Last week, Reddit user M00glemuffins exposed some of Comcast’s internal documentation instructing support personnel on how to deal with calls about its new “Data Usage Plans.” The Internet has condemned the policy as a “data cap” and is exploding with speculation about Comcast’s motives in implementing it.
Comcast admits in the leak that the caps aren’t about controlling congestion within its own network. If that is the case, could they be about reducing transit costs? Probably not, because transit is pretty cheap. Instead, Comcast claims that the data caps are meant to enforce “fairness” (whatever that means). Most commentators agree that they are quite the opposite of fair, and are likely a reaction to the increased popularity of streaming services like Netflix.
It is no secret that Comcast is a fan of dancing around regulations in order to advance its own goals. With new rules on Net Neutrality preventing streams from being throttled, it seems Comcast intends to discourage streaming indirectly, by limiting all usage. The leaked document indicates that Comcast does not trust its regular support staff to even talk about how the data caps relate to streaming or net neutrality, so they are clearly taking measures to protect themselves against allegations of violations.
While Comcast is making streaming harder for consumers, T-Mobile is actually encouraging it by making streamed media explicitly exempt from data caps. Meanwhile, cable networks are realizing that they have to change their business model in order to compete with streaming services, particularly by reducing the number of advertisements and increasing the quality of their content. Comcast’s reaction is quite the opposite, and it isn’t likely to benefit them in the long run.