SpaceX’s Starlink project has a series of main competitors in the internet market, one of the largest being Comcast’s Xfinity. The Philadelphia-based Comcast recently announced that twelve U.S. states would be subjected to data caps in 2021, or limits on the amount of data one household will have access to before being charged extra fees. Statements from the company have described anything over 1.2 terabytes of data usage accessible with additional fees of $10 per extra 50 GB.
The extra charges for additional data usage are somewhat staggering, considering many households’ current economic situation and the fact that local governments are advising many residents to remain indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This leaves many people at home for work and leisure, with the internet being one of the few constants that remain in everyday life. While cellular devices are usually connected to residential Wi-Fi, other devices, such as smart TVs and streaming devices, are constantly connected to at-home networks, leaving the amount of data being used on a constant rise.
But surprisingly, this fact is not recognized by Comcast, nor is it stopping them from implementing the data caps in the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, as well as parts of North Carolina and Ohio, The Verge originally reported.
— The Verge (@verge) November 24, 2020
In fact, it could be a way to combat customers from leaving Comcast’s television subscription services in favor of more affordable and flexible streaming options that are offered by platforms like Hulu and YouTube. The streaming services operate through a streaming device, like an Apple TV or Roku device, and use data to operate. This all contributes to a house’s data usage, and because of its ability to broadcast live television programs, it will use a substantial amount of internet data over the course of the month.
Comcast says that its average customer uses 308GB per month and that 95 percent of its customers do not get close to using the 1.2 TB threshold. But no statistic measures the data used in homes with more than one internet user or outlines the number of devices used in a home. With more people teleworking and having to rely on the home internet for productivity, the data usage is likely higher than normal.
All of these scenarios bode well for Elon Musk’s Starlink internet satellite program, which is currently operating in the Beta stage. Interestingly, Starlink Engineers performed an Ask Me Anything session on the r/Starlink subreddit and revealed that the satellite internet infrastructure would not use data caps when it enters public operation. The company intends to keep the service free of caps and added that it would only be implemented if technically necessary.
The company wrote:
“So we really don’t want to implement restrictive data caps like people have encountered with satellite internet in the past. Right now we’re still trying to figure a lot of stuff out–we might have to do something in the future to prevent abuse and just ensure that everyone else gets quality service.”
SpaceX’s intention with Starlink was to provide internet service to rural and remote areas. But now that the service is being launched and tested in high population areas like Los Angeles, it is obvious that Starlink will aim to serve every human being on Earth. As long as data caps continue to remain out of Starlink’s plans, there is a good chance that many customers of large Internet Service Providers will switch over to the more affordable and more forgiving Starlink service.