Major ISP Cox Begins Throttling Entire Neighborhoods for 'Excessive Usage'

from the not-the-future-we-were-promised dept

Major ISP Cox Communications has begun throttling the connections of entire neighborhoods for what the ISP deems “excessive usage.” More specifically, the ISP has begun severely throttling the upstream connections of internet users who consume too much bandwidth for the ISP’s liking, even if those users have paid the company extra for faster, unrestricted service.

Despite ISPs making it repeatedly clear that their networks are handling COVID-19 related strain very well, complaints about the new restrictions have been popping up at Reddit over the last month. While Cox confirmed to Ars Technica that it had started throttling the upstream speeds of entire neighborhoods, it wasn’t willing to clarify how many neighborhoods are impacted and just how much data is deemed “excessive” by the cable giant:

“Cox responded by lowering the upload speeds on the gigabit-download plan from 35Mbps to 10Mbps for the customer’s whole neighborhood. Cox confirmed to Ars that it has imposed neighborhood-wide slowdowns in multiple neighborhoods in cases like this one but didn’t say how many excessive users are enough to trigger a speed decrease.”

Some users who are impacted say they already pay Cox $150 a month for a 1 Gbps down, 35 Mbps up (now 10 Mbps) connection — and an additional $50 per month to avoid going over Cox’s 1 terabyte monthly bandwidth cap (which triggers a $10 per additional 50 GB surcharge once surpassed). And they’re still facing slowdowns:

“Mike, a Cox customer from Gainesville, Florida, pays $150 a month, including $100 for 1Gbps download speeds and 35Mbps upload speeds, and another $50 for “unlimited data” so that he can go over Cox’s 1TB data cap. Mike told Ars via email that most of his 8TB+ monthly use consists of scheduled device backups and “data sharing via various (encrypted) information-sharing protocols,” such as peer-to-peer networks, between 1am and 8am.”

Please keep in mind that as ISPs pushed for the net neutrality repeal (which demolished much of the FCC’s authority over telecom), they claimed repeatedly that this would result in a massive surge in investment (that never happened, and at some ISPs, like AT&T, investment dropped). The idea that “regulatory freedom” would result in near-Utopian outcomes has been the mantra for several years, yet suddenly users who already pay an arm and a leg for bandwidth find themselves inexplicably throttled anyway? Without any transparency into “how much is too much?”

Telecom lawyer Harold Feld asked all the right questions on Twitter, noting that this certainly wasn’t the deregulated Utopia US broadband consumers were promised:

Again, we heard more times than we could count that the net neutrality repeal and FCC lobotomy requested by telecom lobbyists would result in waves of investment and near magical outcomes. Yet here, instead of investing in the necessary upgrades to handle the added load, Cox is throttling the connections of entire neighborhoods that already pay an arm and a leg for bandwidth (Americans consistently pay some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world). Worse, they’re doing so in a way that’s entirely not transparent, and likely would have violated the transparency requirements in the FCC’s net neutrality rules, had we not demolished them at lobbyist behest and in stark contrast to the will of the public.

Granted this is happening because, as we warned all along, mindlessly deregulating US telecom doesn’t magically result in spurred investment and Utopia. In large part because when you eliminate regulatory oversight of a broken, monopolized market (without embracing reform or competitive policies), telecom giants always just double down on bad behavior. For ISPs that means higher prices, stifled investment, worse customer service, and more of the kind of non-transparent behaviors US consumers have complained about for decades.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What’s old is new again. This is how cable used the local loops for years. They were full of bs then, and they are now. They play it off like airlines and overbooking (which is a bs business practice to begin with), without any of the actual overbooking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I thought the point of collective punishment was that those punished would know who got them in trouble and would then "discourage" those people from misbehaving again.

Well, to authoritarians one individual screwing up is a failure of the peers to ensure compliance with their shared authority. A.K.A. One person is guilty = Everyone is guilty.

Another thing about authoritarians is they hate spending the effort to enforce a limited scope punishment against a single individual. Worse, if they fail to punish all involved, then a higher authority can and often will punish them for their failure.

Yet another thing about authoritarians is they expect problems to be handled at the level within the hierarchy it occurred in. If the problem gets elevated to a higher level, then that higher level is within it’s right to do whatever in it’s capacity is the fastest means of correcting the problem. Even if it means harming the lower levels. As the levels below have failed to deal with the issue their needs and concessions are irrelevant.

Simply stated, authoritarians have never met a problem they can’t solve with more sledgehammers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What you said, but there’s also the case – as is common in schools – where the majority of people being punished are troublemakers, or bullies harassing a smaller set of victims. Everyone gets punished to build solidarity or camaraderie. It never works. Bullies are never indebted to their victims for getting everyone punished. The fact that the victims were punished too is never relevant to them, just the ignominy of penalty. Victims then get additional harassment as part of the "snitches get stitches" code.

Punishing everyone for the acts of a few idiots is a philosophy rife with abuse to the point where I’ve always suspected that advocates of this method were taking the piss.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

" I thought the point of collective punishment was that those punished would know who got them in trouble and would then "discourage" those people from misbehaving again."

It all starts to make sense when you consider the "misbehavior" is that you didn’t give them all your money.

Once every resident of the city block is prepaid for the deluxe plan with all the bling – including the complimentary douche bladder signed by the Cox board of trustees – then you’ll see the neighborhood regaining it’s customary "blazing" bandwidth.

That is how a US ISP do.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if this has anything to do with Cox’s one billion dollar loss in court to record labels. They could also be tryimg to implement deep packet inspection or slowing speeds thinking it will stop any customers from torrenting content. I’m not a Cox subscriber and happy they left the area I live in almost a decade ago.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Sounds similar to the scam Comcast pulled to try to convince people that their deliberately letting large swathes of their network congest by insisting that it was the fault of their extortion target Netflix.

That was Verizon.

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'No idea how that happened, here's your refund check.'

No worries, I’m sure Cox will be lightning quick in issuing refunds to those that are paying for unlimited data at a quicker speed, lest the FTC hit them with a hefty penalty for fraud or violation of contract.

Not that such a penalty will be needed of course, after all as the IPS’s make very clear when arguing against any regulation or oversight the vibrant and highly competitive industry that is internet service will deal with any issues without need for any of those pesky ‘regulations’, so I’m sure Cox will quickly make an about face here lest all of their customers jump to one of the many competitors that are sure to be in the area.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'No idea how that happened, here's your refund check.'

as the IPS’s make very clear when arguing against any regulation or oversight the vibrant and highly competitive industry that is internet service will deal with any issues without need for any of those pesky ‘regulations’

They did deal with it. This is the deal. Pray they don’t alter it any further.

cattress (profile) says:

But why?

I don’t know where these neighborhoods are, but if this started last month, kids were still distance learning (the school year just ended in DE), and I’m pretty sure working from home is still happening for most people who can. Not to mention, very little activity outside the home has resumed, well until the protests. Is the idea to force people to watch cable TV more, to make more advertising dollars for those stations who are also keeping all that sports programming money when there are no sports? Is this to leverage schools and businesses to pay more to keep connection speeds up to demand? Who are they trying to milk more money from?

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