CenturyLink Follows Comcast's Lead, To Start Charging Broadband Overage Fees

from the more-money-for-the-same-shitty-product dept

You can add CenturyLink to the growing number of ISPs charging more money for the same product thanks to limited broadband competition. The company told attendees of an earnings conference call this week that it would be following Comcast's lead and conducting a "trial" of broadband usage caps and overage fees sometime later this year. The company lost 22,000 DSL customers last quarter, and clearly believes that layering an already inferior product with new restrictions and higher prices will surely make its customers happy:
"...Regarding the metered data plans; we are considering that for second half of the year. We think it is important and our competition is using the metered plans today and we think that explore those starts and trials later this year is our expectation."
According to CenturyLink's "excessive use policy," the company has capped customers on 1.5 Mbps or slower lines at 150 GB a month. Customers on lines faster than 1.5 Mbps enjoy the luxury of a 250 GB monthly limit. And whereas ISPs used to provide bullshit justifications for such restrictions (the network congestion bogeyman! it's only fair!), as those excuses have been shown to be nonsense over the years, ISPs have just stopped offering any. Here's how CenturyLink's website justifies these glorified price hikes:
"CenturyLink is committed to providing an optimum Internet experience for every customer we serve. To accomplish this, CenturyLink needs to ensure that customers are on the rate plan that meets their data download requirements. Of the millions of CenturyLink High-Speed Internet customers, a very small fraction has exceeded the download usage limits provided with their monthly plan. It is for this reason that CenturyLink has made the decision to place download limits on residential plans.
That's not really a reason, that's just words arranged to look vaguely like sentient logic. Of course the real reason is because they can.

In most markets CenturyLink enjoys either no competition at all, or they face a cable provider that also has usage caps in place. That's why with the exception of a few cherry picked markets in places like Seattle, CenturyLink users still enjoy speeds circa 2001 or so. And why not add insult to injury, and combine pathetic last generation broadband speeds (which cost very little to actually provide already) with aggressive restrictions and cutting edge, next-generation overage fees?

Like Comcast, CenturyLink calls this a "trial" to keep regulators at bay, since "creative pricing experimentation" sounds so much better than "price gouging uncompetitive markets and erecting unnecessary obstacles to innovation and streaming competitors." Given the FCC has yet to bat an eyelash at the practice, this logic appears to be working. The FCC's also apparently blind to the fact that nobody is confirming whether usage meters are accurate, or that ISP's are now exempting their own services from unfair competitive advantage.

So while you'll hear a lot of media hype about cherry picked gigabit broadband deployments paving the way to our glorious connectivity future, a lack of competition, usage caps and zero rating are ensuring that for broadband customers in most markets, the reality is going to look decidedly less futuristic.

Filed Under: broadband, broadband caps, competition, dsl, net neutrality, overage fees
Companies: centurylink, comcast


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2016 @ 6:44am

    This is a sign of technological regression.

    We went from slow speeds, caps (minutes), overage charges and gated internet (aol) to faster speeds, unlimited access, no overage and open internet.
    Now we're going back to slower speeds (throttling), caps (data), Overage charges (data) and gated internet (Facebook's attempts in India won't be the last).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 12 Feb 2016 @ 6:46am

    It's right there in the name: it takes a century to link you up with the data you want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2016 @ 6:53am

    Are the crappy ads exempt from usage caps?
    If not, then I guess they will stop bitching about ad blockers - nah, that would mean they actually thought about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    hegemon13, 12 Feb 2016 @ 7:24am

    This is nothing

    My mom lives just outside a small town where the only option is DSL from one company. Her promised speed is 5MB, but her actual result tops out at about 1.5. That rules out most streaming services, but that doesn't matter because her DSL connection has cap of 10GB per MONTH! I blow through that in about the first 12 hours of the month. She's moving to a Verizon LTE hotspot because it's cheaper and faster with a higher cap! The takeover of "broadband" by extortionate conglomerates is destroying internet access in even semi-rural midwest. My dad also has a rural provider, and his speed has topped out at 3Mbits with no improvement at all for over 5 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JD, 12 Feb 2016 @ 7:29am

    Let's see the data

    I'd love to see the major ISPs have to produce charts of the:

    - median
    - 90th percentile
    - 99th percentile
    - 99.9th percentile

    monthly broadband usage by their customers, up and down. After a few months it would be pretty easy to see the trends as over-the-top video adoption and HD/UHD usage becomes more widespread.

    But of course then the public could see exactly where the ISPs were trying to draw a line in the sand, and how quickly the average user would get caught in their caps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 12 Feb 2016 @ 7:32am

    Of the millions of CenturyLink High-Speed Internet customers, a very small fraction has exceeded the download usage limits provided with their monthly plan. It is for this reason that CenturyLink has made the decision to place download limits on residential plans.

