Comcast’s Data Cap Seeks to Monetize Cord-Cutters Further – by Offering Nothing

December 17, 2015 5:26 pm

Comcast is raising hell with consumers and media alike thanks to the new 300GB data cap on their broadband Internet. Sure, reaching 300 GB of data in one month isn’t easy to do for casual Internet users, but it seems that the new plans are directed at penalizing cord-cutters, binge-watchers, and most importantly 4K consumers. Consider that 70 percent of all broadband traffic in North America during peak periods belongs to audio and video – and most of that video isn’t 4K yet.

As we move towards 4K, it’s going to be a bigger problem. 4K content is more than 4x larger than high definition content. That means if consumers stream one episode in 4K, it’s equivalent to over four episodes in standard HD. These massive file sizes will quickly consume 300 GB, while consumers are charged an additional $10 per 50 GB they are over the monthly limit. Also, consider the wasted data from accidental streaming, background streaming (if on a computer) and streaming resulting from video advertisements.

In a recent article on Streaming Media, I discussed about how the lack of standardization in streaming media led to a costly experience for the consumer and this decision by Comcast only seeks to muddle those waters even more. The gains for Comcast are obvious – money and an advantage in a highly competitive market. If there was any thought that perhaps this was a congestion issue, Comcast quickly cleared that up.

This rollout comes at a particularly “convenient” time as Comcast begins to unveil their new streaming service, StreamTV, which won’t count towards their data cap because it streams through their cable service and not the Internet. Unlike mobile data caps which offer no option for unlimited data, there is still one for broadband Internet. Consumers can get the same service they have had for years by paying an additional $35 dollars on their monthly bill.

Terrific.

What can you do to prepare for this?

The first step is to know what you’re streaming, and from where. Our recent consumer streaming survey shows that people individually use more than 3 devices to stream video. That includes set-top-boxes, TVs, computers, mobile devices, gaming consoles, Roku and other media players. Each of these will contribute to the data hog at the same time in some use cases.

It shouldn’t just be your responsibility. OTT App providers that still deliver in-app advertisements must consider how much data consumption is delivered over time and how to reduce it. Otherwise they risk angering consumers by forcing unwanted data usage (e.g. Facebook auto-play video).

It will still be some time before the full impact of the Comcast data cap is implemented across all markets, or if other providers follow-suit. But this is a dangerous precursor to how easily it is to take advantage of the growth of fat 4K content and the growing reliance on broadband internet to watch all content.