Comcast announced today that it's eliminating the 250 GB data "cap" on internet access, established four years ago. Service now will start with a minimum 300 GB of data per month. What exactly does that buy you?
Video Galore: Even Netflix - which has been crying foul over Comcast's non-metering of its own movie streaming service on the Xbox 360 - might have trouble grumbling over the 300 GB allowance and upgradability ("probably" in blocks of 50GB priced at $10.) If you watch standard definition Netflix movies at the "Good Quality" setting (adjustable in each app's Video Settings) that 300 GB translates to 1000 hours of viewing. If set to stream in "Best Quality," Netflix will deliver 300 hours of movies and TV shows in standard definition or 130 Hours in High Definition. So the latter HD scenario works out to about two long movies a day, every day.
How about music? The free version of Pandora running at 64 kbps could easily run all day and all night - delivering 10,950 hours of music per 300 GB. If you bump up to premium Pandora or Rhapsody streaming at 192 kbps, the hours of use drops to a mere 3,650.
Rest Easy: A Comcast exec said the "usual usage" of monthly service by a customer is 8 to 10 GB. "There are very few customers who come even close to the 250 GB cap." Still, the company wants to assure customers that they should never feel restricted in their activities. And of course, there are those legitimate users (not illegal file sharers) who do send large collections of high resolution photos or edit movies collaboratively on line. They could easily bump up against the limit. In the past, their overtaxed service would be "throttled" (slowed) or abruptly shut down. In the future, they'll be duly warned and given the option to buy more capacity.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to ask a question during today's conference call about Comcast's trial of its spiffy Xfinity Video On Demand service. Formerly called Xcaliber and very much in the spirit of Google TV, this mixed menu of cable and VOD content has been tested in Augusta, Georgia and is coming soon to Boston (which oddly gets a lot more "perks" than Philly.) As the service invites a customer to search for (and pull down) content by topic, title, star or director across numerous platforms, I'm thinking it encourages much higher internet data usage. So raising the opening threshold of data service to 300 GB would be a smart pre-emptive move on Comcast's part, before they drop (if ever) that other shoe.