By Bill Shields

BOSTON (CBS) – Working from home. Remote learning. They used to be foreign concepts. But with COVID, they have become part of life.

And with all that stay at home time, comes more internet usage. Now, Comcast is raising the cost, if you use a ton. Comcast says it will only affect about five percent of its customers.

“To say that this is only going to affect a small level of customers, I still think we are talking about thousands of people,” said State Rep. Andy Vargas of Haverhill. “And there are thousands of people who are hurting right now working from home and learning from home.”

Starting Jan. 1, Comcast will extend its 1.2 TB monthly plan to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington D.C. and parts of North Carolina and Ohio. Customers that go over the cap, after a three-month grace period, will be charged $10 for every extra 50 GB block of data used, up to $100 a month. Comcast said unlimited data packages are available.

Several state lawmakers want Comcast to drop their plan for a data cap. They say that higher internet prices will make things more difficult for people when things are already difficult in a pandemic.

Rep. Vargas said it’s just a money grab. “Are they seeing increased cost as a business because people are using more data? And the answer to that question is no,” Vargas said. “What most people don’t know is that it’s not the amount of data that you use that ends up costing the internet service provider more money, it’s the level of speed that you get that data delivered to your house.”

Comcast said Friday the plan is not aimed at the average family, but “at those who go over 1200 hours of distance learning video, stream 500 hours of high definition video content a month, or play more than 34,000 hours of online games.”

Still, Rep. Vargas is not convinced. “This data cap is arbitrary, and there’s no reason for them to put this in place right now,” he said.

Comcast says it will not institute the increases for several months.

Bill Shields