Blog Post

Two Ways to Get Comcast to Increase the Data Cap

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

A quick chat yesterday with Charlie Douglas, a spokesman for Comcast, elicited some heartening information about the ISP’s stated 250GB-per-month cap on bandwidth. Om’s not a huge fan of caps because he believes they stifle innovation in the long run, but Douglas says that the cap isn’t set in stone. Right now it’s set at about hundred times more than the average Comcast user’s monthly data consumption.

Douglas said it’s safe to say that as average consumption rises, then so will the cap. That’s a hopeful sign, but Comcast has never been entirely truthful about these things in the past, and only they know how much data their subscribers consume — making it hard to hold the company accountable.

The other way to get the cap increased — or perhaps eliminated altogether — is to get enough Comcast users to complain. Douglas says the cap was disclosed in the first place because Comcast was calling some users out for excessive usage, and those caught wanted to know how Comcast defined the term. So keep your complaints flowing, play our 250GB challenge and get grandma an HD video conferencing service so average users start boosting their data consumption.

28 Responses to “Two Ways to Get Comcast to Increase the Data Cap”

  1. Jesse Kopelman


    I think in markets with real competition, you’d find unlimited residential service would end up costing about $10/month more than capped service. In these markets, business accounts are already only $80/month (vs. $50 for unbundled residential) for cable modem service and these include static IP and some other amenities. The real problem is not caps per se, but lack of competition and lack of proper regulation, especially in those markets with monopoly providers.

  2. Rick Sirois

    Users should pay for what they use. Don’t like “caps”, be willing to pay more. The argument that “caps” stifle innovation is tired and unfounded. “Caps” actually invigorate innovation by demanding efficiency.

  3. Like the people who are gloating about the cap because they only use like 10GB a month but are paying the same price as someone using 250GB a month. Since I am using more than 10GB a month I am the one getting the deal. Seriously if the average user was using 2.5GB a month I would think dial-up would be the more economical way to go.

  4. thegoodlife21


    Because internet is already capped in terms of speed. You don’t get less power or water flowing into your house, because you didn’t purchase high volume electric or water plan, but there is a limit on the amount of data that every comcast customer can get at once because of their internet package.

    Now Comcast wants to use both business models, where the speed is capped and also the data volume, that’s just not right. They shouldn’t be able to make the cake and eat it too.

    • Jimmy

      ( hint: someone who defends the Comcast = Works for Comcast! )

      You sir are a LIAR, Bandwidth cost NOTHING, only the infrastructure, and there is enough infrastructure already in place for Comcast to supply ALL of their customers with an UNLIMITED account, at NO COST TO THEM. Only mental midget monkey focks like yourself who work for Comcast would say otherwise, you lying SCUMBAG!

  5. Every data service I use has a cap. My ISP at work has a cap, my ISP at home has a cap, my iphone data plan has a cap, and my EVDO Verizon modem has a cap. Bandwidth is not free and not infinite. Why shouldn’t there be a cap?

    If you are wealthy enough to get your own fibre to your home, there is still a cap — a large one, but it is still there. So I don’t get why people think there should not be a cap.

    All our utilities, water, electricities, waste are all priced by usage. Why should data service be different?

  6. “CapCast”? Funny!

    The problem Comcast has with the cap is that since there is no meter – or way of knowing where you are vs. the cap – any cap will encourage customers to switch to DSL. If the telcos are smart, they will skip capped DSL/Internet and start to recoup market share.

    You also wonder about Comcast’s plans for faster Internet services like “Blast” and Docsis 3. Both are going to be non-starters for customers who will see them now as just faster ways to hit the cap.

    If you ask me, the telco DSL offerings are in for some gains here.

  7. @Jesse.

    Yeah, I figured the issue about how TV content is delivered over the cable networks vs. IP video would be problematic, but that just doesn’t seem to be insurmountable. I mean, if a subscriber purchases a VoD movie, given some assumptions about how it’s encoded, length of the program, SD vs. HD, etc., that would seem to equate roughly to the number of MBs for the same movie to carry it over IP through a cable modem.

    Not trying to oversimplify the issue, and I hear you that these streams are carried over different “logical networks” within the same cable… Just trying a thought experiment to ask whether it would be possible to ignore the engineering aspects long enough to find a way to implement/enforce the principle.

