If Comcast buys Time Warner Cable many more Americans will find themselves with a broadband cap. We take a look at how many might join the capped majority if the deal goes through.


As regulators attempt to sift through the possible public harms and benefits of Comcast’s $45.2 billion plan to buy Time Warner Cable, we thought it was worth showing that if the deal takes place it could lead to a significant jump in the number of broadband subscribers getting a data cap. If we add Time Warner Cable’s 11.6 million broadband subscribers from the end of 2013 into the mix of customers with caps, the total percentage of U.S. homes that have some type of cap or other limit on downloads rises to 78 percent up from 64 percent today.

That’s a significant jump, especially after the number of homes with caps plateaued after 2011 when AT&T hopped on board the bandwagon that Comcast started driving in 2008. A side note for data nerds: The percentage of capped consumers could be a bit higher because the Leichtman Research Group data we use to calculate subscribers only accounts for 93 percent of the total number of broadband subscribers.

Now, it’s not to say that we will definitely reach that 78 percent, given that Comcast has pledged to divest itself of 3 million pay TV subscribers in order to help get the deal through regulatory screens. However, it’s unclear which markets might be divested and whether or not those markets would go to a buyer that also has a cap. Of the major cable providers in the U.S. only TWC and Cablevision don’t have caps. And even if you take out those 3 million broadband subscribers entirely, we’re still looking at 74 percent of the U.S. broadband subscribers hitting a cap.

As a Time Warner Cable customer who currently doesn’t have a broadband cap, I can’t say that I view this deal as a good thing. I imagine that the 10 to 13 percent of U.S. homes who would join the capped majority would feel the same. There’s still time for the FCC to take a harder look at caps — or as Comcast calls it, a data threshold.

For those who want to see who’s capping their broadband, check out our chart from November 2013.

  1. Glad somebody brought this to light. Wow!

  2. Data caps are nothing more than a consumer rip-off. Comcast will tell you that caps are needed to keep the heaviest users from saturating the network and degrading the service for others. Here’s why that simply isn’t true:

    1. Switches. Ask Cisco and Juniper if their networking equipment is capable of shaping network load and throttling abusive interfaces during periods of peak traffic. Of course it is. Automatically. You can bet that Comcast positions that as a big plus when selling service to lucrative enterprise customers.

    2. A data cap doesn’t solve any problems. Every Comcast customer can be using 100% of their bandwidth during peak periods. Data caps don’t address that issue. Data caps don’t address any network issue. In the old days, the telephone companies would price long distance calls higher during peak periods in order to manage network load and ensure that lucrative business customers received the best service. They were solving a problem. Data caps don’t solve any network problems.

    We’re being ripped off. I guess it isn’t quite as offensive as the policy of the wireless carriers to charge us extra to use the data that we’ve already paid for in a tethered configuration, but almost. The FCC is letting us down when they allow these scams to exist.

    1. I disagree. Caps work because consumers can easily understand them, and can moderate their network use accordingly. They just need to be marketed accurately. 300 GB/Month is about 1 Mbps around the clock. So, instead of marketing a 10 Mbps internet connection with 300 GB cap, they should market it as an uncapped 1 Mbps internet connection, but with a special “burst mode” that allows you to occasionally access much higher speeds, as long as you “borrow” that capacity from another time when you are idle. Most people would prefer to have this burstability rather than fixed capacity around the clock.

    2. Quite honestly the best comment i’ve seen written on this subject. As a network engineer you are correct. Handling load and/or bursty traffic is what these vendors do best. If they couldn’t handle it then you wouldnt see thier equipment used in financial institutions which deal with just the kind of bandwidth you Comcast is talking about (heavy).

      A new policy shouuld be in place because it addresses a consumer issue. What consumer iss is data cap solving. Nothing. Even if you make the argument that grandma has her email coming in slower thats still not justification for everyone else to pay double. Ive seen studies where they say that the average consumer uses 400GB of data a month so technically a cap wouldnt hurt them. If thats justification then why do we have unlimited voice and text. Doesnt that burden the carriers infrastructure?

      At the end of the day, carriers really have poor reasoning and logic concerning caps. What would make a big difference is each of us make a stand and tell our reps to vote NO on this merger. The same way we as an Internet community spoke up about SOPA we need to it about this. This really affects everyone even if you are not in a TWC area because this will embolden their competition to do similar things. Speak up people I know I am.

  3. Hopefully this will get shut down from our government, just like a few years back when AT&T was trying to merge with T-Mobile, at the time, was a similar monopoly situation.

