Comcast faces backlash over plan to charge customers up to $100 for going over a home-internet data limit rolling out to 14 new states

comcast building
Comcast sign logo in the wall of a building at Universal Studios.
  • Comcast is planning on adding data caps to its home-internet plans, starting in January.
  • In 14 states and the District of Columbia, customers with Xfinity internet plans that aren't unlimited will be constrained to 1.2 TB of data per month, or face overage charges. 
  • Comcast has had data caps in other parts of the country since 2016.
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Comcast is adding a data cap for some of its home-internet plans starting in January. The telecommunications giant recently confirmed it's introducing a limit of 1.2 TB on Xfinity Internet plans in 14 states and the District of Colombia.

If customers that don't have unlimited plans go over that cap, they must pay $10 for each additional 50 GB of data. The extra charges max out at $100. Although the plan changes start in January, Comcast said that customers won't face extra charges for January and February. Instead, they'll get a "credit" for those two months, and one more free pass for another month over the course of the rest of the year. News of the cap was first reported by advocacy group Stop the Cap

The change comes at a time when customers are increasingly reliant on internet access, for everything from remote work, to school, to socializing. In June of 2019, Americans used about 271 GB of data per month on average. In June of 2020, that number spiked to 380 GB, according to The Wall Street Journal

The cap is especially of interest to cord-cutters, who stream television over the internet rather than watching cable, and gamers. Blockbuster games like "Madden" and "Assassin's Creed" can range from 50 to 100 GB to download, and many games get updates that use data too. Online multiplayer play, on games like "Call of Duty" or "Fortnite," rely on data too.

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Data from The Wall Street Journal on data usage for different devices shows that people use the most data on streaming players, gaming consoles, and connected TVs each day, with streaming players clocking in at 5.4 GB, gaming consoles at 4.4 GB, and connected TVs at 3.6 GB. Computers trail those platforms at under 2 GB a day, The Wall Street Journal reported

In the wake of reports, some consumers wrote that they'd end their Comcast service, while others slammed Comcast for imposing a limit during a time when Americans are increasingly reliant on the internet. Others wondered if 1.2 TB was a large enough cap to accommodate most families without a problem.

"This is why monopolies are bad. Comcast can exploit us for profit during a pandemic just because it feels like it," consumer advocacy group Public Citizen wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "Comcast should be broken up."

Comcast did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment, but addressed customer concerns on Twitter.

"About 95 percent of our customers use less than 1.2 TB and are not impacted by this plan – even with the spike in usage as customers are educating and working from home during COVID-19," Comcast wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

"1.2 TB is a massive amount of data and you can do a lot with it in one month. Stream about 500 hours of HD video a month or spend nearly 3,500 hours of videoconferencing (Zoom, FaceTime, Google Duo, Houseparty, etc.), enough to video conference for nearly 4 months straight," it added.

"This data plan is based on a principle of fairness. Those who use more Internet data, pay more. And those who use less Internet data, pay less," Comcast wrote

The change will affect customers in states throughout the Northeast, including Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, according to screenshots of Comcast's website published by Stop the Cap. Verizon is a competitor in these regions.

Outside of the Northeast, customers in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and the District of Columbia may also be affected. In other parts of the country, customers without unlimited plans have had data caps since 2016, according to The Verge.

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