    On your other point about the need for changes in how broadband services are regulate, I couldn’t agree more. But, it seems to me that even in cases where providers are forced to disclose accurate service levels, be up-front on terms of service, provide metering tools and so on, the risks of them 1) stifling innovation and/or 2) favoring their on content over their competitors still exists. A difficult set of issues to address in a way that all parties would find acceptable.

  8. The Comcast cap is *NOT* a good thing for anyone. I doubt I get close to 250GB (I’m guessing 100-150GB) but, as others have said, capping usage is not about network but about anti-competitiveness from Comcast (eg Comcast would love no VoIP, no download tv/movies, etc as they compete with Comcast products).

    Furthermore, almost *EVERY* user will be highly impacted by the bandwidth downgrade for >15minutes of high usage. Do you play any MMOs (or other large games) or download HD video? Odds are very high that you will take >15m to download a game/patch/video at some point and get screwed by Comcast lowering your available bandwidth.

    If Qwest customer service wasn’t so horrible (they make Comcast customer service look good) or there was another choice besides Comcast or Qwest, I would be leaving Comcast at the end of the month.

  9. Impatient

    Buh-bye, Danno! The rest of us won’t be missing you! Because, you see, Comcast’s cap is a *GOOD THING* for the vast majority of us who don’t use anywhere close to 250GB. I, for example, use less than 10GB even with a moderate amount of streaming.

  10. Jesse Kopelman


    I like your idea in principle, but there is a problem with it — Comcast VOD is not IP based and runs on a completely separate network from its data service. I think an easier solution is to just force all carriers to offer a true unlimited tier and let the market set the price. The real problems of ISP service in the US are that there are still a huge number of markets with no actual competition and there is a distinct lack of regulation forcing carriers to be upfront about their actual level of service (too much speeds up to X crap). Basically, we need more FDA style forcing of ingredients and nutritional info to be placed on the can and a finer grain application of existing rules as they apply to market concentration.

  11. Stacey. It seems that the best way to get the cap increased is to require (through an FCC ruling) that Comcast meter downloads of their own VoD content in the same way that IP-based content from Amazon Unbox, Netflix and other services are metered.

    If a Comcast subscriber rented 30 movies in a month from their set-top-box/DVR, and then got a bill for bandwidth overage fees, I think you’d have plenty of people motivated to complain. As others have pointed out, the cap has little to do with reasonable network management, and much to do with the threat Comcast faces from Internet-based video providers. It’s the dumb pipe dilemma.

    This approach would put Comcast’s VoD services on the same level-playing-field as other third party media stores, addressing the anti-competitive concerns that have been raised.

  12. For my part — I’m going to vote with my pocketbook. Qwest, for one, will be more than happy to get my business as of October 1st. :-)

    Buh-Bye Capcast!

    I’ll be sure to send Capcast an email though, just so they know why I left, so I go into the “doesn’t like the idea of caps” group in their statistics.

  13. With no effective means of monitoring their usage against the cap, customers remain in the dark with respect to the possibility of disconnection. The question to ask Comcast is why they aren’t making their bandwidth measurement tool accessible to each user. No Comcast representative to whom I’ve spoken can explain this. They either pretend its a corporate secret, or sputter.

    Notice that “offline backup” did not appear in Comcast’s trivialization of the typical user’s bandwidth consumption.

  14. Stacey Higginbotham

    Baily, if you’re talking about the Fairshare network managment plan from Comcast, the data will be slowed down after 15 minutes of excessive usage
    on a congested network. That may have been a typo, but in case it wasn’t I wanted to let you know you have a bit more leeway :)

    But your point is well taken. We’ll see what happens with the plan once it is implemented outside test markets.

  15. Maybe I don’t fully understand the policy but how are customers going to make Comcast increase the cap if they are disconnected from the service when they exceed it? That would just make Comcast start to lose customers. If they increase it (out of necessity), would those customers really want to come back to Comcast? I wouldn’t.

    The whole thing smells a lot like Best Buy’s “devil patron” philosophy:

  16. I dislike the caps as well, Stacey. In some ways more concerning than the caps are the planned reductions in purchased service level for sustained data connections over 15 seconds. This will be the first time residential broadband service slows down in many years, and will impact the viability of Amazon Unbox and other such services. Amazon seems to have sensed this was coming as they have switched to a streaming model, but overall a reduction in service level for sustained data transports is concerning.