Recently leaked documents suggest that Comcast data plans may be implemented to discourage “cord cutting” and not to improve network performance.
Earlier this month, a reddit user by the name of M00glemuffins posted a link to leaked Comcast support documents to the technology subreddit. These documents included information and quotations that Comcast staff was supposed to provide to users.
Presently, Comcast allows users to use 300GB per month in some markets (including the Southeast). They are considering these markets to be part of a data usage plan trial.
In the current trial markets, Comcast users are granted 3 courtesy months. Users in these areas may use more than 300GB three times.
Starting with the fourth overage, users are automatically billed an additional $10 for an additional 50GB. Many users would believe that this is actually a cap on usable data, but Comcast encourages support to describe data as never limited in the leaked documents.
As a response to commonly asked questions, the document states, “With our data plan trials, your XFINITY Internet data usage is never limited. By default, your data plan includes 300GB per month, with an unlimited number of additional 50GB blocks of data provided as needed for $10 each.
If you choose to enroll in the Unlimited Data Option, you will pay a flat fee per month regardless of how much data you actually use. That way, you can have the certainty of knowing exactly what your bill will be each month.”
The documents also specifically instruct employees not to state that the data plans are not designed to reduce congestion. In the documents, employees are instructed, “Don’t say: This program is about data congestion management. (It is not.)”.
This admission makes it clear that data trials exist for another reason. Some people suspect that reducing the number of “cord cutters” instead.
“Cord cutter” refers to people who go without traditional cable, or sometimes phone services, and instead use internet services as a replacement. Netflix, SlingTV, Hulu, and even Skype are some services commonly associated with cable cutting.
These services often use large amounts of data for heavy users. A household with a standard cable package might be tempted to leave the television running all day as background noise. However, users of internet services who wanted to do this with a Comcast data plan would almost certainly be billed extra.
The 300 GB plan is a low enough restriction that a heavy Netflix streamer could go over the cap in a matter of weeks. In some markets, Comcast offers an Unlimited Data Option which removes the 300 GB restriction.
Instead of being charged an additional $10 per 50GB, users may pay a flat rate every month for full access to their unlimited data. The additional cost for the Unlimited Data Option is between $30 and $35 per month depending on the area. In many cases, this $30 to $35 addition makes the price closer to that of Comcast’s Double Play plans, which include both internet and cable service.
As the internet becomes a larger part of society, companies and individuals are adapting to it in various ways. It is possible that data restrictions will become more common for internet service providers similar to how they work with cell phone plans.