Comcast Dramatically Expands Unnecessary Broadband Caps — For 'Fairness'

from the pay-more-for-the-same-service! dept

For years, we’ve noted how there’s absolutely zero financial or technical justification for usage caps on fixed-line networks. They don’t really help manage congestion, and as any incumbent ISP earnings report indicates, flat-rate broadband has proven incredibly profitable. But thanks to limited competition, caps are a great way to raise rates, hamstring streaming video competitors, and give incumbents a distinct advantage for their own services (aka zero rating). Ultimately, caps disadvantage startups and small businesses, while making broadband more expensive and confusing for everyone.

Needless to say, Comcast is pursuing this option with reckless abandon.

The cable giant this week again expanded its usage caps into a massive number of new areas according to an updated Comcast FAQ. As it stands, Comcast customers in capped markets face a 1 terabyte usage limit, after which users pay $10 per each additional 50 GB consumed, or they pay $50 a month for the same unlimited consumption they previously enjoyed. Hoping you’ll ignore the fact that there’s no functional justification for such limits, Comcast’s FAQ and press release go well out of their way to try and claim that they’re imposing this draconian new price hike out of…’fairness’:

“A terabyte is a massive amount of data. More than 99 percent of our customers do not use 1 TB of data in a given month. But for those who do use more, we have options. Our data plans are based on a principle of fairness. Those who use more Internet data, pay more. And those who use less Internet data, pay less.”

Bullshit. If “heavy users” were really a concern, these users could be shoveled to business-class tiers, since they make up a minority of Comcast’s overall customers. No, the goal of usage caps isn’t fairness, it’s to impose punitive new restrictions on all of a company’s customers, who can’t vote with their wallet because they don’t have any broadband alternatives (or if they do, don’t have any alternatives that don’t also cap usage). The end result is customers being forced to pay significantly more money for the same, unlimited service they had yesterday.

Then, to add insult to injury, these users are told this confusing new price hike is somehow an act of corporate altruism and fairness.

Comcast hopes that you’ll be distracted by the fact that at the moment, most people shouldn’t bump into the terabyte cap (recently raised from 300 GB after Comcast began worrying the FCC might actually start doing its job). As such, Comcast provided a handy little video to try and explain just how generous the cable giant is being:

Again though, focusing on the fact that people aren’t bumping into the cap now ignores the certainty that they will bump into the cap down the line. As 4K video streams and technologies we haven’t even invented yet emerge, consumers will inevitably face having to ration their usage or pay steep penalties. And, since Comcast exempts its own streaming service from these caps, those users are being incentivized anti-competitively to stick with Comcast’s video services.

Usage caps are an embarrassing con being played on an unsuspecting public by one of the least liked companies in any industry in America. More embarrassing perhaps is the fact that the FCC, tasked with protecting broadband consumers, hasn’t shown the slightest interest in either cracking down on this behavior, or if not — ensuring that usage meters are accurate. The end result is vastly more expensive broadband, disadvantaged competitors, and frustrated and angry consumers whose complaints to the FCC simply aren’t being heeded.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “Comcast Dramatically Expands Unnecessary Broadband Caps — For 'Fairness'”

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44 Comments
ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have business class in my area. It’s $10 more per month than consumer-grade (if you’re not also getting cable TV and, well, of course I’m not getting that garbage) and WONDERFUL service.

Hope you don’t move. In my area, my cable provides the cheapest business class level at $181 a month (I pay $110 a month for the top tier consumer class, unbundled.) For the cheapest business class, you get a dynamic IP address, no QoS, and about 1/5th to 1/25th of the bandwidth. I get 250mBps on a good day, typically about 50 mBps and the lowest tier commercial plan gives you 10×2 (yes, lower than broadband levels set by FCC.) But at least they give you 5 more email addresses for free, and you get the same amount of cloud storage (5GB) that the consumer class gives you.

For the same level I currently have now, via business internet plan, it’s $270/month.

I know, because my cable company has been complaining for the last two years that I should be paying for business internet (despite not having a business,) because I “have servers” (I don’t) and require the network to have some quality of service levels (like not be down more than an hour a month, according to my network monitor, they are over 2 hours down at the moment.) Of course, for that $270, you still don’t get QoS or a static IP…that costs even more.

MikeW (profile) says:

Re: JonC

“So where exactly are the lower prices for those who use less data?”

