and the average usage was 482.6 GB.
"The 2020 explosion in data consumption established a new normal in bandwidth usage that is particularly noticeable when compared to pre-pandemic periods," said OpenVault.
Network capacity not a "valid excuse"
Excess data charges increase Comcast's revenue, but limiting monthly data usage regardless of when in the month in which it is used is not an effective tool in preventing real-time network congestion. Boasting the strong performance of its network in the pandemic, Comcast has once again shown that data caps are a lottery rather than a necessity.
Tong told Comcast in a letter earlier this month that "[b] Internet access via street bands is an essential public service, especially during the ongoing pandemic … The last thing our residents need to worry about at this time is whether they conflict. " Data caps or significant unexpected costs to stay connected. "
"Network capacity is not a problem or a valid excuse for Comcast to charge customers more," Massachusetts lawmakers said in a letter to Comcast in late December. "Comcast itself claims that it has sufficient capacity on its network, including those areas where there are currently no caps … It is inconceivable that Comcast could implement this plan for caps and fees during a pandemic when there are many residents of Massachusetts will be forced to work from home and go to school via the Internet. "