Capping at Comcast

Comcast is positioning themselves to make sure their customers can’t simply move to competitor’s streaming TV services without a lot of friction. I detailed this on my blog in my post A tip of the data cap to Comcast.

Basically, Comcast has been very shrewdly not enforcing their 250GB data bandwidth caps on their internet service for several years. They’ve been able to sit back and watch, appearing to be the good and kind internet service provider, while getting a firsthand look at how much bandwidth people use when they think no one is looking. But now, they’re enforcing a new 300GB bandwidth cap in some places, even as they start rolling out their own $15/mo streaming TV service. Why 300GB? It’s not a random number they pulled out of a hat. As I stated in my blog post:

300GB is the magic number for a monthly data cap that will allow Comcast to keep streamers in-house or to charge enough extra for their broadband that the average monthly bill stays sufficiently high enough to keep Comcast happy.

I think how it’s going to play out is that people will find that in 2015, they’re closer to using 300GB per month than not, especially people with kids. I think my daughter must use 100GB per month alone, just by watching Stampy Minecraft videos on YouTube. That’s all great until they decide to ditch the cable TV service and go with a streaming option, and then a lot of those people are going to find they hit the 300GB limit pretty easily. And Comcast is going to charge an extra $10 per 50GB over the limit, or an extra $30-$35 per month for people wanting to go “unlimited”. Everytime I read about this “unlimited” option, I see it placed in quotes, just like I did there. So I’m not really sure what “unlimited” means, because we all know that real things in quotes are not real things.

But, if you read my blog post, you’ll know that the reason Comcast is doing this is because they’re trying to fool the FCC and everyone else into thinking that their streaming TV service isn’t an IP service and therefore they aren’t going to count it against their subscriber’s data caps. The part they’re trying to fool everyone about is the part about it not being an IP service. The part that they’re saying that I believe is that it’s not going to count against people’s bandwidth limits. The question is, will the FCC find that unlawful or not?

There’s going to be a bloody war for any streaming video services that think they’re going to walk in and replace cable TV. Companies like Comcast can easily make sure that their customers have to stay in-house for streaming TV or pay enough in bandwidth costs if they use a competing product to make sure they don’t lose as much revenue as it would appear on the surface that they’re likely to.

According to my friend Ronnie, Cox gives him a 700GB cap. That could be considered competitive motivation for Comcast not to cut the limits so tight, except that nobody in Comcast territory can get Cox, and vice versa. There is no real viable competition to Comcast in many areas, at least not with parity of service quality.

It’s going to get interesting. It could get painful for Comcast customers who want to ditch cable TV and still consume a lot of media from streaming video services that aren’t owned by Comcast.