  4. Reblogged this on MisterDTV and commented:
    Is this really what Americans want? Is this really good for Net neutrality? Makes one wonder…

  5. Is Comcast currently even enforcing a cap? I thought that they stopped about a year ago.

  6. What exactly does an internet service provider provide?

    Why doesn’t every PUD lease every customer an 802.11s or better modem and a unique internet address?

  7. I have Comcast and have not been capped in over two years. On top of that, TW doesn’t come anywhere close to Comcasts speed.

  8. It is my understanding that once you exceed the cap you are automatically charged a certain amount for another set amount (20 GB or whatever). I use a data meter they provide to monitor data consumption. I don’t think I’ve ever exceeded the allotted amount, but for the price I pay, 76 bucks for ONLY Internet, it’s annoying that I have to do so.

  9. spixleatedlifeform Sunday, April 13, 2014

    Well glad to see the barest of truth come to light on this matter.
    Any data-capped folks out there in cable internet land really understand what’s actually going on?
    For instance, you may be using a browser and security programs that block such things as pop-up ads, banner ads, video ads, a whole host of other things that used to really crowd out what you can see with that browser, but guess what?
    They get counted towards your data total even though you don’t even see them. It’s AFTER they come through the pipe into your device, regardless of what kind of device it is that they get blocked. Yup, every single bit of data that make up those pestiferous eye mongers that your browser or security software cut out from the screen display. YOU ARE STILL PAYING FOR THEM. Imagine that!
    These things also affect all your data plans on those 150 million smart phones you pay monthly fees for with data plans attached.
    And if you’re truly interested, perhaps you ought to investigate why the malicious destruction of the share prices on the former company On2 Technology were manipulated into the ground for years prior to being purchased by a company that shall be nameless for the moment. On2 Technologies had the most efficient for the bandwidth consumed CODECs for video over the internet. The now monopolized CODECS owned by the syndicate known as MPEG-LA are total bandwidth hogs, consuming two or more times the data necessary for the same quality video as the product releases of On2 Technologies.
    Then you might ask why the regulatory and enforcement agencies, both public and private have never done any investigating of this in spite of having the proof handed to them on a silver platter.
    Consider–150 million data plan smart phone users in the US, plus some 50 million cable internet users with data caps that get extra charges if exceeded–each month! Then you get to all the other capped and/or data planned devices–ipads, ebooks, mini’s, etc. and you start talking about real money. SERIOUS money. Billions of dollars each and every month. Unnecessary excesses collected and taken out of the pockets of those who work for a living. Billions–how many palms do THOSE dollars grease?
    Why only here? This does NOT happen in Europe. This does NOT happen in Japan, Korea, Australia. Dozens of other countries.
    Can you say, “Anti-Regulatory Politics?” How about, “Anti-Enforcement Politics?”
    Billions each month.
    Secret, numbered, off-shore tax-haven bank accounts those same “Anti’s” refuse to allow to be investigated with Federal or State funds.
    Time for you to, “Go Figure”, eh?


  10. I work at Comcast and they do have caps the only people affected by it are those who stream HD video or do a lot of downloading. If you stream 2 hours of HD video a day you’ll go over the cap monthly. I have seen internet only customers bill go from 63.95 to almost 300 a month, due to the fact that they prefer Netflix and Pandora in house of 2 internet users. The limit is 300gb a month and 10 extra per addl 50gb so in a 3 roommate situation who all stream it’ll be cheaper to sign up for cable and internet then just having internet alone.

    1. Alexander Wood Monday, April 14, 2014

      Or get business class.

    2. Which is exactly what Comcast wants, you to have an internet/cable TV bundle or suffer for just having Internet. Honestly I hate cable or satellite TV rather have the internet so i can actually choose what i want to watch not have it per-programmed for me with lousy programs. I am a Time Warner subscriber and believe me im watching this merger and hopping it will NOT go through as we will be paying far more than the $70 per month that we are already paying. Many more people are switching to Internet only and Caps are just a way for the companies to make more money. Honestly the actual cost of the extra bandwidth dose not even come close to what they charge, how else do you explain TW still being in the black and profitable? Now look at Comcast which has all this extra capitol floating around to buy Time Warner out, that’s your overage fees at work! Get big and rip off your customers, or die (just like the Airlines. If a company is profitable and making a dividend for there investors especially if they are already HUGE they shouldn’t be allowed to merge in the first place it creates Monopolies, i thought this was American where we respected a diverse market and COMPETITION to keep cost low, not the Soviet Union that allowed only one company and one policy to rule and gouge their customers just because they now own the market.


Comments have been disabled for this post