Comcast lifts 250GB hard cap, intros more flexible 300GB soft cap

By on May 18, 2012, 7:30 AM

Comcast has announced plans to loosen restrictions on residential Internet users. In 2008, the provider imposed a cap on home subscribers forbidding them from using more than 250GB of data (download and upload combined). The limitation spanned all residential bandwidth packages, including the 105Mb/s tier introduced last spring, and the company's "excessive bandwidth" policy had harsh rules for offenders.

If you exceeded the 250GB cap once or twice, you received a friendly reminder. Three times and your service might've been terminated for a year. You couldn't buy extra data, so the only recourse was upgrading to a business account, which roughly doubled your bill for unlimited data -- overkill if you only need another 50GB. I often waited until the end of the month to see if I could "afford" to download large games.

That policy was only a few years old, but Comcast says it was implemented in a different era -- one without the mass adoption of smartphones, tablets and streaming boxes. Getting with the times, the company plans to increase its base cap to 300GB along with selling additional 50GB blocks of data for $10 each. There's also talk of raising the cap even higher for "Blast" and "Extreme" subscribers (upper-tier services).

The new policy will be introduced to select trial markets over the next few months, though specific locations and times haven't been shared yet. In the meantime, the company says it'll stop enforcing the old bandwidth limitations immediately. "We're out of the cap business," Executive Vice President David L. Cohen told Ars Technica. "Each of these pilot approaches will effectively offer unlimited usage of our services."

Cohen said Comcast's updated policy is unrelated to the recent controversy surrounding its Xfinity app, which streams content to the Xbox 360 outside the company's 250GB cap, while similar services count toward the monthly allotment. "There's been a little bit of noise recently with the launch of our Xfinity application on Xbox, but [the new policy] has been part of an ongoing discussion at this company for several years."

Netflix has long criticized data caps and it's not particularly impressed by Comcast's changes. "Increasing the data cap is a small step in the right direction, but unfortunately Comcast continues to treat its own Internet delivered video different under the cap than other Internet delivered video. We continue to stand by the principle that ISPs should treat all providers of video services equally," a representative told Gigaom.

User Comments: 8

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ETF Soldier ETF Soldier said:

People will really go for this, with streaming websites like Netflix and Lovefilm, and now a lot of games are going to digital stores it really needs to be upgraded. Just introduce this policy right now, I don't think a trial will be necassery.

yRaz yRaz said:

It's about time. I've never gone over my limit but I know people who have. Great picture BTW.

bandit8623 said:

getting warned 2-3 times is not a hard cap.. its always been a soft cap. I've gone over 250GB multible times and no warning.

Guest said:

It's not about going over the cap but rather how often you're using your internet to actually go over that cap. Like if you're downloading something or uploading for 24h then they're going to give you a message. If you're using your internet little by little where it doesn't cause a large impact on everyone else they're fine with you going over the limit. They actually track you load usage in set periods of time rather than you cap, your cap is just another way of them being able to tell you you're abusing their internet with easy proof..

Tygerstrike said:

Meh Comcast needs to put more vasoline behind their collective ears so the can pull their heads from their collective rumps. When will corps. learn. If you dont give your customer what they want, they will go and spend their money elsewhere!!! Its not like ANY ISP or Cellphone provider actually pays anywhere near what the consumer pays for Data. They just want more and more money. The only way they can justify it to the FCC is to put "caps" in place. I was talking with a cellphone sales rep for a major carrier <one of the big 3> and was told how little they actually pay for the bandwidth. Its ridiculously cheap!!!!!!! Its like a 10000% increase that the customer pays.

blackcat77 said:

I stream Netflix and Hulu for about 3 hours every night as well as all our computer internet use and only average about half the 250Gb cap. This won't affect me at all.

Guest said:

well I watch hd streaming and if I watched 3 hrs per night it would be well over the 250gb I honestly think you don't know what you are talking about 1/2 that amount is wrong whom ever you are..bogus comment's you work for comcast?

Guest said:

Not true bandit - I was banned for a year here in Atlanta back in 2008 / 2009 and have boycotted Comcast ever since. For the record Comcast executives can take a short walk off a long pier! Jerks!! All I did was stream / rent one too many 1080p movies at a time before it was popular. I've never had an issue w/ AT&T U-Verse which is what I've run since the Comcast jerks terminated my account w/o any warning at all ( b/c I don't use Comcast email and I don't check my junk hotmail account ). Comcast should be sued for monopoly / unfair business practices for what it's doing to Netflix - Everyone should write the justice department if you consider yourself a solid American citizen. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it - Thank you (Sean H - Atlanta, GA)

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