is giving some of its customers a break on data caps for home-internet use.
Comcast was one of several companies that paused caps on data usage at the beginning of the pandemic. But at the start of this year, Comcast reintroduced a data cap on its home-internet service that limited households to 1.2 terabytes of data per month, with one terabyte being equal to 1,000 gigabytes. Those who exceed the cap are charged $10 for every 50 gigabytes of excess data, up to $100 per month.
But now, following an agreement with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, the implementation of this cap will be put on hold for some customers. “We are providing customers in our Northeast markets with additional time to become familiar with the new plan,” a Comcast spokesman said, adding that these customers will “now have six months to understand their data usage.”
As such, the earliest customers in the Northeast will see
data caps is in August. The Northeast region includes the following states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- West Virginia
- the District of Columbia
- Parts of North Carolina and Ohio
Additionally, Comcast said that all low-income users nationwide who sign up for service through the Internet Essentials program or the Internet Essentials Partnership program will not be subject to the caps. The Internet Essentials program provides web access to low-income households for $9.95 per month.
Earlier this week, Comcast announced it was increasing the
internet speeds available through the low-income program to 50 megabytes per
second for downloads and 5 megabytes per second for uploads. Customers who sign
up for the low-income programs by June 30 will also receive 60 days of free
The company also noted that it is expanding its “Lift Zone”
program, through which it provides free Wi-Fi access via hotspots in community
centers across the country. The company aims to have 1,000 of these zones in
place by December.
The more relaxed policies were the result of negotiations
between the cable provider and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office. “As
Pennsylvanians continue to navigate this pandemic, we know millions are relying
on the internet for school and work more than ever,” Attorney General Josh
Shapiro said in his office’s announcement. “This is not the time to change the
rules when it comes to internet data usage and increase costs.”
As part of the agreement, Comcast also said it would waive
early-termination fees for customers who entered a contract before November
2020 until the end of 2021.
Comcast customers outside of the Northeast region who are
not enrolled in the targeted low-income programs will still be subject to the
new data caps, a spokesman confirmed. Comcast operates in 39 states and had
begun enforcing the caps in 27 of them. Previously, Comcast told Consumer
Reports it wouldn’t start charging customers who exceed their allotment until
Customers can monitor their data usage using an app provide
by Comcast. The cable provider also has an option for subscribers to receive
text updates about how much data they’ve used.
Comcast is not the only cable and internet provider to reinstate data caps recently. Most providers paused these caps at the start of the pandemic as more Americans began working from home or attending school virtually. But recently, some of these companies began reintroducing these caps.
Company spokespeople, Consumer Reports
In the long run, consumer advocates say that these caps could become a hindrance for households. “All evidence points to U.S. consumers using more broadband data every year,” James Willcox, senior electronics editor at Consumer Reports, previously told MarketWatch. “What seems like a huge amount of data now could feel restrictive a few years down the line.”