Comcast To Roll Usage-Based Broadband Into Atlanta

Comcast’s trial of usage-based Internet policies will reach Atlanta on December 1, DSL Reports reported Friday, citing a Comcast customer who posted an alert from the MSO that details of the coming change. Comcast confirmed it to Multichannel News on Friday.

Like other markets where the policy is being tested, customers in Atlanta will be fitted with a usage cap of 300 Gigabytes per month. Users who exceed that threshold will be charged $10 for each additional bucket of 50 GB. Comcast was not immediately available Friday regarding the plans for Atlanta and when the MSO would look to apply the policy in additional markets.

The 300 GB cap that's reportedly coming to Atlanta will apply to all speed tiers. Comcast is providing a meter that helps customers track usage. The MSO is sending in-browser and email alerts when customers reach 80%, 90%, and 100% of their monthly 300 GB limit, and again when they exceed the cap  (110% and 125%), along with notifications that 50 GB has been allocated to the account.

Customers will receive an automated phone call from the operator the second time a customer reaches 100% of the usage threshold. To help customers get used to the new policies, Comcast is also giving customers three courtesy months for exceeding the monthly 300 GB cap in any 12-month period, meaning that overage charges will only be applied if a customer exceeds the 300 GB threshold for a fourth time in that span, according to an FAQ that explains the policy.

Following an initial test in Nashville, Comcast has since extended the 300 GB limit/trial in Huntsville and Mobile, Ala.; Augusta and Savannah, Ga.; central Kentucky; Jackson, Miss; Knoxville and Memphis, Tenn; and Charleston, S.C.

Comcast has also been testing a more variable usage-based policy in Tucson, Ariz., that adjusts the monthly consumption ceiling based on the speed of the customer’s data tier.

What’s different about the Atlanta trial is that it will be introduced in a much larger market than those represented by the previous tests. Comcast has not announced when it will test out the new usage-based policy into other markets.

Comcast said about 98% of its Internet users do not exceed 300 GB per month, with median monthly usage in the range of 16 GB to 18 GB per month.

Comcast, citing customer surveys and focus groups, said 80% of its heavy data users agreed that the new usage-based policy and the ability to purchase more data is fair and liked it better than the previous fixed-cap, excessive use policy that could result in service termination if customers continued to exceed the static cap. Comcast’s original 250-GB fixed cap policy was introduced in October 2008. Comcast announced last June that it would begin to trial “improved data usage management approaches” while suspending enforcement of an old policy.

“These trials are based on a principle of fairness. Those who want to use more data can pay more and those who want to use less data can pay less,” a Comcast spokesman said, in a statement.

Comcast is also testing a “Flexible-Data Option” that’s tailored for light Internet users on the MSO’s 3 Mbps Economy Plus tier. That opt-in trial caps usage at 5 GB per month before customers are subjected to per-gigabyte fees. Customers who do not exceed the monthly 5 GB ceiling will receive a $5 credit, but will be charged an additional $1 per GB consumed beyond the 5 GB cap.