TLDR version: What do you think over data limits and overage charges?
In the last few days, my news feed has had a whole bunch of stories about Comcast. Apparently, the company is about to start introducing internet data limits in 14 northeast states where they previously had no limit. I use Comcast Xfinity in Connecticut, so this change will apply to my account.
Here’s a couple of examples:
As you can see, the limit is 1.2 terabytes, after which you are charged $10 per 50 gigabytes, up to a maximum of $100 in overage charges.
On the one hand, once the infrastructure is in place, the company’s costs are not really affected very much at all by how much data an individual uses. If I use 1.2 terabytes in a month, it costs Comcast no more than if I use 100 gigabytes. In some respects, these data caps look like greedy “nickel-and-diming measures,” to use the words on a critic in the Washington Post story. The user comments on that story contain hundreds of comments that are basically along the lines of “Fuck you Comcast, you greedy bastards.”
On the other hand, though, I’m not sure that this is the evil calamity that some critics seem to be suggesting. First of all, who the hell are all these people using more than 1.2 terabytes a month?
My wife and I use the internet a lot. We’re on it all the time, often doing high-data stuff. I hold at least five hours of Zoom office hours per week for my students, as well as semi-regular Zoom meetings with colleagues, as part of my job. I create video lectures for my classes and upload the large video files for my students to watch. My wife has to attend online meetings quite frequently as part of her job, and she also uses internet video communication for her weekly dance lessons (1-2 hours) and counseling sessions (an hour).
We also watch quite a bit of TV, sometimes together and sometimes separately. It’s not unusual for her to be downstairs watching a hi-def stream from Netflix or Amazon or Sling, while I’m upstairs watching baseball or football or a streaming TV show or movie of my own. And all of this is in addition to just our regular browsing, email, YouTube, file backups (OneDrive; Dropbox), and my fairly frequent uploading of photos to my photo site.
Despite all of this, and the fact that we’ve both been home basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week since March, our monthly internet use has only broken 500GB once, and that was a month where I went out of my way to back up a large group of media files to my Dropbox account. I know that the data usage meter on my Xfinity account is pretty accurate, because I check it against the meter on my Asus router, which I bought myself and is not provided by Comcast.
According to Netflix stats on their data rate, 1.2 terabytes would allow me to stream basically 100 hours a week (over 14 hours per day) of HD content, and about 42 hours a week (or 6 hours per day) of ultraHD/4K content. That’s a lot of streaming.
I understand that other families are larger than mine, and that they might have different needs, but isn’t it reasonable to ask that the small percentage of people who use the network disproportionately should be asked to pay a bit more? For me, the biggest issue here is not so much the limits themselves, but the rather exorbitant cost of overages. $10 per 50GB? That is complete bullshit, IMO. I could see something like 5-10c per gigabyte ($10 for 100-200 gig), but the current overage charges seem unnecessarily draconian, especially given the almost complete absence of any extra marginal cost for the provider.
Is your internet subject to data limits/overage charges?
How much data do you use?
How often do you go over?
Do you think that limits are reasonable?