Comcast Ups Data Usage Limits Following Netflix Complaint

Comcast Corp. announced Thursday that it is lifting its cap on customers' monthly bandwidth use following complaints from competitors

Comcast Corp. announced Thursday that it is lifting its cap on customers' monthly bandwidth use in favor of a model that will enable subscribers to buy as much bandwidth as they want.

In a conference call with reporters, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said the new policy — which will increase bandwidth caps from 250 gigabytes a month to at least 300 gigabytes a month — should address a complaint raised by Netflix that Comcast discriminates against the rental and streaming giant. Netflix's concern partly stemmed from Comcast's exemption of its XfinityTV app on Xbox from the bandwidth caps.

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“This really isn’t the call to debate the propriety or the impropriety of the way in which we’re treating the Xfinity app,” said Cohen, in response to a reporter’s question. “It is a real stretch to create a discrimination argument here,” said Cohen, contending that the company’s XfinityTV app is completely legal and appropriate.

Cohen noted that Netflix had acknowledged in a recent earnings call that the static 250 GB cap had not interfered with its service. 

Cohen also said if the static 250 gigabyte cap didn’t get in the way of Netflix’s service, then a 20% increase to the 300 GB limit, along with the ability to purchase additional bandwidth, gives Comcast customers the ability to have “infinite use of their service, as long as they pay their fair share.”

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Netflix spokesman Joris Evers responded in a statement: "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."

“It’s nice that they changed the cap,” Art Brodsky, a spokesman for the watchdog Public Knowledge, told TheWrap. “But we still don’t know the basis for the change or why a cap is necessary.”

Joel Kelsey, a policy adviser for the watchdog Free Press, said in a statement: "While the move to increase its caps are overdue, the notion that Comcast would charge an exorbitant rate for additional bandwidth — while continuing to exempt its own traffic under its Xbox deal — illustrates that Comcast is really trying to discourage subscribers from experimenting with online video alternatives. We call on Comcast to drop the caps and these exorbitant overage fees entirely."