Comcast is the U.S's largest cable company. According to Time, it's also the country's most hated internet service provider, receiving three times as many complaints as AT+T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable combined.
The main source of frustration is the recently implemented 300GB data cap, which restricts sports fans from streaming NFL matches, and the other content available within Comcast's extensive library. Around 8% of viewers exceed the limit on a regular basis, yet fear from less frequent users about incurring extra charges is likely to cause a decrease in streaming.
None of the company's competitors impose similar restrictions yet, but the fact that Comcast is the only viable ISP in a number of areas makes the data cap all the more damaging. In an article in ArsTechnica, a resident in Acworth, Georgia stated: 'I haven't gone a single week without going over the limit and I need the bandwidth for my job as a video editor.' A sentiment shared by many of the people who have complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
While other providers have yet to implement a data cap, changes are expected to be made in the not too distant future. Charter - which recently purchased Time Warner Cable - will not be imposing any data caps on its customers for at least three years. The Patriot's website also reported that T-Mobile's 'On Program' will be offering unlimited streaming for ESPN, Fox Sports, MLB and NBC Sports. The article did, however, state that AT+T didn't have such a plan in place. Instead, they will increase the cost of the unlimited plans from $5 to $35, which, of course, will have a real impact on their subscriber base.
The customer's ability to bypass these restrictions will decrease as more ISPs offer 4K viewing. This will require more internet capacity and data to work, which, if chosen by users, will decrease the amount of content they can view even further. So what steps can users take? Barring complaining to the FCC, viewers must be vigilant and understand exactly their limit is, and also the financial penalties which come with exceeding the limit.
Bob Wallace, who writes a regular column for the Patriots website, doesn't believe that data caps are necessarily the future: 'SNL Kagan's Heynen predicts – and I concur - a trend away from data caps as Internet providers realize fully that their traditional cable TV products are on the decline while their broadband service use continues to rise.'
Whether data caps turn out to be bad for business still remains to be seen, but for the immediate future, sports streaming will be at a premium.