They are adopting the Ting business model with a greatly increased baseline. I pay $6 per month to connect my phone to the network with Ting, and then more depending on how much data, texting, and talking minutes I use. Comcast is only charging you whatever the base price is (my area is offering $40 per month for 25Mbps or $50 for 75Mbps (offer unlikely to include set-up or mandatory equipment rental fees)). And then extra on top if you want to use extra internet or have TV or whatever. And look, they are already giving you a whole terabyte for free! Not only that, you don’t have to monitor your usage because they’ll do that for you!

Anonymous Coward says:

They really should say “Data caps in markets without competition”

I have multiple ISP’s available to me. One of them is WOW. How fast would they change their tune if I called them up and complained about paying more. WOW offers the same speed and no caps. Come to think of it, maybe I should give them a shot and dump Comcast on principal alone.

Anonymous Coward says:

An unfortunate aspect of these issues is that we are still saddled with ancient old legislators who often don’t even use computers. Besides being essentially owned by corporate interests they are totally clueless about technology.

Worse, our two current choices for President are around 70 years old and none of these issues are likely to even be understandable to them.

Nothing is likely to change for the better in this area until people start electing younger people who care about these issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“our two current choices for President are around 70 years old and none of these issues are likely to even be understandable to them”

Good grief, I know programmers older than that and they are MORE likely to understand the issues because they were involved in inventing and implementing the technology we all use. Stop the ageism. A young lawyer might understand less than a 70 year-programmer. I think what you meant to say is that the candidates are not strong on technology-related issues no matter what their age? Amirite?

wereisjessicahyde says:

You guys in the US are getting so screwed over. I’m paying £9.99 for an 80 gig cable connection. £19.99 for the phone landline connection (which they don’t force me to have) free calls for most of the day and £4.99 for Youview TV.

Admittedly, Youview TV isn’t all that great channel wise but I can cancel at any time. The set-top box/DVR comes with no extra cost and it has all the apps for the over the top stuff like Netflix and Amazon.

I can cancel both the phone and the TV, and still keep the £9.99 net connection any time I want. It’s truly unlimited, no hassle, no throttling, no “traffic management” ever.

And if I don’t like my ISP I have at least another 5 options – and I live in rural England. (OK, it’s not the middle of nowhere but it is a small town in a rural area)

The monopolies in the US are just taking the piss. If we can do right here, then the like of Comcast in the US need to be stopped.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Good grief, I know programmers older than that and they are MORE likely to understand the issues because they were involved in inventing and implementing the technology we all use. Stop the ageism. A young lawyer might understand less than a 70 year-programmer. I think what you meant to say is that the candidates are not strong on technology-related issues no matter what their age? Amirite?”

No, you are not right. I’m 62 years old myself and worked in a variety of technological jobs when the internet was new. But, as a general rule, people my age and over are far less proficient with technology. Finding a few outliers who are aged but understand modern technology does not disprove the general truism.

And please wake me up when some ancient old programmer is running for high office. In this reality all we get are lawyers and billionaires.

Violynne (profile) says:

More embarrassing perhaps is the fact that the FCC, tasked with protecting broadband consumers, hasn’t shown the slightest interest in either cracking down on this behavior, or if not — ensuring that usage meters are accurate.
This isn’t embarrassing. It’s just downright inaccurate reporting by someone who thinks this is the responsibility of the FCC.

The FCC doesn’t protect consumers. This responsibility actually belongs to two separate parties: The FTC, or Federal Trade Commission (and given that wonky middle letter, I can see where confusion lies) and Congress.

Now, the real embarrassing situation is how both are literally the biggest problem in allowing ISPs to get away with what they’re doing.

The FTC could easily step in and put down the idiocy of municipal monopolies and stop states from blocking braodband competition, but their excuse is always “But the FCC hasn’t properly classified the internet for us to do our jobs.”

That’s bullshit, but the power of Hollywood money goes a long way.

Then there’s Congress, which not only holds power over both the FTC and the FCC, refuses to do anything but pass ridiculous patent and copyright laws which benefit the very industries which own the very ISPs themselves (excluding AT&T, but they’ve always been favored by the government thanks to their willingness to open their communications to them).

In fact, history even proves the power of the FCC is limited because not only did their first reclassification fail to pass, but their most recent reclassification was done using laws written before everyone dealing with them were born.

This leaves Congress, and given their responsible behavior in recent decades, is pretty much a lost cause.

Which is why I said in the Twitter fiasco, it’s up to tech companies to stand up and unify their users to direct them to Congress and force them to change the ancient laws plaguing the industry.

When Facebook and Google shut down their sites, this was enough to piss people off to write Congress and shut down SOPA.

