Comcast has decided to stop enforcing data caps and overage fees in Maine and signaled that states in the company’s northeast region will remain cap-free, at least for now.
But for Comcast customers in other states, don’t get your hopes up that data caps will disappear. Comcast dramatically expanded the caps on November 1 and will continue to apply the data limits and overage fees in 27 states out of the 39 states Comcast operates in.
Comcast says that eliminating data caps in Maine is only about bringing the state in line with company policy elsewhere in the Northeast. A Comcast FAQ says that the data cap in Maine is being suspended effective December 1. According to DSLRreports, this notice is being sent to customers in Maine:
We’re writing to let you know that we are suspending our Terabyte Internet Data Usage Plan in the state of Maine. We do not currently have data plans anywhere in the Northeast. As a result, we want to ensure we have clear and consistent communications to our customers as well as have our engineering and operations teams aligned around one policy.
If Comcast really wanted a consistent policy it could eliminate data caps nationwide (or enforce the caps nationwide), but Comcast’s data cap policies have been anything but consistent. In 2012, Comcast began charging overage fees in certain cities, referring to the data cap deployments as “trials.” Comcast steadily increased the number of markets subject to the caps and recently raised the monthly limit from 300GB to 1TB. Customers are charged overage fees of $10 for each additional 50GB and can buy unlimited data for an extra $50 a month.
Comcast’s reluctance to impose caps in the Northeast may be due to competition from Verizon FiOS, which doesn’t charge overage fees and operates in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, DC.
Not coincidentally, eight of the top nine average download speeds in the US were achieved by Verizon FiOS states and DC, according to Akamai’s State of the Internet report. DC led the way at 24.3Mbps, while Maine ranked near the bottom at 11.6Mbps; no state had average speeds lower than 10Mbps.
Comcast competes directly against Verizon FiOS in numerous areas, but FiOS is not available in Maine. The state does have Time Warner Cable, which is now owned by Charter and does not impose data caps, but Comcast doesn’t compete against Charter/TWC in any market. If Comcast is avoiding data caps in competitive areas, it would appear that Maine is benefiting solely because of its proximity to states with better Internet access.