Comcast has postponed a plan to implement a data usage limit of 1.2 terabytes in 14 additional states and territories in the Northeastern U.S., a move that would will eventually put the cable operator’s entire broadband service footprint under usage cap.
The delay comes after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro raised concerns that the usage caps could be a problem for consumers at a time when the pandemic has robbed many of them of employment, but saddled them with needs, such as home schooling of their children, that render high levels of broadband usage essential.
Pleas also came from other state officials—in early January, for example, a dozen Massachusetts state representatives "strongly urged" Comcast to call off the implementation of the cap.
But an agreement made by the No. 1 U.S. cable operator with Pennsylvania AG Shapiro now calls for the usage caps to be deployed in July, meaning customers wouldn’t see any hits to their bill until August.
The agreement with the AG was first reported by the Washington Post.
Comcast was already capping usage of customers in 27 states when it announced in November that customers in the following places would soon be capped, too: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, D.C, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.
The cap would result in Xfinity Internet customers being charged an additional $10 for every 50 gigabytes of data they use in excess of the 1.2 TB cap, plus tax, each month. Originally, it was technically was supposed to be implemented in the Northeast starting in January.
Given grace periods, the Northeast data cap's original effective start was actually March, and affected customers would start seeing the hit to their bills starting in April. So Comcast is effectively delaying the pain for 90 days, from April to August, not cancelling it.
At the time that it announced the expansion of the usage caps, Comcast insisted that 95% of its customers don’t come close to using 1.2 TB in an average month. Average monthly usage comes in at around 308 GB, Comcast said.
However, OpenVault, which provides data to cable operators about their networks, released a report last last year suggesting that the number of so-called “power users” is rising fast. Within two to three years, the company said, 5% to 10% of internet users will consume 2 TB or more data each month.
Then, of course, there are all those zoom meetings, that are still prolifically occurring, as the number of COVID vaccine recipients edges creeps toward 10% of the U.S. population.
“As Pennsylvanians continue to navigate this pandemic, we know millions are relying on the internet for school and work more than ever,” Shapiro said in a statement. “This is not the time to change the rules when it comes to Internet data usage and increase costs.”
Notably, Comcast recently announced its intention to upgrade the customer premises equipment for some of its Northeast 1-gig internet customers, and bump up the overall speed for all 1-gig customers to 1.2 Gbps, so that 1-gig service subscribers truly receive advertised 1 Gbps download speeds via WiFi.
So, starting in August, these customers can chew through their 1.2 GB usage caps even faster.
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