Comcast recently announced speed limits on it’s Xfinity Mobile service for personal hotspot use and video watching. If you want to continue watching HD videos on a mobile device without a WiFi connection, you’re going to have to cough up some extra dough.
Unless you start paying more, all videos will stream in 480p, which matches basic DVD video quality. Only those who pay by the gig, which is $12/GB, will be able to access high-speed video. Customers with unlimited data plans will have their personal hotspot connections throttled to 600kbps.
This announcement came shortly after the repeal of net neutrality laws that prevented Internet Service Providers from blocking and slowing down content. Is this a sign of the “fast” and “slow” lanes we’ve been warned about in a post-net neutrality world?
Comcast throttling plans and video
Comcast announced they are making the changes to help keep fees for its Xfinity Mobile service low and affordable. 480p, the company claims, is the standard mobile video resolution available from other carriers, so this policy is simply matching the competition. It is allowing customers to boost to 720p for a short time with no charge, but if they want to keep the better resolution, they will have to pay more. Comcast spun the change as a way to help customers conserve data, largely disregarding the fact that it affects customers who already pay for unlimited data.
While this form of throttling is a bit ominous, it doesn’t equate to a ‘paid prioritization’ policy that net neutrality activists have feared. Sure, Comcast is reducing the quality of its service, but it has not yet opened a fast lane for some websites while slowing down others. This change affects all video streamed through a mobile connection.
Tethering limits on unlimited plans
The video throttling applies to both the limited and unlimited Comcast plans, but the reduced tethering speed only applies to unlimited plans. The company has told its customers that the unlimited data option, if connected to a personal hotspot, will not exceed 600kbps. If customers switch to the “By the Gig” pricing plan, they can continue to reach 4G speeds on a mobile hotspot. At a price of $12 per gig, this plan could quickly become very expensive, especially compared to the unlimited plan which is $45 per line.
Comcast has told its customers that these speed limits are a good thing and will ultimately save them money. While true in the case of plans with a data cap, the savings are at the expense of fast, clear video. It’s a hard pill to swallow that slower speeds benefit a customer who wants full control of the data they pay for.
Comcast throttling pledge
In April 2017, Comcast removed a pledge from its website that said: “Comcast won’t throttle back the speed at which content comes to you.” It’s safe to assume, then, that this was done in preparation for the planned adjustment just announced. Also removed from the pledge: “Comcast doesn’t prioritize Internet traffic or create paid fast lanes.” While we haven’t yet seen paid fast lanes announced that are sure to benefit large companies, the path has now been cleared and consumers should be wary.
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