Last year, Comcast announced that it would cap internet data usage at 1.2 Terabytes of data per month for residents in the northeast United States, and charge an extra $10 per 50GB for overages, up to $100. Earlier this year, the company delayed the originally planned March 2021 rollout until July. Now, an announcement states it is giving customers “more time to become familiar with the new plan.”
In the wake of protests by organizations such as SOMOS, the org led by students at Baltimore City College high school, and Movement Alliance Project in Philadelphia, Comcast has also increased the speeds of its low-cost Internet Essentials package to 50 Mbps downloads and 5 Mbps uploads, at no charge to the consumer. During the pandemic, the company has also established “Lift Zones” to provide free Wi-Fi at community centers in its service areas.
Comcast already enforces data caps in the rest of the country, and the company assures most customers don’t exceed the limit. Yet there’s the future to consider: As Technical.ly Delaware reporter Holly Quinn noted, with the rise of 4k, the average household could exceed a TB of data usage in a month. Anyone who plays Call of Duty: WarZone can expect an 80-gig update on any given Sunday.
Users in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia, and parts of North Carolina and Ohio can still expect this data cap change from Comcast. It’s not yet a question of if, but a matter of when: Comcast hasn’t said when in 2022 the policy will go into effect in these states.
Looking to the future, Baltimore advocates have said they want the internet to be treated like a utility. Data cap delays and the boost to speeds of Internet Essentials is a short-term win, they say, not a long-term solution like investments in organizations like Baltimore’s Rowdy Orb.it and Project Waves that use mesh networks to provide free internet. And as Quinn noted in November, Delaware’s homegrown ISP WhyFly was pretty much made for cord cutters.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-