As much a part of my job as water is to my life cycle, data rules what I can and can’t review. Data rules what I can and can’t upload to the PowerLeveled YouTube. Data effects how much high-definition video I can watch on my television – because who really watches cable TV anymore? According to a fast-spreading change in Comcast Xfinity Internet, we’re not important consumers, despite the clear and present needs of 4K video working its way into our homes. Working as a journalist in the media industry, the digital age is about to kill my pocketbook, and it’s going to leak into any of your lives as well soon enough.
What I’m talking about is simple. Comcast is applying data caps to an increasing number of homes across the Eastern seaboard and “Deep South”. As of September 1st, Comcast Xfinity Internet service is packing in a soft data cap of 300 GB of data per month. This data cap applies just the same way that your Verizon or AT&T cell phone caps work, except that it has no regard for how many consumers you have in your home, nor your existing habits. There are no alternative plans you can choose from for existing customers, and there is no regard for a “grandfathered” option to Comcast-loyal consumers.
With this 300 GB cap in place, Comcast will now begin charging consumers an extra $10 for 50 GB of data to be added to their monthly package. Along with this $10 fee, consumers will have a choice to add $30 per month to continue with their unlimited service packages – adding on a supplementary fee for the same service we already enjoy. As a heavy consumer of internet, there are more than a few reasons why this makes me furious.
First up, I am a heavy consumer. As I regularly download games on Steam, and I pack a whopping multi-terabyte hard disk space in my PC across four hard drives, I don’t waste time uninstalling titles. I need to leave them installed and updated if I want to properly review patches and new content, or transition my PowerLeveled previews to launch-day reviews. Occasionally, I just love a game and even if I fall away, I will play it months after I’ve worn it out. Diablo III is a great example. The inherent issue here is this; Not only do I download a 15-30 GB file to install games like Diablo, up to 50 GB files for pre-launch titles like Star Citizen, I have to patch them regularly. Comcast, take note, I have over 100 games in my library and I’ve used an example of just two and consumed 65-80 GB of your data cap already. Updating these titles consumes a minimum 2-3 GB of data per day. Basic math clocks in at 60-90 GB per month in updates. Add on Hulu, Netflix and Sling TV to this, and I’ll be paying more for internet than I pay on water, power and my other utilities combined. Don’t get it twisted Comcast, internet is a utility.
Now, lets consider the numbers. Comcast is justifying this data cap based on the idea that their consumers don’t use 300 GB of data on average, saying that consumers should pay for what they use.
“These trials are based on principles of fairness and flexibility. With 10% of our customers consuming half the data that runs over our network, we think it’s fair that those who use more data pay more and that those who use less data also have a chance to save some money. For light data users on our Economy Plus tier, the can opt in to a program that gives them a $5/month discount if they use less than 5 GB of data per month.”
This quote was given to Credit.com author Bob Sullivan by a Comcast representative. In this narrative, Comcast is showcasing a ridiculous level of greed by mentioning that 10% of consumers use half the data on their network, and presumably more than that 300 GB cap. This means that one out of every ten consumers will have to fork over an extra $10 per month, minimum. Conversely, consumers who use less than 5 GB of data per month will get a $5 discount. Keep in mind that those consumers are all aging boomers. Hell, my father who is in his 50’s is using Netflix, playing World of Tanks every night, and would clearly fall out of this discount bracket in about a week. What Comcast is trying to sell as a discounted rate is only for the disconnected. The reluctant to move into the modern generation. Those consumers who Comcast plans to offer discounts aren’t the majority, and I dare to venture that they are much more in the minority.
With that in mind, it’s not even the data limit that kills me as much as their profit margins. Comcast makes a majority of their income from internet service, not television or home phone options. Comcast home security isn’t nearly as adapted as their other offerings either, but it’s the licensing from pre-existing services that makes internet such a profitable business – Let’s elaborate.
Television services began with a simple structure: Radio waves that translated into a picture. With the advent of cable syndication, cable providers paid television studios to allow them to distribute their formerly over-the-air content. Companies like CBS and Turner Television made money not only from local advertising, but through distribution fees they charged to cable providers, which were in-turn charged to consumers who searched for more television options on higher quality signal. As policies and contracts make their way into the internet era, Comcast faces a two-faced beast that they stand to make a great deal of profits from. Syndicated television is moving away in favor of licensed streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. Comcast is of course losing money from syndication and consumer commitment as a result, especially as older generations adapt to the modern era and younger consumers become grown adults. With syndication costs not falling, but subscriber numbers doing so, Comcast looks to make spare change from their internet services. Featuring a huge markup, Comcast isn’t paying syndication to allow you to access anything you want online. Keep that in mind as you look at these comparative Time Warner Cable internet numbers provided by Huffington Post
Now, I get it Comcast. You’re going to say something along the lines of “Time Warner Cable’s profit margins aren’t reflective of our overall consumer costs.” Let’s take a minute to compare your charges to Google Fiber, because even if we don’t have their revenue numbers, their subscriber costs reflect Time Warner Cable’s operating costs.
Taken from the official Google Fiber support page, service plans for Google Fiber’s 1000 Mb/s, unlimited usage service cost $70 per month. Comcast charges about $50 for internet service, plus the addition of $30 for unlimited service under their new packages in the South. Comcast also only provides 100 Mb/s – 10% of the Google Fiber speed, on fiber optic networks they simply won’t connect to your home without the cable bottleneck. Google Fiber also offers a 1 Mb/s connection for free, after installation costs. Free – that sounds a lot closer to the $2 operating costs of running internet to your house, given that consumers pay to have things hooked up the first time.
To put things simply, Comcast is screwing us, because they need to pay the bills they can’t afford. Heck, so is Time Warner, but until the FCC steps in they are going to continue to push their weight onto the consumer and destroy small businesses and our in-home experiences. Let Comcast into your home and you can say goodbye to 4K UHD signal, people. Think about it.
Want to see if Comcast is implementing these data caps in your area? Here’s a look at their official “Help and Support” page here: http://customer.xfinity.com/help-and-support/internet/data-usage-trials-find-area