As any smartphone user knows, data isn’t cheap: Mobile data plans can easily run more than $100 a month for the highest-limit plans. In coming years, you may have to worry about similarly high data charges from your cable Internet provider.
Comcast executive David Cohen told an audience at a media summit in New York on Wednesday that his company plans to start charging Internet customers based on how much data they use. Cohen said he expects this “usage-based billing model” will be implemented nationwide by Comcast within the next five years, according to The Verge. The news comes just two years after Comcast announced it was getting rid of data caps.
The company is already testing such data-usage plans in certain markets, including parts of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina. Most Comcast Xfinity Internet customers receive 300 GB of data each month. They then pay a $10 fee for every extra 50 GB used, according to an FAQ on the site. There is also a “flexible-data option” intended for customers who use very little data.
Cohen said that most Comcast customers won’t have to spend more money on data because they are keeping “the basic level of usage at a sufficiently high level [so that] the vast majority of our customers are not implicated by the usage-based billing plan.” He told Ars Technica last year that 98 percent of Comcast Internet customers don’t surpass 300 GB in monthly data usage.
For small-business owners, however, usage-based billing might be a scary prospect. A business owner who spends much of his or her day online—particularly if that involves video streaming, which uses a lot of data—could surpass the data limits and rack up extra fees. The data caps currently don't affect Comcast Business plans in the pilot markets, but it's not unfathomable that Comcast could implement them on business plans eventually as well.
Comcast offers a calculator to help customers estimate how much data they use each month.
The news may be particularly unsettling given the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. If the merger happens, Comcast would gain control of one-third of the U.S. broadband market.
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