Comcast has long said that a minority of its customers approach the limits of their 1TB data caps in their home internet plans, but that number is growing. In a recent call with investors (via Ars Technica) Comcast says that its median users are using 200GB of their 1TB data cap a month, thanks to streaming video.
In the last couple of years, Comcast has rolled out data caps to customers — first limiting users to 300GB per month back in 2015, and raising that limit to 1TB a month in 2016. In the past, Comcast has said that “more than 99 percent of our customers do not come close to using a terabyte,” with most using around “six percent” each month, and if they go over, they have to pay an additional charge — $10 per 50GB used.
But that was exactly two years ago — the demand for streaming video has grown considerably since then. Customers have more options to stream higher definition video, while companies like Google and Microsoft have announced streaming gaming services. According to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, “our customers’ demand for speed and data usage keeps increasing,” and that the “median usage for our [residential] business is over 200 gigabytes, and this is increasing at 34% year-over-year in the quarter.”
That growth is making Comcast a lot of money. Senior Executive Vice President and CFO Michael Cavanagh highlighted in its earnings call that broadband internet was “the engine of growth for our Cable business,” and noted that “Residential high-speed internet revenue was again the largest contributor to overall Cable growth, increasing 10% to $4.6 billion.”
200GB a month is still a good distance away from that 1TB limit, but it’s a considerable jump from just 60GB a month just a couple of years ago, and that likely means that even more customers are meeting or exceeding that data cap, although Comcast didn’t reveal that figure in its call. Ars Technica noted that earlier this year, it found that 4.1 percent of households hit their limit, a jump of 2.1 percent from last year.
That number is likely going to rise, given that Comcast plans to launch its own streaming service. Roberts noted that despite the competition between companies like Amazon, Disney, and Netflix, streaming video “is more friend than foe, and we wish every bit was our bit, but if people consume more bits, and video clearly does that and 4K video does even more of that, that’s in the sweet spot of where this company is going to grow.”
Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.