Comcast Raising Rates and Charging for Overages

image credit: Broadband Search

published by Chand Bellur
January 2, 2021 at 4:38 p.m.

 

  • Comcast is one of the largest corporations on the planet and the leading provider of cable television and home Internet services in the United States.
  • Starting in 2021, Comcast will increase charges for customers using over 1.2 terabytes of data per month.
  • Customers opting for an unlimited plan can use more data by paying a higher monthly fee.
  • US consumers pay the second-highest Internet fees in the industrialized world.
  • Comcast operates as a monopoly in many parts of the United States, leaving consumers with no other Internet service options.

Comcast: The Largest Cable Provider in the United States

If you’re reading this article in the US, Comcast is likely your Internet provider. It’s also possible that you had few options when signing up for service.

Comcast’s rapid growth overshadows and displaces competitors, leaving consumers with few choices for high-speed Internet access. In many parts of the nation, Comcast is the only option.  

Comcast, the second-largest cable provider in the world, garners low customer satisfaction scores. The Consumerist ranked Comcast as “The Worst Company in America” in 2010 and 2014The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ranks the IRS higher than Comcast. Yes, people are more satisfied with the Internal Revenue Service than Comcast.

Given low customer satisfaction, it seems as though people don’t choose Comcast. Instead, they’re likely selecting the service due to a lack of other options. Legislation in states like California, supported by AT&T and Comcast, dismantles past efforts to foster competition.

image credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Although Comcast doesn’t maintain a monopoly throughout the US, it is an exclusive Internet provider in much of the nation. This allows the company to deliver poor service and raise rates, as Internet costs decrease throughout the world.

Most technology gets less expensive and better over time. While it’s true that the average broadband cost per megabit has decreased by 90% from 2006 to 2016, this isn’t a complete picture. In particular, Comcast is bucking this trend by capping data usage and charging for overages — a tactic usually reserved for mobile data.

As Internet service becomes less expensive to provide, Comcast seems to be taking advantage of its exclusivity by raising rates. Customers with few broadband options will likely accept the new fee structure.

Comcast Charging for Overages

Starting in 2021, Comcast is rolling out new rules for subscribers. Service is no longer unlimited but instead capped at 1.2 terabytes of data. The limit equates to 1200 gigabytes — enough data to watch 171 hours of Netflix at 4K UHD resolution.

Families exceeding the 1.2 terabyte cap will be charged $10 for every 50 GB surpassing the limit. Comcast stops the surcharges after levying $100 in extra fees.

Consumers who know they will exceed 1.2 terabytes per month can opt for an unlimited plan. At an additional $30 per month, it’s less expensive than overage charges; however, it’s a rate hike.

Comcast claims that only five percent of its broadband customers consume over 1.2 TB of data. The alleged data hogs consume 20% of Comcast’s broadband, as the company positions the move as a way to rein in excessive broadband use.

The move seems incredibly mercenary for a cable provider. Consumers who watch more cable TV are charged the same amount as those who spend a few hours in front of a television. Given that cable TV’s business model is established and entrenched, such a move would upset most customers. As broadband evolves, corporations like Comcast take advantage of regional monopolies and diminished consumer expectations. Data costs should be decreasing, not increasing.

Easy for a Family to Burn Through 1.2 TB of Data

As more households upgrade to 4K UHD televisions, their data demands increase. Furthermore, smartphones and tablets with better screens consume more data when connected to home Internet services.

The trend is clear — consumers will be using more broadband data in 2021, particularly with stay-at-home advisories in place. Although Comcast claims its new price structure will only affect 5% of its customers, this will change quickly, enabling the company to cash in.

It’s fairly easy for a family to burn through 1.2 terabytes of data in a month. Using advanced video compression technology, Netflix can deliver an hour of 4K UHD content using only 7 GB of data. In a four-person household, this is only 42.75 hours of 4K TV in a month.

Factoring in operating system updates, social media, video chats, app downloads, and every other data consuming task, surpassing 1.2 TB is likely for an average family. If not now, it will be the new normal as we upgrade to newer devices with higher resolution screens and cameras.

Given the timing, it seems as though Comcast takes advantage of a locked-down public. Forced to use data-heavy video conferencing for work and broadband for entertainment, the company imposes a surcharge when consumers need Internet access the most. Without competition in many regions, consumers must suck it up and pay the man.

Comcast is So Bad That I Use My Phone’s Hot Spot

My own experience with Comcast has been vexing, to say the least. Although the San Francisco Bay Area offers some flexibility in broadband options, compared to the rest of California, it depends on precisely where you live. In my condo complex, Comcast is the only viable option. This is why I now use my smartphone for home Internet access.

I tried Comcast years ago and found the service to be completely unreliable. Every month, my service went out, and I could not fix it myself. I had to wait up to four days for service restoration, and the company refused to refund a cent. This went on for six months until I canceled.

After trying a few standalone cellular-based options, I finally opted for the wireless hotspot on my smartphone. It seems pathetic, like something one would only do in Khazakstan, but I live in the tech center of the world. I’m down the street from Twitter and up the street from YouTube, yet I use my smartphone for home Internet service. That’s how bad Comcast is in the SF Bay Area.

Perhaps the caps will improve broadband service, but that was never the issue with my dwelling. Comcast had a temperamental distribution box causing problems that they refused to fix durably. With a lack of options, my smartphone is the best alternative.

Comcast’s Monopoly May Continue

Let’s face it. Internet connectivity through cable lines won’t endure. Cable transmission systems are physical infrastructure that must be created and maintained. Coaxial cable has a maximum theoretical throughput of 1.2 gigabits per second. That’s fast, but future computing will surely demand more as media advances will bring us rich, dynamic VR and holographic experiences.

Wireless data transmission is the future. There are even some bold and successful attempts to harness quantum entanglement for data delivery. The problem is, Comcast or some other large company will surely dominate the field, once again eliminating competition and fleecing consumers. It’s up to us, the public, to raise awareness of the issue and make it clear to lawmakers that monopolies and anti-competitive behavior must be corrected. After all, the future of the Internet is at stake.

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