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.

Filed Under: broadband, broadband caps, data caps
Companies: comcast

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  1. icon
    Violynne (profile), 7 Oct 2016 @ 12:44pm

    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.

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