Comcast Wants Customers to Pay More for Using the Internet Too Much

Supporters of net neutrality have long argued that content on the Internet is at risk of being available to the highest bidder without intervention via government regulation. Up until now, it has focused on the ability of ISPs to control content providers’ access to Internet users. While the debate continues, ISPs are taking advantage of the delay to find alternative ways to control the gateway and make a profit.

It seems like Comcast is looking at the past to move into the future.

In the early 1990s, using the Internet for non-work related purposes was just beginning to come into fashion. Dialing in via a phone line was the only way to connect, and it didn’t come free. Services such as Prodigy and AOL would charge a monthly fee to use email and explore the world as created by them via message boards and chat rooms from the comfort of a Compaq computer. Other services had similar plans, charging hourly rates, which were higher during peak times.

For many users this became an expensive proposition.

It was quite a deal when the price dropped in 1995 to $9.95 for those five hours a month, though per hour charges would start to add up. Finally, unlimited was introduced the next year and for $19.95 a month, hundreds of thousands of people would log on excited to hear a connection instead of busy tone and the message “You’ve got mail!” This would be the norm for several years until broadband access and free email service became more widely available.

Now, Comcast would like to charge you like it’s 1995, except instead of charging by the hour, they are charging by the gigabyte.

Early in 2014, Comcast quietly introduced a pilot program in specific markets across the country. Customers using the XFINITY Internet service were notified that they had a monthly cap of 300 gigabytes of Internet usage each month for the same amount they were paying for unlimited use. To put that in layman terms, to stream a high definition movie, it would take approximately 3 gigabytes per hour. This means if you did nothing else, such as email, browsing, or gaming, you could view roughly 50 two hour high definition movies a month.

Yes, that’s a lot.

For the average user, their Internet usage is spent browsing the Internet, viewing cat videos, streaming music, or catching up on the latest news. These activities take up much less data and it would be difficult for most customers to exceed the cap, even if they view several movies or TV shows a month. The problem arises, however, for larger households with several devices using the Internet and different levels of use. That same three gigabytes per hour has to be shared by four, five, or more people, making it much easier to reach or exceed the cap.

Comcast says that 98 percent of their customers use much less than the 300 gigabyte cap. According to them, the plan was developed as a way to reign in heavy users (like the ones who would have the time to view 50 movies a month). While they represent a very small percentage of users, the company is testing the data caps as a way to control the amount of data flowing to protect the quality of service for everyone. This is much like the argument ISPs use for controlling how sites like Netflix access customers (i.e. slowing down the streams). Now they want to control how much customers access Netflix.

If it seems like it’s all about the streaming, well, it is.

For the past several years, consumers have been dropping cable as the price continues to rise. More people are “cutting the cord” and moving to Internet only services. With so many options to stream or download, many are finding it more cost effective and easier to adjust their viewing habits. Not to mention, many of these services are offering their own original content that can’t be viewed on cable. Even premium services like HBO and Showtime are exploring stand alone subscription services that would be available online. For companies like Comcast that also provide Internet services, this means they need to make up the revenue somewhere.

The company does offer flexible data plans for light users in some areas. For customers that use 5GB or less per month, they can sign up for the plan and receive a small credit on their bill. They charge $1 per gigabyte overage charge on these plans, as well as a $10 per 50GB for those in need of more data.

For customers not in any of these test markets, binge watching on your favorite streaming service is still safe. Comcast expects to take the program nationwide in 2 – 5 years. It should be noted that Comcast isn’t saying customers can’t use the Internet as much as they want, it will just cost them more if they go over the limit. Other companies are looking into similar programs, including charging more for use during peak times. Just like the way it used to be.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Yvonne Wey
Yvonne Wey4 years ago

Interesting thank you for the info

William Moorman
William Moorman4 years ago

And they are paid from the Gov to record all and turn it over

Ann B.
Ann B4 years ago

Time Warner Cable is the provider where I live. We did a bundle deal so its not too bad but they treat their new customers better than the customers that have been with them the longest. I thought if you were a long time customer you get better deals, not with this company. I heard not too long ago that Comcast was buying Time Warner out. I think I might just go without a phone, tv and internet if it comes down to paying this bill or eating or heating my house. It is crazy what company's are doing these days. Thanks for letting my ramble.. Sorry

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

Great explanations. Thanks for sharing.

Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.4 years ago


Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm4 years ago

They arent doing this to punish heavy users. They are losing revenue becasue people are dumping cable TV. Their monopoly is backfiring on them so they are going to recover that money by hacking up internet fees. Instead of lowering their rates to keep people from dump;ing cable TV they are punishing custmorers for leaving. And comcast is the worst of the worst as far as abusuing their customers.

Like most corporations they dont REALLY believe in serving customers they believe in HANDLING customers.

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago

This hurts those who need the net for work and those who are house-bound and use
the net
as their link to the world

Shailja Mukhtyar
Shailja Mukhtyar4 years ago

outrageous beyond outrageous!!

tell them u will get an old fashioned payphone on your corner, giving u &ur neighbors unlimited free access, if they dont curtail the existing bill,
put the payphones around schools, supermarkets, any busy corner. or let your town put a few for the community. .. wifi subsidized by the city for buildings, nursing homes, hospitals, etc!!

jan l.
jan l4 years ago

Ridiculous. It's truly a necessity in order to conduct business, find construction companies, you name it: companies don't bother to pay for ads in the "free" yellow-book pages anymore. If you don't recall the name of a company that your parents used, it's a long, laborious search through the internet --after you locate local listings-- to find the company or companies to provide bids for home improvement, yardwork, or any type of service. It's easier to just drive around a certain radius to see if you can find an a/c or furnace repair company. No ~ it is completely WRONG to charge more -- there is no governmental subsidy for disabled or senior citizens to try to debate the perennial question: medication, food, or the internet? And yet every company also expects us to have cell phones ... where are people supposed to get the funds to pay for these "perks". These "perks" are no longer an option at all.