Comcast is trying out more flexible ways to implement its bandwidth caps by experimenting with tiered service options.
Comcast says that it will temporarily suspend enforcement of its 250GB monthly data limit on residential users while it conducts trials of two different new bandwidth cap plans. Comcast says that it is conducting trials of the two new cap plans throughout the summer, although the company isn't yet saying where the trials will take place.
The first data cap plan will be a tiered service where users will sign up for three different levels of data usage and will thus be able to consume more data per month if they're willing to pay more for a higher service tier. The lowest tier in this particular plan will have a monthly 300GB data cap and will go up from there if users want to upgrade their plans. Users who subscribe to the top tiered plan and who still exceed their data cap will be able to purchase additional data in increments of $10 per 50GB. The second plan Comcast is trying out will set a flat one-tier limit of 300GB per month and will give users who exceed that cap the option to buy data in increments, just as the tiered approach does.
But no matter which of the two plans Comcast ultimately decides to enact, this means that Comcast customers will see their monthly bandwidth caps increased to a minimum of 300GB. Comcast says that most users will never come close to exceeding the bandwidth cap as it notes that its Xfinity subscribers use an average of 8GB to 10GB per month, or less than 4% of the impending 300GB cap.
Cathy Avgiris, Comcast's executive vice president and general manager for communications and data services, said in a blog post today that one main reason Comcast decided to make changes was the media attention surrounding its bandwidth caps policies following the introduction of its Xfinity TV app and its XfinityTV on the Xbox app, among others.
"Some of the conversation around our product introductions focused on our data usage threshold, rather than on the exciting opportunities we are offering our customers," she wrote. "So as the market and technology have evolved, we've decided to change our approach and replace our static 250GB usage threshold with more flexible data usage management approaches."
ISPs have been experimenting with implementing bandwidth caps since 2008, when Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T, all announced they were trialing new capped services. Implementing data caps effectively has proven to be a challenge for ISPs, however, as Time-Warner Cable eventually decided to shut down a trial program that put bandwidth caps on its cable Internet services due to customer complaints about the potential for paying overage charges. AT&T last year finally implemented data caps on its wireline services by offering a 150GB cap for its DSL customers and a 250GB cap for its U-Verse customers. Verizon this week said it will soon make even "grandfathered" subscribers to move from $30 per month unlimited data plans to tiered plans when they upgrade to 4G LTE phones.
Brad Reed covers both Google and the wireless industry for Network World. Be sure to check out his blog, Google Reed-er, and follow him on Twitter at @bwreednww.
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