Comcast CEO Defends Data Caps

“If you turn on the air conditioning at 60 vs. 72 you consume more electricity."

Brian Roberts

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts defended the company’s use of data overage charges while speaking at the Business Insider conference this week in New York.

Comcast is rolling out a trial program to add new fees for Internet subscribers who exceed 300 GB of data per month. The fee will be $10 for every 50 GB in data that’s over the threshold. Or they can pay $30 per month to get unlimited Internet service with no data caps.“Just as with every other thing in your life, if you drive 100,000 miles or 1,000 miles you buy more gasoline. If you turn on the air conditioning to 60 vs. 72 you consume more electricity,” Roberts said, according to this account from Ars Technica. “The same is true for [broadband] usage.” Cellular data is already billed this way, “the more bits you use, the more you pay,” he said. So why not cable Internet, too?”

Roberts also said that “about five percent of customers in trial markets go over the data limits,” but Ars confirmed with a Comcast rep that the number has now reached 8 percent.

The new data fee structure hasn’t hit Philly yet but is being tested out in other markets — mostly in the South. It’s likely Comcast’s response to the millions of people streaming TV and movies on Netflix and other devices.

But the data caps aren’t meant to keep its network running smoothly. (We learned that in these leaked Comcast documents found on Reddit.) Instead, the goal is “fairness and providing a more flexible policy to our customers,” the docs said.

Other highlights from Roberts’ talk:
Comcast has experimented with selling cell phones, says Bloomberg.
The nation’s biggest cable company is evaluating whether to enter the maturing cellular business. Asked if Comcast could sell phones as part of a wireless offering, Roberts said, ‘We might.’
Comcast is working on Siri-like voice technology for cable boxes, says Business Insider.
The technology builds on the basic voice recognition features that Comcast introduced in May, which allows users to speak commands to access specific TV channels and programs. The new technology, which allows users to find specific video clips for sporting events they’ve stored on a DVR, will be rolled out next year, a Comcast representative told Business Insider.
He says Steve Jobs pushed for wi-fi cable boxes years ago, says Variety.
Roberts recalled his introduction to the concept of wi-fi came when he was in a meeting years ago with Apple chief Steve Jobs. “He told me he couldn’t understand why we didn’t put wi-fi into every cable box. I went home and said ‘What’s wi-fi?’ ”

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with BizPhilly — here’s how: