Comcast plans to introduce a new broadband data policy that will give its heaviest users leeway to stream as much as 300 GB of data per month, up from the current cap of 250 GB, and give them the option of paying more for additional data.
The company, which offers its services under the Xfinity brand name, announced the plan a short time ago, saying that it will test at least two different approaches to the tiered data pricing for its residential broadband usage.
On a conference call with reporters, Comcast executive David L. Cohen said the company will suspend the cap in the meantime in markets where it doesn’t conduct the tests. Comcast hasn’t yet announced where the trials will take place.
“The headline today should be, there isn’t a cap anymore,” he told reporters. “We’re out of the cap business.”
Comcast’s move comes a day after announcing a new Skype service for its customers.
The announcement follow new scrutiny of the way Comcast handles its monthly data limit on residential broadband customers. Comcast’s Xfinity app for Xbox 360 doesn’t count against the cap, drawing criticism from Netflix and scrutiny from Congress.
In its announcement today, Comcast stood its ground on that issue, saying that “we have consistently treated all video carried over the public Internet the same whether it comes from our sites or anywhere else on the public Internet.” The use of the phrase “public Internet” is key — Comcast contends that the Xfinity app for Xbox Live is similar a cable box and therefore shouldn’t count against the cap as public Internet services do.
Comcast executive Cathy Avgiris said in the post, “XfinityTV.com, nbc.com, Hulu, Netflix or YouTube, and every other Internet video site (whether our site or a third-party site) is treated, and will continue to be treated, exactly the same. That’s consistent with FCC rules and consistent with what we have always done and continue to do.”
Cohen said the concerns about that issue should be “greatly reduced” by the company’s new plan to raise the cap.
The company says the changes will still impact only a small fraction of its customers. Here’s how Avgiris describes the trial plans in the post.
In the next few months, therefore, we are going to trial improved data usage management approaches comparable to plans that others in the market are using that will provide customers with more choice and flexibility than our current policy. We’ll be piloting at least two approaches in different markets, and we’ll provide additional details on these trials as they launch. But we can give everyone an overview today.
The first new approach will offer multi-tier usage allowances that incrementally increase usage allotments for each tier of high-speed data service from the current threshold. Thus, we’d start with a 300 GB usage allotment for our Internet Essentials, Economy, and Performance Tiers, and then we would have increasing data allotments for each successive tier of high speed data service (e.g., Blast and Extreme). The very few customers who use more data at each tier can buy additional gigabytes in increments/blocks (e.g., $10 for 50 GB).
The second new approach will increase our data usage thresholds for all tiers to 300 GB per month and also offer additional gigabytes in increments/blocks (e.g., $10 per 50 GB).
In both approaches, we’ll be increasing the initial data usage threshold for our customers from today’s 250 GB per month to at least 300 GB per month.
In markets where we are not trialing a new data usage management approach, we will suspend enforcement of our current usage cap as we transition to a new data usage management approach, although we will continue to contact the very small number of excessive users about their usage.