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Comcast: Data caps are coming to Chicago

By Sagar Dommaraju

Chicago-area Comcast customers will soon face limits to their data usage, as the company expands its nationwide data cap trials.

CUB warned the caps might come to Illinois way back in December,  when the consumer group asked CUB Action Network members to sign a petition against such restrictions to Internet use/access.

Comcast began “testing” how data caps would function in certain markets—Miami and Atlanta, for example—a few years ago. Now, it is expanding the tests to other major cities.

The cable/telecom/Internet giant has begun notifying Chicago-area subscribers about the data cap via email, with the subject line “Introducing a Terabyte Internet Experience.” Beginning August 1, customers will be restricted to 1 TB of data per month. Those who exceed the limit will face a charge of $50 for more data—up from the previous $35 overcharge.

A vast majority of households would not be affected by a 1 TB/month data cap. To put it in perspective, the cap would still allow for 700 hours of HD video streaming or downloading 600,000 high-res images.

However, as features like 4k-resolution video and DOCSIS 3.1 fiberoptic-data speeds become commonplace, more and more ordinary households may find themselves going past 1 TB of data use. These people—including those who work from home and use a lot more data—could pay overcharges.

The cable/telecom company has implied that implementing the data cap is a way to get the heaviest users to pay their fair share. But, Comcast makes no move to create a reverse incentive—charge less for people who barely use their data.

Data caps could be yet another barrier for certain households  to access affordable high-speed Internet. Last year, we sent CUB’s petition, with 3,000 signatures, to big telecom and Internet service providers in Illinois. As the recent Comcast development shows, the fight for fair Internet service rages on.