Comcast is rolling out data caps because it doesn’t want to compete

Eric Abent - Oct 8, 2016, 8:00 am CDT
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Comcast is rolling out data caps because it doesn’t want to compete

Comcast has revealed that it will soon begin implementing data caps in 18 new regions, which means that most Comcast customers will be subject to a 1TB cap by the end of the year. Comcast, of course, has its own shaky reasons for this, claiming that those who use more internet should pay more than those who don’t. Just in case there was any confusion, I’d like to remind you that this has nothing to do with fairness, but has everything to do with greed. Comcast’s cable arm is currently dying a slow and (warranted) death thanks to companies like Netflix, and instead of actually competing with them, Comcast has just decided to be a baby about the whole thing and charge you more for the internet you currently have.

Comcast will tell you that 99% of its users never go over a terabyte of usage per month, with the median being only 75GB of usage. While that may be true now, it won’t be that way forever. Think of all of the devices you own that access the internet. Your computers, game consoles, smartphones, televisions, and tablets all need to access the internet, and what do you frequently do on them? You stream media – whether that’s music, movies, TV shows or YouTube videos. You download and play games. You access web pages like Facebook and Instagram, browsing photos and passing by numerous auto-load videos in the process.

All of that requires bandwidth, but up until now, that was okay. It didn’t matter that your new Xbox One or Steam game weighed in at 60GB, nor did it matter that you binged all five seasons of Breaking Bad in three weeks in 1080p resolution. It’s about to, though, especially in homes with multiple internet users. With so many companies out there introducing new products that are supposed to make our lives easier by maintaining an internet connection and bringing us further into an always-on world, Comcast is going the other direction. Comcast doesn’t want to change because Comcast doesn’t want to figure out how to make the billions of dollars it’s used to in world where people don’t need cable.

Comcast isn’t just putting a cap on memes and no-scopes here, it’s capping your window to the rest of the world. To take it one step further, Comcast is putting a limit on your access to information. Even if you never hit that cap, the thought alone should make you outraged.

Comcast says this is about fairness, but let’s call a duck a duck here. Comcast has made its problems with Netflix and other streaming sites well known throughout the years. It’s tried every anti-competitive trick in the book to put Netflix down and that hasn’t worked. So now, instead of retooling its cable arm to put it in a more competitive position, Comcast has just decided to punish the people who use their internet connections the most. Why offer a la carte channels that allow consumers to only pay for what they’re interested in watching when you can squeeze more money out of the people who are almost certainly using their internet connections to do a significant amount of streaming?

We’re lead to believe that America’s capitalist society is great because it encourages competition, which is ultimately a good thing for consumers. I think competition is good. On paper, I think a free market can be a good thing too (if we can ignore, for a moment, the fact that American history flushes that notion down the toilet). Comcast clearly doesn’t believe either of those are true, going to great lengths to do anything but compete when someone comes along and threatens its empire. Comcast doesn’t want a market that encourages competition – Comcast wants a market where it is free to charge however much it wants because it’s the only one offering service.

In many areas around the US, that’s already the case. If you’re upset by this 1TB cap and you think you’re going to switch providers to teach Comcast a lesson, good luck. The truth of the matter is that in many of Comcast’s markets, it doesn’t have to worry about consumers switching to another company that offers a comparable level of service because there are none.

I’d like to circle back to this whole idea of fairness once more. “Our data plans are based on a principle of fairness. Those who use more Internet data, pay more. And those who use less Internet data, pay less.” Those are Comcast’s exact words, pulled from its own FAQ on these new data caps.

Comcast’s vision for its internet service strikes me as similar to the models for electricity and gas service, where you pay for what you use and heavy users get a larger bill at the end of the month. If Comcast wants to emulate those services, let’s just make it official. One of Comcast’s greatest fears is the government deciding that internet should become a well-regulated utility, so let’s do everything we can to make that reality and let the Comcast we know and despise today die.

We’re not left with many options here, but if you’re a Comcast customer, you still have one thing you can do: report them to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC has been considering a stance on data caps for wired connections, so this seems like as good a time as any to weigh in and tell the FCC that you don’t think Comcast should be capping your internet.

Unclear on how to complain to the FCC? I’ve got your back. You can file a complaint by clicking here. Be sure to mention the data caps Comcast is implementing and, if you don’t have any other options for broadband internet in your area, make doubly sure you let the FCC know about that as well.

Then, call Comcast to state your concern over these data caps. Be firm, but remember to be nice with the customer service rep you speak to – they’re at Comcast to put food on the table, not necessarily because they believe in Comcast’s mission to destroy everything that is good and pure. They don’t make the rules, and there’s a good chance they’re dreading the roll out of these data caps just as much as you are.

When they break into the script about how these data caps are about fairness, politely inform them that you’ve already filed a complaint with the FCC and that you were just calling to let them know that you don’t approve of the data caps. Then wish them a good day and hang up.

There’s something even better you can do if you happen to live in an area where there’s an actual competitor to Comcast: switch. Bite the bullet and switch providers, and when you call Comcast to cancel, be blunt about your reasons: tell them that their data caps are absurd, and you’re leaving because their greed finally outpaced your tolerance for their crap.

It’s true that Comcast hasn’t left us with many options here, but Comcast is definitely afraid of drawing negative attention of the FCC and, as we’ve already covered, it’s deathly afraid of having to actually compete. If enough of us can exercise either of those options, Comcast might be forced – either through loss of money or much-needed regulation – to change its tune.

Or you could always sit back and wait for the data cap to get smaller and smaller as Comcast continues to bleed you for more money. Your choice.

This post is the opinion of the author, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of SlashGear.


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