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Comcast will begin charging extra next month for Chattanoogans who stream too many movies or access too much music and use more than 300 gigabytes of data a month.

The new data cap will initially impact only about 8 percent of those who rely upon Comcast for their Internet connections in the Chattanooga area, according to the company. Comcast also is offering a three-month courtesy program that won't bill users extra for the first three times they exceed the monthly cap.

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Comcast data caps

 Xfinity Internet users will be able to access 300 gigabytes of data a month for the standard fee

 Above 300 GB, users will be charged an extra $10 for each 50 megabytes of data used each month

 Unlimited data plans will be offered for an extra $35 a month

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Comcast 300 GB notice

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Thereafter, however, heavy data users of Comcast's Xfinity Internet data plan will be charged an extra $10 for every 50 gigabytes of data used above the monthly 300 gigabyte allowance, Comcast spokeswoman Sara Jo Walker said Tuesday.

Comcast customers will have the option of buying unlimited data plans for an extra $35 a month.

Comcast, the biggest cable provider in America and one of the biggest in Chattanooga, joins the No. 4 player in the industry, Cox Communications, in offering tiers that vary in price depending on data use.

EPB, which has signed up more than 76,000 telecom users to its fiber optics network, doesn't plan to impose such limits or extra charges for heavy data users, EPB spokesman John Pless said.

Walker said the change is designed to better align the costs of providing service with those who consume the most content. Now, about 10 percent of Comcast Xfinity Internet users consume 50 percent of the data carried by Comcast, Walker said.

"Very few of our customers are impacted by data plans, but for those who are we are offering an unlimited data plan for only $35 a month," Walker said.

Watching movies or TV shows on Netflix uses about 1 gigabyte of data per hour for each stream of standard definition video, and up to 3 gigabytes per hour for each stream of HD video, according to Netflix.

Comcast is adding the data caps as a growing number of its customers drop Comcast cable TV services and switch their television viewing to the Internet. Comcast said in the third quarter it lost 48,000 cable TV customers while adding 320,000 Internet customers.

The average American household watches 240 hours of TV a month, and using current streaming technology for that amount of video viewing could push many households above the 300 gigabytes of data monthly limit.

Although Comcast claims a tiered pricing structure is a fairer way to allocate the costs of its service, heavy telecom consumers objected Tuesday to having to pay more for the service.

Amy Collins, a 31-year-old Red Bank renter, cut the cord with her cable service and relies upon the Internet links for Amazon Prime, Netflix and Sling TV, among other web services. She said that before moving to her current home, Comcast failed to deliver enough broadband so she switched to EPB.

"I'm thrilled that I have better and faster service without having to pay extra for using more of what I already pay for," she said. "I just don't think there should be data caps on home service like there is with mobile service."

Pless said EPB's pricing philosophy is not to charge extra for heavy users.

"We have never had data caps and we have no plans to adopt them," Pless said.

Xfinity customers who stream a lot of movies or games on multiple devices or download data for at-home businesses are most likely to hit Comcast's new data caps. The new fees for heavy data users in Chattanooga, which begin Dec. 1, are similar to what Comcast has already implemented in Nashville, Atlanta and several other cities.

In a mailing to Comcast customers Tuesday, the cable giant advised customers that it will give notice to users when they approach or exceed the new 300 gigabytes monthly cap.

"If you are on the 300 gigabytes plan, we will send you a courtesy "in-browser" notice and an email letting you know when you reach 90 percent, 100 percent, 110 percent and 125 percent of your monthly data usage plan amount," Comcast said in its customer notice. "You can also elect to receive notifications at additional thresholds as well as set up mobile text notifications."

Comcast also offers a usage meter and data usage calculator to help its customers know how much data has been used each month.

Contact staff writer Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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