Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen has come out against a statement he made earlier in the week about the future of Comcast broadband and data usage caps. While Cohen emphasized that there are "no plans to announce a new data usage policy," the real truth is that you should expect data caps from more ISPs than just Comcast in the future.

Cohen, perhaps the most publically visible Comcast executive and lobbyist, who has been defending the nation's largest cable company on several fronts in recent months, talked to industry analyst Craig Moffett earlier this week about data usage caps -- the idea of setting limits to the amount of data a user can download in a given month and charging extra if the user surpasses that limit. And what he said got him and Comcast in some trouble, so he disavowed it in a blog post Thursday.

Here's the relevant exchange from the transcript of the interview (via DSLReports):

"Moffett: Bottom line is, 5 years, 10 years from now, do you think that we will be in a model where the Internet is fully variablized [industry gibberish for setting detailed subsets of rules], or usage is fully variablized, or at least variablized to the extent that most people are selecting from a reasonably large number of usage plans that match their usage to their price?

Cohen: I actually think the answer to that is, no. I would say, if you made me predict today, and I don't want to get myself in any trouble, if you made me predict today, I would predict that in 5 years Comcast at least would have a usage-based billing model rolled out across its footprint."

Data Caps or No Data Caps? Cohen Says "No Plans to Announce" Them

While Cohen didn't want to get himself "in any trouble" for his prediction, he did. The story broke as "Comcast confirms plans for data caps on all users in 5 years" or some variation. So Cohen took to his Comcast blog to clarify.

"Yesterday, I spoke at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York City about a range of topics. Since some of my comments have been picked up out of context and misinterpreted in a number of places, I thought it was worth clarifying a couple of things about the Internet, data caps, and prioritization.

"To be clear, we have no plans to announce a new data usage policy."

Cohen went on to say that its previous 250 GB data caps were suspended in 2012 "in order to conduct a few pilot programs that were more customer-friendly than a data cap." Since then, Cohen said, "We've had no data caps for any of our customers anywhere in the country."

Cohen emphasizes that any current data caps, or what he called "flexible data consumption plans," were only trials and said, "We certainly have no interest in adopting any plans that our customers find unreasonable or disruptive to their Internet experience."

Data Caps Are On the Way, Like It or Not

In the same blog post, Cohen went on to say, "We're now also looking at adding some unlimited data plans to our trials. We have always said that as the Internet, and our customers' use of it, continues to evolve, so will Comcast and our policies."

So while there are "no plans to announce" data caps, Cohen is promising that Comcast will evolve along with the internet/media landscape and perplexingly adds "the upside" that the company is considering unlimited data plan trials as well.

Why would you tout the possibility of unlimited data plans if you didn't already know that limited data plans would become the standard in the future?

Industry experts like Peter Kafka and Brian Stelter have predicted data caps for a while now simply because the evolution of the internet/media industry will eventually necessitate it. Comcast and other TV providers have been losing customers to "cord-cutters" -- (most often young) people who only watch internet-enabled on demand programming and see no reason to pay for TV they never watch -- for a while now. And cord-cutters, while not paying for TV, tend to consumer more internet traffic for their video streaming replacements.

That's only going to get worse, and so as consumption of TV over the internet has continued to rise (for example, Netflix ate up more than a third of all North American peak downstream traffic so far this year), companies like Comcast have to find ways to make up the difference and perhaps gently discourage willy-nilly video streaming for the heaviest users. That's what a data cap is for.

Cohen Should Just Admit It

There's nothing wrong, in principle, with data capped plans as long as they're implemented fairly. If you're constantly streaming and downloading and use more data than 95 percent of your neighbors, you should pony up for the outsized amount of the local connection you're using -- either in the form of a post-cap fee or an unlimited data plan. Light data users, consequently, should get a break on their bills.

And Cohen, despite his disavowal, mentioned to Moffett the flexibility Comcast would need to exercise in applying data caps in the future, in order not to tick off normal internet users.

"... I would also predict that the vast majority of our customers would never be caught in the buying the additional buckets of usage, that we will always want to set the basic level of usage at a sufficiently high level that the vast majority of our customers are not implicated by the usage-based billing plan. And that number may be 350 -- that may be 350 gig a month today, it might be 500 gig a month in five years, but it will never -- I don't think we will want to be in a model where it is fully variablized and 80% of our customers are implicated by usage-based billing and are all buying different packets of usage."

So fess up Cohen: Comcast, like other cable companies and Verizon and AT&T, will almost certainly change the model in the future to incorporate data caps. It would be better than the completely non-transparent data-cap-throttling that some ISPs are accused of now, and it's not like caps aren't already being implemented across the industry. And it would be better to be honest with customers now, rather than surprising them in five years with a sudden change of policy.