Comcast has suspended its 250 GB monthly data usage threshold for its Xfinity broadband customers and plans to begin trials of new multi-tiered Xfinity data service featuring a minimum data allotment of 300 GB per month in selected U.S. markets.
The nation's largest broadband service provider said the change is being driven primarily by a dramatic rise in demand for data-intensive content such as high-definition video streaming.
Comcast said it was immediately ceasing enforcement measures associated with the Xfinity service provider's current 250 GB data usage cap. In other words, excessive data users no longer face having their accounts suspended if they repeatedly exceed their monthly data caps -- at least with respect to the duration of Comcast's coming multi-tier trials.
"We've never had any intention to limit the lawful use of the Internet or restrict our customers' ability to view online video," said Comcast Executive Vice President Cathy Avgiris in a blog post Thursday.
"The purpose of the usage threshold was simply to ensure that all of our customers were treated fairly and had a consistent and superior experience while using our high-speed data service," Avgiris said.
Piloting Two Approaches
Comcast said it was still determining trial locations and expected to share more details soon.
"We'll be piloting at least two approaches in different markets, and we'll provide additional details on these trials as they launch," Avgiris said.
The new trials are expected to offer usage allowances that incrementally increase the user's allotment for each tier of high-speed data service. The new base plans in trial markets will start at 300 GB of data usage per month -- with higher tiers in 50 GB blocks costing an additional $10 per block.
Offing more flexible data usage management approaches will "ensure that all of our customers enjoy the best possible Internet experience over our high-speed data service," Avgiris said.
Comcast said its 250 GB cap was only affecting a small number of customers.
"While we've given a monthly 250 GB cap to our Xfinity Internet customers, their median monthly data usage is currently only 8 to 10 GB per month -- or 4 percent of the cap," Comcast said in an online advisory.
Comcast plans to continue contacting the relatively few data users who exceed their monthly caps. However, the service provider said its principal aim going forward will be to help subscribers determine whether their excessive usage is being caused by a PC malware infection or some other type of security breach.
Skype on Xfinity
Comcast also announced Wednesday that Xfinity Triple Play subscribers in Atlanta, Augusta, Boston Chicago, Detroit, Harrisburg, Indianapolis, Miami, Pittsburgh and Seattle can now subscribe to Skype on Xfinity for $9.95 per month. The new widescreen HD video calling service -- which enables subscribers to initiate and receive HD video calls as well as send and receive instant messages via Skype on their TVs – will also roll out in additional U.S. markets this summer.
"Through our close collaboration with Skype, we focused on delivering a new product that brings family and friends together through a high-quality video calling experience like never before," said Comcast Cable CTO Tony Werner.
Skype on Xfinity hardware requirements include an HDMI-capable Comcast cable set-top box and an all-in-one kit that includes an adapter box, video camera and a specially designed remote control. Xfinity Triple Play subscribers will also need to set up a Skype account.