    We threw the baby out with the bathwater because someone peed in your neighbor's pool.

    Makes perfect sense to me. :\

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    andrew_duane (profile), 12 Feb 2016 @ 7:58am

    Doing the math

    150GB at 100% of 1.5Mbps =

    150,000,000,000 * 8 / 1,500,000 = 800,000 seconds
    800,000 / 3600 = 222 hours / 30 = 7.4 hours per day

    That's assuming anyone actually gets 100% of the "1.5Mbps". It seems to me that the lousy speed is the real data cap here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2016 @ 8:03am

    The race to the bottom continues

    I have always maintained that the American people won't rise off the couch and revolt until someone messes with their TV.

    Congratulations, ISPs. You may be the spark we needed and, ironically, for that, I am oddly grateful.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 13 Feb 2016 @ 12:24am

      Re: The race to the bottom continues

      There is a Strange ideal... of trying to find, how miserable you can MAKE someone before they get upset..
      THEN that is set as the BAR to stay AT/Above..

      I will also give you the reverse..
      I have customers that only need ENOUGH speed to wonder the net and get email..how much do you Think they pay for HOME net access?? And do they have a choice?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2016 @ 8:08am

    150GB on Centurylink? Wow, they provide speeds that can actually download that much? Everyone I know can barely get 600kbps if they are lucky.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CenturySlow, 12 Feb 2016 @ 8:45am

    But there is no higher speed plan...

    CenturyLinks EUP says: "Customers will be given options to reduce their usage, subscribe to a higher speed residential plan, or migrate to an alternative business class High-Speed Internet service."

    I have been conscientiously exceeding CenturyLink's 250GB/month usage cap for YEARS in the hope they will offer me a higher speed plan...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Richard O, 12 Feb 2016 @ 9:09am

    Wondering how this will shake out here

    CenturyLink in the Denver area has a wide mix of DSL and high speed options. It varies from new 1 Gbps fiber in small areas to really crappy 1.5 Mbps in many areas. Personally, I'm on a 40/4 Mbps plan (and I actually get it) with fiber to the node and copper from there. Comcast also serves the same areas so there is some actual competition if you aren't in one of the crappy zones. Although I hate even the idea of Comcast, if CL implements caps here I'd certainly take another look.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Gee, 22 Jul 2016 @ 7:34pm

      Re: Wondering how this will shake out here

      Also in Denver, but on a worse plan requiring some of their worst hardware and getting charged way too much for it. Their press release alone is just about enough to make me cancel, even if this "trial" hasn't rolled out here yet.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris K., 12 Feb 2016 @ 10:08am

    CenturyLink Cancelled

    There is NO way to check your usage online either. You have to call.

    I did and found that my household used 410GB of the 250GB cap in January.

    I am moving to cable, while capped at 1TB/mo, it's also 5x faster download, 10x faster upload and half the monthly cost of CenturyLink DSL.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 12 Feb 2016 @ 11:41am

      Re: CenturyLink Cancelled

      Wait, you have to call them to find out that you're over the limit?
      Isn't this open for abuse when you can't check the usage yourself or have a running total every day or every week? What's to stop them from pulling a number out of their butt and charge you overage fees? It's not like the average customer will argue it... and we're back to the first point about how customers can't prove their own usage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Chris K., 12 Feb 2016 @ 12:43pm

        Re: Re: CenturyLink Cancelled

        Indeed on all counts.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2016 @ 12:50pm

        Re: Re: CenturyLink Cancelled

        I can prove it... of course, I'm an engineer who builds network equipment for a living. I've already made several complaints to our local telecommunications board about century link.

        Once they made an appointment with us, we stayed home... they failed to show. We complained, they said they'd be out right away the next day... the next day they decided not to show. I was (and still should) send them an invoice for $1000, approx what I'd bill for two days of my time.

        The other thing they tried to pull is when we were moving, they wanted the crappy (several years old) modem back. Never got the return package from them, called several times... eventually told to just recycle it (I did not). Six months later, on christmas eve (no shit), I get a call from them wanting to collect $100 from me... I told them in no uncertain terms to piss off.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Whatever (profile), 13 Feb 2016 @ 12:18am

          Re: Re: Re: CenturyLink Cancelled

          If your time is worth $500 a day, I would say you could probably afford either something better than centurylink, or to hire someone to watch your house for the day to wait for them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe V, 12 Feb 2016 @ 12:36pm

    I want to know where Clinton and Sanders stand on ISPs, lousy service and data caps

    I follow telecom and technology regularly. Another friend told me that I'm "too obsessed" with internet service providers and their business. Here's the thing: without internet, we cannot communicate the ways we are today through social media, gaming, video, internet streaming, and even business. That's a fact.

