May 17, 2012

Comcast to Replace Usage Cap With Improved Data Usage Management Approaches

Today, the way people use video and access information has changed dramatically. Four years ago, when we first instituted a broadband Internet data usage threshold, the iPhone had just been introduced...the iPad didn't exist...and the experience of watching streaming video on your home PC or through a Roku box or direct to an Internet-capable TV was much different than it is now.

While the world was changing, so were we. Over the past few years, we have been an industry leader in innovation — delivering exciting new products to our customers on a regular basis. Our recent announcements about the Xfinity TV app, Streampix, HBOGO, WatchESPN, and Xfinity TV on the Xbox 360 are just a few examples of how we're using new platforms to deliver new services to a range of consumer devices and screens.

In 2008, we announced an Internet data usage policy that allowed residential customers up to 250 GB of data usage per month. It was widely recognized that this was far above any normal (including very heavy) residential use of our high-speed data service, and in fact, that remains the case today. (Netflix April 2011 Letter to Shareholders; PC World — "Are Broadband Usage Caps Inevitable?"; ArsTechnica: "Comcast starts 250 GB bandwidth caps October 1"). With the passage of time, it's important to remember that the purpose of the usage threshold was simply to ensure that all of our customers were treated fairly and had a consistent and superior experience while using our high-speed data service. That has been and will be our sole goal. We've never had any intention to limit the lawful use of the Internet or restrict our customers' ability to view online video.

Importantly, we have consistently treated all video carried over the public Internet the same whether it comes from our sites or anywhere else on the public Internet. XfinityTV.com, nbc.com, Hulu, Netflix or YouTube, and every other Internet video site (whether our site or a third-party site) is treated, and will continue to be treated, exactly the same. That's consistent with FCC rules and consistent with what we have always done and continue to do.

We've also always said that we would evaluate customer usage and a variety of other factors and make adjustments as the marketplace evolved. Please see our FAQs and a Venture Beat story on this topic. Over the last several years, we have periodically reviewed this policy, and for the last six months we have been analyzing the market and our process and think that now is the time to begin to move to a new plan. This conclusion was only reinforced when, in recent weeks, some of the conversation around our new product introductions focused on our data usage threshold, rather than on the exciting opportunities we are offering our customers.

So as the market and technology have evolved, we've decided to change our approach and replace our static 250 GB usage threshold with more flexible data usage management approaches that benefit consumers and support innovation and that will continue to ensure that all of our customers enjoy the best possible Internet experience over our high-speed data service.

In the next few months, therefore, we are going to trial improved data usage management approaches comparable to plans that others in the market are using that will provide customers with more choice and flexibility than our current policy. We'll be piloting at least two approaches in different markets, and we'll provide additional details on these trials as they launch. But we can give everyone an overview today.

The first new approach will offer multi-tier usage allowances that incrementally increase usage allotments for each tier of high-speed data service from the current threshold. Thus, we'd start with a 300 GB usage allotment for our Internet Essentials, Economy, and Performance Tiers, and then we would have increasing data allotments for each successive tier of high speed data service (e.g., Blast and Extreme). The very few customers who use more data at each tier can buy additional gigabytes in increments/blocks (e.g., $10 for 50 GB).

The second new approach will increase our data usage thresholds for all tiers to 300 GB per month and also offer additional gigabytes in increments/blocks (e.g., $10 per 50 GB).

In both approaches, we'll be increasing the initial data usage threshold for our customers from today's 250 GB per month to at least 300 GB per month.

In markets where we are not trialing a new data usage management approach, we will suspend enforcement of our current usage cap as we transition to a new data usage management approach, although we will continue to contact the very small number of excessive users about their usage.

Our goal with this improved approach, these consumer trials, and our continued investment in our network is to create products that meet the needs of all of our residential customers (even the heaviest users) and provide everyone with a choice.

Of course, as we bring new product innovations to our customers on multiple platforms, we must address the realities of managing a network that services more than 20 million customers. As the FCC has acknowledged repeatedly, we have to manage data usage on our network for the benefit of all of our customers. And we're committed to manage data usage on our network with a clear set of important principles designed to maximize the benefits of using our high-speed data service to access the Internet for all of our customers — principles of consistency, fairness and non-discrimination. At all times, including during our pilot tests, we will be transparent to our customers. We will provide our customers with the information they need to select the service level and options appropriate to their needs, including providing our customers the tools necessary to manage their use of our high-speed Internet service.

Given this changing and dynamic marketplace, we will continue to consider other ways to ensure that all of our customers are treated fairly and have a consistent and superior experience while using our residential high speed Internet service in the way in which it is intended.

Tags : data usage management, FCC Open Internet, XFINITY Internet

 
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