Comcast sets 1 terabyte data cap for Chicago-area internet customers – Chicago Tribune
Comcast is putting a toll booth along the internet superhighway, but only the heaviest binge-watchers and gamers will likely get there.
Beginning Aug. 1, Chicago-area customers who exceed 1 terabyte of data usage per month will have to pay extra to keep streaming videos, playing online games or downloading photos.
The data usage plan, which Comcast dubbed the “terabyte internet experience” in an email to Chicago-area customers Thursday, affects less than 1 percent of internet users, the company said. For those who do manage to surf their way past the data cap, the fees will be $10 for every 50 GB of additional data used during the month, up to a maximum of $200.
An unlimited data usage plan is also available for an extra $50 per month.
“Customers who buy the unlimited plan have the peace of mind to do whatever they want to do online,” Comcast spokesman Jack Segal said Friday.
Before hitting the cap, which translates to about 1,000 GB, a user would be allowed to stream 700 hours of high-definition video, play more than 12,000 hours of online games or download 600,000 high-resolution photos per month, the company said. The typical Comcast customer uses about 67 GB per month, according to the company.
Last year, Comcast implemented usage-based pricing in a handful of other cities, setting a 300 GB data cap. About 10 percent of customers regularly exceeded the cap each month.
In April, the cap was raised to 1 terabyte after customers gave feedback during trials.
Comcast has rolled out data usage plans to nearly 25 percent of its customers, with the addition of Chicago, Segal said.
Analysts say getting more money for broadband usage will be crucial for Comcast and other cable providers as consumers cut the cord on traditional TV subscriptions in favor of online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
Providing faster service — a priority for Comcast — is improving the internet experience for customers, but it may also enable more of them to bump up against the data caps.
A 2014 broadband study by the Federal Communications Commission found a correlation between higher speeds and greater data consumption by the average user, attributing it to some combination of greater internet use and “an adoption of more data-intensive applications and services.”
Comcast has several initiatives in place to bring gigabit internet speeds to Chicago. A new modem is being tested in the market, which allows for 1 gigabit-per-second speeds on the existing Comcast infrastructure. It should be available to Chicago-area customers in the third quarter, Segal said.
In March, the service rolled out in Atlanta with a promotional price of $70 per month for three years, or $139.95 per month without a contract. Prices have not been set for the Chicago market, Segal said.
Rival provider AT&T has been beefing up its high-speed offerings in the Chicago area since launching its GigaPower Internet in June 2015. The service is available to residents in more than 25 communities, according to AT&T spokesman Phil Hayes.
AT&T also has data usage limits, as do smaller carriers like Suddenlink, Mediacom and Cable One.
In Chicago, AT&T’s data caps range from 300 GB to 1 TB, based on internet speed. Unlimited data plans cost an additional $30 per month.