The writing has pretty clearly been on the wall as Comcast slowly but surely has expanded their usage-cap trials throughout less competitive Southern markets
. In Comcast trial markets, users pay the same price users in unlimited markets pay, except they get a 300 GB cap, and have to pay $10 for every 50 GB beyond that they travel. Comcast also copied a Time Warner Cable offer that provides a $5 monthly discount off a user's bill -- if they agree to a 5 GB per month usage cap with $1 per GB overages.
It's very clear Comcast wants to expand these usage caps, raising very questions about how their planned merger with Time Warner Cable could dramatically increase the number of users impacted by caps. Comcast's solution to this while trying to pitch the deal to regulators? Pretend that usage caps aren't usage caps
Comcast has already unsuccessfully tried this approach with the press, telling tech reporters and bloggers that the company doesn't have data caps, they have data thresholds
. The company is continuing this bizarre line of logic in recent filings with the FCC
“Comcast does not have ‘data caps’ today,” the company wrote this week in a filing with the New York Public Service Commission on its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. “Comcast announced almost two years ago that it was suspending enforcement of its prior 250GB excessive usage cap and that it would instead be trialing different pricing and packaging options to evaluate options for subscribers—options that reflect evolving Internet usage and that are based on the desire to provide flexible consumption plans, including a plan that enables customers who want to use more data the option to pay more to do so as well as a plan for those who use less data the option to save some money.
Except that Comcast's offer of $5 off your bill if you agree to a
data threshold doesn't provide much savings, as you'll quickly run into the cap and run up significantly more charges. Comcast's not-so-secret goal is to get users on metered broadband to jack up data prices before the inevitable decline of TV and digital voice revenues (which are just data, after all).
The problem for Comcast? Consumers prefer simpler flat-rate data pricing, and Comcast's trials are largely about figuring out how to market what's effectively an unnecessary price hike
so it sounds more attractive. Comcast hopes the press and regulators approving the deal won't realize the potential problems inherent in such a plan if they simply call usage caps -- something else entirely.