Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Comcast Raises Limit on How Much Netflix Customers Can Binge On

  • Web users in test markets get a terabyte before paying extra
  • New cap allows 700 hours of high-def video streaming monthly

Comcast Corp. is raising the limit on how much Netflix and YouTube customers can watch before Internet surcharges kick in.

Starting June 1, Comcast will more than triple the monthly data limit in certain markets to a terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes, the company said Wednesday on its website. The previous cap was 300 gigabytes, or the equivalent of streaming high-definition video five hours a day, by one estimate.

As Bloomberg reported in January, Comcast is testing the additional fees in some cities on Internet customers who used what it considers excessive amounts of data. That sparked complaints from subscribers who were charged higher monthly bills for streaming too many Web videos.

“A terabyte is an enormous amount of data,” Marcien Jenckes, executive vice president for consumer services at Comcast Cable, said in a statement. “It’s far more than most of our customers will ever use in a month.”

Customers who exceed the new limit will pay $10 more for additional increments of 50 gigabytes, with a cap of $200, Philadelphia-based Comcast said. They can also sign up for an unlimited plan for an additional $50 a month. Current customers in the trial will still pay $30 to $35 more for unlimited data.

Jenckes said a typical customer uses about 60 gigabytes of data in a month and “more than 99 percent of our customers do not come close to” that amount.

700 Hours

A terabyte is the equivalent of streaming about 700 hours of high-definition video each month, Jenckes said. A large family that streams video and music on multiple devices simultaneously would hit the limit sooner.

“Our customers want the peace of mind to stream, surf, game, download, or do whatever they want online,” Jenckes said. “We have created a new data plan that is so high that most of our customers will never have to think about how much data they use.”

Comcast has been testing so-called usage-based pricing in Atlanta, Nashville, Miami and other markets, affecting about 14 percent of its customers, and is considering introducing it in more markets, Jenckes said.

Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts has likened usage-based pricing to buying more gasoline after driving long distances or paying higher electricity bills for running the air conditioner, saying customers who use more broadband data should pay more.

About one-fourth of U.S. Internet subscribers have data plans that charge extra for heavy use, according to Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC. AT&T Inc. announced an increase in its limits last month.

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