    A month ago I spoke to a brilliant mind and engineer who he and his partner both work for a major telecom named CenturyLink in this country. He shared his views of why his company is having difficulties deploying internet in the areas it serves. He explained to me that CenturyLink has grown through mergers and acquisitions with the last one completed by merging with another telecom Qwest Communications in 2011. The problem for CenturyLink is that Qwest was a former baby bell (from MA BELL) that did not keep a good track record of the assets (hardware, centers, central offices, inventory) in which some of that information has been lost. Without the correct asset information, CenturyLink has to start all over and track every piece of hardware, every cable, every wire-al of that information to accurately assess each area/every state they serve to know what they can deliver and if that outdated hardware is worth upgrading for better service.

    That is the case for every other technology/telecom company that decides to buy out another.

    Frontier Communications is set to take over a $10.54 billion buy from Verizon in the states of California, Florida and Texas at the end of March 30, 2016. Already the company has started the transition in northern Texas doing a conversion from all Verizon peering points to others. This is a massive undertaking and I sincerely want Frontier to succeed.

    The other reason I heavily follow telecom is because wall street is trying to pressure them into implementing data usage caps on wireline networks nationally-in other words you get a certain amount of data, and then if you go over, you are charged additionally. I can see this works for cellular/wireless, but this is screwing people over of their hard-earned money out of greed.

    And now the federal government is providing $1.5 billion CAF II funding for these companies to expand internet to areas that are either not served or underserved. Here's the problem though :

    If there is any more reason enough as to where the CAF II funding to expand and improve internet access ACTUALLY goes, THIS is the reason. Executives sitting on their thrones making decisions to cut the people that actually do the work versus the poor decision makers or the processes that are too time-consuming to actually get the work done because of all the “templates” or “reports” that need to go out. How many executives would give up part of their compensation to help the company??? NONE OF THEM.

    Take a look and decide for yourselves if these people deserve this kind of compensation in exchange for the sub-par or NO service you get in the areas they are currently or supposed to serve :

    Consolidated Communications CEO Bob Udell
    Total Compensation (2014): $846,825
    Total compensation (2013): $1,256,508
    Salary: $323,000
    Other compensation (stock awards, bonuses, etc.): $523,825
    Duration with company: Since 1993

    FairPoint CEO Paul Sunu
    Total compensation (2014): $2,559,319
    Total compensation (2013): $2,359,299
    Salary: $815,000
    Other compensation (stock awards, bonuses, etc.): $1,744,239
    Duration with company: Since 2005

    TDS Telecom CEO David A. Wittwer
    Total compensation (2014): $2,616,877
    Total compensation (2013): $2,322,278
    Salary: $587,000
    Other compensation (stock awards, bonuses, etc.): $2,029,877
    Duration with company: Since 1983

    Cincinnati Bell CEO Ted Torbeck
    Total compensation (2014): $3,339,000
    Total compensation (2013): $5,338,744
    Salary: $750,000
    Other compensation (stock awards, bonuses, etc.): $2,589,000
    Duration with company: Since 2010. Torbeck took over the CEO post from John Cassidy, who retired in 2013.

    Windstream CEO Tony Thomas
    Total compensation (2014): $3,367,476
    Total compensation (2013): $2,121,115
    Salary: $538,461
    Other compensation (stock awards, bonuses, etc.): $2,829,015
    Duration with company: Since 1998

    Frontier CEO Dan McCarthy
    Total compensation (2014): $3,979,239
    Total compensation (2013): $2,611,725
    Salary: $658,333
    Other compensation (stock awards, bonuses, etc.): $3,320,906
    Duration with company: Since 1990

    Level 3 Communications CEO Jeff Storey
    Total compensation (2014): $10,850,861
    Total compensation (2013): $8,018,232
    Salary: $978,846
    Other compensation (stock awards, bonuses, etc.): $6,872,015
    Duration with company: Joined company in 2008 as COO and became CEO in April 2013.

