Lawmakers Complain About Comcast's Bullshit Expanded Usage Caps
from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
Last November, Comcast announced it would be expanding its bullshit usage caps and overage fees into the Northeast. For years, the Northeast had avoided the utterly pointless cash grab that is broadband usage caps because Comcast faced at least a tiny bit of competition from (uncapped) Verizon FiOS. But as federal and state regulators have grown more toothless and pathetic, Comcast’s eagerness to expand the surcharges has only grown.
Reminder: Comcast’s own internal memos have indicated such restrictions don’t manage congestion or serve any valid technical or financial purpose. They’re a glorified price hike on captive customers, and Comcast’s decision to expand them (in addition to a bevy of other price hikes and fee increases) during a pandemic isn’t being taken particularly well by lawmakers like Massachusetts State Rep. Andy Vargas:
“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.”
Comcast continues to push the claim that the caps are no big deal because only a few customers will hit the 1.2 terabyte monthly restrictions. But with entire households quarantined and hoovering up bandwidth during work Zoom calls and home education, that’s simply not true. Usage has soared during the pandemic, and U.S. consumers already pay some of the highest prices for bandwidth in the developed world. Flat rate broadband has proven hugely profitable, and greed is the only thing driving this latest expansion.
Comcast wants folks hung up in a debate over whether “1 terabyte is fair,” and not discussing why these confusing and arbitrary charges are being imposed in the first place, a ploy at least a few lawmakers, like Vargas, are seeing through:
“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.”
Vargas was one of a dozen Massachusetts legislators who “strongly urged” Comcast to reverse course during the pandemic:
“It is inconceivable that that Comcast would chose to impose this ‘cap and fee’ plan during a pandemic, when many Massachusetts residents are forced to work and attend school form home via the internet,” the legislators said. “The last thing our consumers need is to worry about paying more for the same quality of service.”
The question then becomes: what are lawmakers actually going to do about it? Telecom monopolies like AT&T and Comcast are powerful enough that they’ve effectively neutered any meaningful oversight on both the state and federal level. They’re politically powerful enough that they literally get to write state law, usually with an eye on hamstringing competition. They were so politically powerful, they convinced the FCC to effectively self-immolate via the net neutrality repeal based on a bunch of bullshit data points that had been debunked for years.
Either we care about holding natural monopolies accountable or we don’t, and based on the fact that Comcast will likely see zero penalty for price gouging during an historic health and economic crisis, it’s not particularly complex math to determine which side of that line the United States falls on.