So a funny thing happened after internet service provider Comcast temporarily suspended data caps in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: nothing much at all.

Or to put it another way, the company says it saw a 32-percent increase in peak traffic, a 212-percent increase in VoIP and video conferencing traffic, and a 38-percent increase in streaming and web video use, among other things.

But the company says its “network is performing well” nonetheless, which raises the question… why did the company have data caps in the first place?


As Ars Technica points out, that’s been a question for years… especially when you consider that Comcast subscribers aren’t subject to data caps in the Northeast United States, where Comcast faces stiff competition from Verizon’s FiOS internet service (which has no caps).

Theoretically it is possible that networks could become slower if the system is overloaded. But with millions of people stuck at home, Comcast says it’s seen increased traffic associated with game downloads, streaming, VPN usage, and more… and the company hasn’t run out of bandwidth.

In fact, while Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Apple, and Disney have been reducing video streaming bit-rates for European users to help alleviated network congestion, Comcast executives are telling reporters that there’s no need for that on its US network, because the increased traffic has been “well within the capabilities of the network.”

Comcast has said that its data caps won’t be enforced until May 13th at the soonest. But now that it’s clear that offering unlimited data nationwide doesn’t seem to be a problem, it’ll be interesting to see what the company says if and when it decides to re-implement caps.

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8 replies on “Comcast removes data caps during pandemic, has no trouble meeting increased demand”

  1. I’m certainly experiencing a degraded Internet experience. My 100 Mbps connection slows to 10 Mbps down and 1-2 Mbps up during the day.

    As more people stay home and work/play, this will only just get worst.

  2. I wouldn’t say no trouble, there’s been times where bandwidth has been clearly degraded compared to what’s normal.

  3. I don’t know. I’ve been in a lot of video conferences using various VC services in the last few weeks now. I’ve noticed that some folks have had bad VC experiences. Some of them are seeing it worsen over time. They have 100s of Mbit/s to 1 Gb/s Comcast and AT&T service.

    I feel that some parts of the US are experiencing degraded Internet service during this time.

    1. Yup, I have several co-workers who have experienced reduced speeds during parts of the day.

      For example, someone with 300+ Mbps Comcast internet would see <20 Mbps download and < 1 Mbps upload speeds. Other people have seen upload speeds go down enough as well that they have to turn off their video camera and use audio only in order to stabilize their connection (similar experiences on all VC services he used).

  4. Aside from a few idiots, we’ve all known this from the very beginning: data caps are nothing more than a wretched ploy by rich individuals to rake in further profits. Theoretically they would (poorly) help stymie congestion in a network, but in a first-world country like the USA that is home to monstrously huge cable/telecom/ISP companies network congestion would have to be intentional.

  5. I’d call it criminal to add the caps back in after the crisis. The singular reason I moved away from Comcast was data caps. What’s the point of a gigabit connection if you hit the monthly 1 TB data cap in under THREE HOURS? If you’re like me and you’re into VR, big data coding, torrenting (mostly FOSS stuff), and video streaming, then data caps just aren’t an option.

    1. Yeah, but you know they will.
      They might be reluctant to say anything at first, but given enough pressure they’ll probably cough up some explanation, which is either going to be an incomprehensible buzzword salad, or an veiled admittance that while their servers can in fact handle the load, the budget can’t handle less than a certain amount of revenue and they need to trick people into coughing up more money.
      At least starlink is theoretically going to offer some competition against all of them, but there’s no guarantees that starlink is going to behave itself either.

      1. Our infrastructure suffered massive damage during the COVID-19 lockdown period; having blown 15 flux capacitors and lost 200 reticulating splines, we no longer have the ability to serve all our valued customers with unlimited data. As such, we are reinstating data caps again. We thank you for your understanding.

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