If this country is going to change the law, then Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and hundreds of other popular sites should shut down, put their reason, and have users complain to Congress.

Otherwise, nothing will change.

At any rate, this issue is no longer a priority for me.

Now, I’m more focused on the terrifying prospect a cartoon mouse is about to enter the public domain, and the company behind said mascot owns two of Hollywood’s most profitable franchises and has money to throw into coffers.

AntiTrustComcast says:

And $5 price increases coming

Read your statements, many users are reporting a $5 increase across all tiers coming up soon.

So caps and a price increase from your monopoly cable provider.

Remember kiddies, who you vote for effects legislation and regulations. Want Comcast kicked in the arse, vote in tech savvy candidates. Then ask them to break Comcast up into iddy biddy pieces…

LuvsToSki (user link) says:

Comcast Corporate Offices Contact

“Hello I’m Tom Karinshak, Senior VP of Customer Experience at Comcast. The Best Customer Experience, that’s what we strive for every day. As a company, our job is to make sure every interaction you have with us is a special one. We know your time is important. We know you want answers to your questions quickly and you want issues resolved the first time. We heard you. We are listening. And it’s all about you. Learn more about how we have been making significant progress in transforming the way we do business.

Why not let them know what you think about they way they “do business”??

Comcast corporate headquarters
One Comcast Center
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Eldakka (profile) says:

What is weird about these broadband caps is that where I am, since the general availability of xDSL technologies to consumers in the early ’00s, caps have been standard. Not only have caps been standard, it’s been pretty common to count both incoming and outgoing data in those caps. While we sat back with envy when people from the US were surprised that we had caps.

Every couple of years the caps would change, usually increasing, for no increase — sometimes a decrease — in price.

The plan I’ve been on for the last ~6 years or so is $79/month (naked ADSL2 – no telephone service and I get about 16Mbps sync speeds). Initially it was only 150GB/m, combined data. Which in 2010 was fairly decent, I’d download SD TV, steam games etc, and only exceed the cap (throttled to 256Kb/s down) once every 3 or 4 months, which I could pay an extra $15 for another 15GB (or $5 for 3GB), if I needed for the last few days or week of the month.

Then about 3 years ago it went to 250GB/m, which co-incided nicely with my expanding viewing habits, and allowed me to download 720/1080p for choice programmes, and more TV programmes in general (and a lot of pr0n 😉 ). Again, I’d exceed the cap every 3 months or so, and to avoid throttling it was now $15 for an an extra 25GB (or $5 for 5GB) if needed for the tail-end of the month.

About 12 months ago this was increased to 500GB/m. At which point I switched most of my viewing to 1080p, with the filler shows still being SD or maybe 720p (the shows I don’t get excited about, but fill the time in between the good shows). I’m not sure what the avoiding-throttling excess was, as I never needed it with 500GB.

And, finally, about 6 months ago, only about 6 months after upping the cap to 500GB/m, it was again upped to — uncapped. At which point all-downloading-hell broke loose, I download everything, even pilots, in 1080p. Even to the extent of downloading an SD or 720p HD TV episode to watch it now if that’s available first and later downloading a 1080p version for savouring… Where I used to have Steam auto-updates turned off to save quota, so I’d only patch games I’m playing right now, now it’s turned on for all installed games.

So here I am, gone from 150GB –> 250GB –> 500GB –> uncapped over 6 years, for no price increase, not even inflation or extra hidden costs, yet the US carriers seem to be reversing this trend.

We used to be envious of the broadband situation in the US, but not anymore, not in the last 3 years or so anyway (excluding Google Fibre – drool).

TLDR – the rest of the world is going from caps as standard to big caps or even totally uncapped while the US telcos are reversing direction and introducing unjustified, monopoloy-enabled profiteering caps and increasing prices at the same time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Comcast maths...

Since Comcast is so good at math and measuring things. They should aggregate all the accounts that use under 1TB (unused bandwidth), and all the accounts that use over 1TB (excessive use). If the excessive users exceed the amount of the unused bandwidth, charge them for the average spread over all accounts.

I’m not good a math, but if you have n1 *(1TB – use) = x and n2 *(over 1TB use) = y, take y – x and refund or charge for the overage or shortage.

Want to bet that the shortage is exponentially more than the overage, to the tune of 1000 to 100,000 times greater.

Now if there is so much surplus bandwitdh, why are they adding caps and charging overage fees, when overall the network is NEVER over the limit (N users * 1TB will always be less than the amount of users that exceed 1TB)

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