Consumer Watchdog: A load of cap: Comcast quietly rolling out data limits in U.S. cities


Pennsylvania not among the affected — yet

Consumer Watchdog - Joe Dolinsky



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Have you been wronged by a business? Have you been the victim of a scam? Joe Dolinsky, our Consumer Watchdog, is here to help. To reach Joe, email ConsumerWatchdog@timesleader.com.

To get a sense of Comcast’s budding bravado, look no further than the broadcasting behemoth’s towering downtown Philadelphia headquarters.

At 58 stories, or just under 1,000 feet tall, the Comcast Center looms large over an already tremendous Center City skyline. Besides being home to many of those who do Comcast’s bidding, the tower also has the distinction of being the tallest building in the state and 19th tallest in the nation.

But with construction underway on a second, $1.2 billion skyscraper one story taller and one block away from the current site, the project is less of a literal ode to brotherly love and more likely the latest indication that Comcast isn’t backing off from flexing its muscle.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the telecommunications and mass media giant is quietly in the process of rolling out broadband data limits, a la cell phone companies like Verizon and AT&T. Comcast has about 22 million customers for both its cable and broadband products, with the subscriber scale recently tilting in favor of the latter for the first time, per the Associated Press.

Time to adjust the business model.

Dubbed a “trial,” the proposed plan is slated to kick off Dec. 1 in parts of Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas. Customers there will face a 300 GB monthly usage cap and a $10 overage penalty per 50 GB — automatically added to their bill, of course.

To avoid the restriction, Comcast is kind enough to provide its valued customers an out: A $30 premium charge on top of their current monthly rates. Tricky, tricky.

There aren’t reports of the plan — excuse me, trial — making its way locally in what amounts to Comcast’s backyard. But with the rise in streaming the likes of Netflix and Hulu in addition to Internet video and other ultra-super-high-definition television options, it isn’t a stretch to wonder not if, but when such a change might show up.

Comcast says as the market changes, so do they.

“Our goal is to provide options that benefit consumers while also ensuring that all of our customers enjoy the best possible Internet experience over our high-speed Internet service,” according to Comcast.

“To accomplish this, we have been trialing improved data usage management approaches that are in step with plans that other Internet service providers in the market are using and will provide our customers with more choice and flexibility than our previous static cap.”

“Choice” and “flexibility” are likely not the words being used by customers affected by the trial. In fact, I can think of some other superlatives, but we can’t print those.

If mobile phone companies can get away with adding data limits, why can’t Comcast? That has to be the thinking somewhere near the top floor of the Comcast Center. I know it’s mine.

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Pennsylvania not among the affected — yet

Consumer Watchdog

Joe Dolinsky

HERE FOR YOU

Have you been wronged by a business? Have you been the victim of a scam? Joe Dolinsky, our Consumer Watchdog, is here to help. To reach Joe, email ConsumerWatchdog@timesleader.com.

Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL

Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL

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