Comcast Forced To Back Off Broadband Cap Expansion… Until Next Year

from the how-gracious-of-you dept

Last November, Comcast quietly announced that the company would be expanding its bullshit broadband caps into the Northeast, one of the last Comcast territories where the restrictions hadn’t been imposed yet. Of course Comcast was utterly tone deaf to the fact there was a historic health and economic crisis going on, or how imposing unnecessary surcharges on consumers already struggling to make rent wasn’t a great look. In some states, like Massachusetts, lawmakers stood up to the regional monopoly, going so far as to push a law that would have banned usage caps during the pandemic.

After gaining some bad press for the behavior, Comcast initially delayed the efforts a few months, hoping that would appease folks. When it didn’t, Comcast last week announced that it would be suspending the caps until 2022. This, according to Comcast, was to give consumers “more time to become familiar” with the restrictions:

“The ISP?s reasoning for the delay, according to the announcement, is that the company realizes that the ?data plan was new for [its] customers in the Northeast,? and it wanted to ?provid[e] them with more time to become familiar with the new plan.? This isn?t a courtesy the company extended to other states when it expanded the data caps to them (apart from the one or two ?free? overage months). But to be fair, there also wasn?t a global pandemic going on during those rollouts.”

The problem, as we’ve noted repeatedly, is that these restrictions shouldn’t exist in the first place. The other problem, the pause only applies to the Northeast; the majority of Comcast markets already face such arbitrary limits, and will see no reprieve, pandemic or no. As such, delaying them is more about managing PR blowback than making any serious concession. It’s theater.

There’s no technical reason for such restrictions to exist on a fixed line network in 2021. The restrictions don’t manage network bandwidth, something that can already be done with existing hardware. Such restrictions aren’t financially necessary either; Comcast’s flat-rate broadband margins are significant, and any “extremely heavy users” can already be shoved toward business-class tiers. Caps only have two real purposes: (1) to impose covert price hikes on uncompetitive markets without changing your advertised rates, and (2) as an anticompetitive weapon in the streaming wars.

As such, it’s not entirely clear what Comcast wants these users to “get familiar with.” Familiar with getting ripped off by a massive telecom monopoly that not only faces no real competition, but fairly feckless federal regulatory oversight? 83 million Americans have only the choice of one ISP. Federal regulators could either work tirelessly to drive more fiber-based competition to market (and no, neither 5G nor next-gen satellite are magic bullets), or they could step in to hold monopolies accountable in the absence of that competition. Here in the United States, we do neither. At least not consistently.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “Comcast Forced To Back Off Broadband Cap Expansion… Until Next Year”

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Anonymous Coward says:

This is a disaster! Investment in network buildout will plummet! Plague and unemployment will stalk the land! Comcast will be forced to raise prices for everyone–especially for people of color and inadequate means!–in order to sustain the executive bonuses to which they have become accustomed! Racial tensions will escalate! Comcast apologists will spam Techdirt!

Go Ahead. Laugh. It’s already beginning. And it is, of course, all Mike’s fault. Personally, I hate everyone–so I just stopped by on my daily promenade around the internet, to remind them that I don’t care anyway.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

and any "extremely heavy users" can already be shoved toward business-class tiers

Advocating this makes you no better than companies like Comcast. Why should users be pressured to upgrade to a business-class account (or any other service / account really) for fully utilizing what is being paid for?

It’s not the users’ fault that the unlimited X Megabit/sec the users’ are paying for cannot handle the traffic 24/7/365.

Comcast has its models and if users’ habits deviate from those models, that’s Comcast’s problem. It needs to update its models and invest accordingly in its networks.

Anonymous Coward says:

any "extremely heavy users" can already be shoved toward business-class tiers.

Please explain the difference between this rationale and usage caps.

Keep in mind that there are specific benefits that business-class tiers have that "residential broadband" does not – the primary one being speed, allowing for simultaneous devices. There may be others, such as fixed IP addresses, port availability, etc. If the customer is satisfied with the (advertised) residential rates, why should they be forced to a business account?

But none of these matter if Comcast isn’t even providing you the residential speed you are paying for.

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