    CenturyLink CEO Glen F. Post III
    Total compensation (2014): $13,131,448
    Total compensation (2013): $8,993,247
    Salary: $1,100,000
    Other compensation (stock awards, bonuses, etc.): $12,031,448
    Duration with company: Since 1982

    Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam
    Total compensation (2014): $18,306,509
    Total compensation (2013): $15,826,606
    Salary: $1,580,769
    Other compensation (stock awards, etc.): $16,725,740
    Duration with company: Since 2000 (inception of Verizon Wireless)

    AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson
    Total compensation (2014): $23,984,315
    Total compensation (2013): $23,247,167
    Salary: $1,691,667
    Other compensation (stock awards, etc.): $22,292,648
    Duration with company: Since 1982

    http://www.fiercetelecom.com/special-reports/10-highest-paid-ceos-wireline-2014

    I wonder how much longer are Americans going to continue to put up with B.S. like this before we finally as a collective come together and realize that we are being screwed?

    Case in point : my dealings with AT&T. After the last two bills of $84.00 with bogus usage charges on a 6-meg, 150 gigabyte a month capped last mile DSL connection. Worse, a badly designed, difficult to navigate website and the meter was not accessible most of the time. I finally said goodbye to them and moved to Comcast internet which for now, they are pretty good and reliable. However we all know that they have usage based trials happening in certain uncompetitive markets/monopolies/duopolies they serve. In the Bay Area, Comcast has temporarily suspended the data caps but they are coming.

    Unfortunately the problem with internet access goes deeper than the monopolies, acquisitions and too few competition.

    Whether you are on AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast, CenturyLink, Cox, Charter, Mediacom, SuddenLink, or Brighthouse, do you really want metered internet (which has already proven to be inaccurate as people have been billed for usage they did not do) every time you watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, HULU, or use your PS4 or XBOX?

    Also, where are the CEOs of streaming and gaming services Netflix, Amazon, Sony, Microsoft? Where do YOU stand on this?

    We already pay A LOT of money for internet that in many places is either ok or lousy. Many if not all of you use the internet for one form of communication or another at any given moment.

    Telecom is a big issue for me. So far, neither Sanders nor Clinton have said enough on this issue.

    This affects all of us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 12 Feb 2016 @ 12:52pm

    no logic in ISP's

    REALLY..
    Yahoo has increased the size of video..
    Hulu has a HD format..
    Netflix...
    Many sites have HD videos..

    My ISP has 5mb data for $50 unlimited..
    50mb for $50 with a 300GB cap..
    150mb for 8$80 with a 400GB cap

    Game downloads, and updates can kill your cap..
    Standard PC game is 16+ gig.. updates can be as large..
    WOrld of Tanks, High Res version is 78gig..

    Can anyone explain TRIPLE my speed and raise the cap only 100GB??
    HD video on Youtube is 5mbps.. Can anyone tell me WHY they lag during the day, but not in late nite??(IM a PC person for years and understand Networking and most of whats happening) but the funny part is I am loosing NONE of the video, no loss..it pauses..SITS..so someone is throttling..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2016 @ 1:19pm

    With my plan, I can end my month of allotment in 18 hours.

    I'll cancel and run a local fiber into my apartment before I deal with a single day of this in my market.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dogwitch (profile), 12 Feb 2016 @ 9:44pm

    you know their bad

    when you rather deal with comcrap any day then them!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2016 @ 11:29pm

    I got rid of the cell phone almost three years ago. I wish Comcast would drop the sword and cap our broadband already, bye, bye Comcast. FTISP. Another license to steal as far as I am concerned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 13 Feb 2016 @ 1:59pm

    CenturyLink

    That's why with the exception of a few cherry picked markets in places like Seattle, CenturyLink users still enjoy speeds circa 2001 or so.

    Well, they didn't say which century.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Fallout-er, 14 Feb 2016 @ 1:45am

    150 GB?

    What is that? Three PS4 games? Four Blu-Ray quality movies? One day (out of thirty-some) worth of service? What a pile of rubbish at rubbish speed of 1.5 Mb! I have got 250 Gb downstream for €35 with unlimited "bottle caps."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2016 @ 12:08pm

    looks like the future of cable is just getting better

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2016 @ 6:24pm

    Heh, Amonymous, Suddenlink just pulled the same BS with their cable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Centurylink, 18 Apr 2018 @ 9:15am

    There is no wonder that newer and faster internet connectivity could lead to a possible resolution of such prevalent issues. Talks about 5G are around the corner and if ISPs can consider upgrading their technology then such issues wouldn’t arise. However, this may take a long time in order to become effective, unless some breakthrough offers a possible way out of such situations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jenny Wilson, 20 Apr 2018 @ 6:55am

    We Need A Technological Breakthrough

    There is no wonder that with what the situation has to offer at the moment unless we find drastic changes in the provision of services that releases the hold ISPs have on the current market, one can only pray that in the future we can have more freedom when using internet services. Such can be possible if a technological breakthrough is achieved which makes these tactics redundant and users are allowed to use internet according to their wishes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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