As the government discusses the pending Comcast merger with Time Warner Cable, the latest broadband adoption stats from Leichtman Research Group show that if the deal goes through 79 percent of U.S. broadband subscribers will find themselves under a data cap. Because Time Warner Cable, the third largest broadband provider in the U.S. didn’t have a cap, the acquisition by Comcast would notably change the number of people who will go from unlimited broadband to those who have a cap or pay more the more they download.
Back in April, I did the math on how many people might find themselves facing usage limits on their broadband if the deal went through and came up with a maximum number of 78 percent. This was up from 64 percent prior to the merger. That’s a big jump.
But since April, the major telcos and cable providers (especially the cable providers) have added a total of 1.2 million broadband subscriptions during the first quarter of 2014. We also have gained more certainty in how Comcast planned to divest itself of nearly 4 million pay TV subscribers. It decided to sell certain markets to Charter, which also has a broadband cap, thus, all of Time Warner Cable’s customers will find themselves under a data cap post-merger.
So now, we’re at the new number of almost four out of five broadband subscribers having a data cap. Meanwhile, we’re seeing ISPs add new provisions in the forms of yearly contracts and even AT&T’s new surveillance plans. Broadband, which used to be an add-on service, has become the primary source of revenue for ISPs, and as such, they are monetizing the heck out of it from the consumer side, and eventually by selling the end user’s eyeballs with advertising. Let’s hear it for innovation.
Update: Comcast takes issue with this story noting that it does not have a data cap when one defines a cap as “to place a limit or restriction on (prices, expenditure, or other activity).” Instead the trials of 300 GB per month limits in select areas have been called both a “data threshhold,” and now a “flexible data consumption plan,” that Comcast wants people to know are in trial mode only. Additionally, Comcast’s David Cohen last week wrote in a blog about these flexible data consumption plans, “We’re now also looking at adding some unlimited data plans to our trials.”
So, to be clear, Comcast disagrees that it has a cap, but agrees that it does not offer any unlimited plans. However, one day it might.