Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
data caps, fees, overage fees, usage caps

Companies:
cox



Broadband ISP Cox Will Now Charge You $50 More To Avoid Usage Caps, Overage Fees

from the thanks,-competition dept

We've noted repeatedly how large ISPs for years have happily abused the lack of competition in the broadband market by imposing arbitrary, unnecessary and confusing usage caps and overage fees. While ISPs had tried for a while to suggest these caps were "only fair," or necessary due to congestion, repeated debunking of those excuses forced the ISPs a few years back to finally stop pretending there's any good reason for these limits.

These days, ISPs don't even give coherent reasons for the limits, because they know caps are about one thing: abusing a lack of competition to raise rates and protect TV revenues from streaming video competition. More importantly, they know that thanks to this limited competition, there's nothing you can do about it either way.

Cox Communications is one of several cable providers that have taken full advantage of the reduction in competition by telcos to drive up rates via usage caps and overage fees. Back in June, Cox announced it would be imposing usage caps of one terabyte, then charging users $10 for each additional 50 GB of data consumed. And this week, the company unveiled the other arm of the company's ingenious plan -- charging its users $50 more per month if users want to avoid usage caps entirely:

"A memo being circulated among employees on the changes downplays the impact of these restrictions on consumers, repeatedly trying to argue that confusing and unnecessary usage limits aren't a big deal because the majority of Cox customers won't run afoul of them...today.

"An overwhelming majority of data is consumed by a very small percentage of internet users," the memo reads. "The new choices are great options for the small percentage of heavy users who routinely use 1TB+ per month and prefer a flat monthly rate, rather than purchasing additional data blocks.".

If it's truly only a "very small percentage" of users causing problems with "excessive" usage, Cox could have simply pushed these users to business-class tiers. Instead, they made the conscious decision to impose confusing new rate hikes on all users, feebly trying to insist that this can't possibly impact their consumption. And while it might be true it won't impact consumption today that's not really the point. Once caps are imposed, ISPs can tighten the noose at their discretion. And in a few years, when 4K video streaming and other new high-bandwidth applications emerge, ISPs have a wonderful new way to raise rates on a consistent basis.

But consumers realize they're being screwed, which goes a long way toward the cable industry's utterly abysmal customer satisfaction ratings. In just a few months, Cox imposed pricey and confusing new surcharges knowing a lack of competition would let them get away with it. They then offered users the "option" to pay $50 more just to enjoy the kind of unlimited connections they had last year -- for notably less money.

It's a wonderful racket, and one regulators at the FCC and elsewhere (regardless of political party) have pretty consistently made abundantly clear they couldn't give two shits about. And while many people reading these reports get bogged down over whether one terabyte limits are fair, that misses the entire point. There's no technical reason to impose these limits in the first place. They're glorified rate hikes, poorly justified, shoveled on the backs of captive users who already pay more for bandwidth than users in most developed nations. All thanks to a broken market very few people seem all that interested in fixing.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 6:58am

    Coming soon, new data caps on the new data-cap-free plans! Coming soonish, pay $50 more to remove the new data-cap-free plan's data caps!
    Coming soonisher, new data caps on the new data-cap-freer plans!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 7:27am

      Re:

      Yes, they replace the old lies with new lies and act like it is an improvement they are providing their customers at their own expense.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Aug 2017 @ 6:59am

    But we have to think of the shareholders, won't someone think of the shareholders?
    We've been plumping up their value at the expense of everything else & now we need more capital to fix the infrastructure.
    We can't possibly give a poor return on the investment, they might hold the CEO responsible and threaten his compensation package.
    We need to keep finding ways to squeeze more money out of these people the government lets us hold hostage!

    Imagine if they could see the actual costs of bandwidth and infrastructure, they would demand to start their own... luckily we invested in buying laws to keep people from being our cash cows.

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

    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 19 Aug 2017 @ 6:39pm

      Re:

      I believe Cox Communications is a private company... I recall them doing a share buy-back a while ago. That being the case, the only shareholders these days are an extremely small circle.

      That's not to say though that it's board isn't out to maximize it's profits and minimize it's layout.

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

  • icon
    Joseph Ratliff (profile), 15 Aug 2017 @ 7:00am

    Xfinity / Comcast is getting away with it so...

    Cox is simply following in Comcast / Xfinity's shoes.

    And, Comcast isn't going to back down, so I doubt Cox is either. Pretty soon, Internet access will likely only be able to be afforded by upper-middle class or wealthy.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 7:35am

      Re: Xfinity / Comcast is getting away with it so...

      But then how do the lazy unemployed accept their personal responsibilities and get a friggin job when you need internet access ... oh yeah, just go to the library where the computers are full of all sorts of malware and in using them you certainly will not have any problems getting that awesome minimum wage career position.

      What does a person who is full of shit do when they realize that no one believes them anymore? Double down on the lie and accuse others of lying - that's what they do. And when that is not good enough, they get a law in place to stop the fake news - wait a sec, who am I talking about here- hmmm

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:09am

      Re: Xfinity / Comcast is getting away with it so...

      Came here to say this as someone who got hit with the bullshit cap charge starting January of this year. They absolutely refuse to back off the completely incorrect notion that it solves their bandwidth saturation issues and is "more fair to every user". I file an FCC complaint every time I pay my bill and have explained precisely how wrong that is to every person who has to follow up on the complaints.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 12:54pm

        Re: Re: Xfinity / Comcast is getting away with it so...

        Did you ask for verification of their measurement, how it was obtained and the extent of testing upon same in order to validate accuracy?


        Their response might be humorous.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2017 @ 7:12am

          Re: Re: Re: Xfinity / Comcast is getting away with it so...

          I wish it were more humorous, but all but two of the people so far have ended up telling me I am correct and that they have nothing to back it up - simply doing a job following a policy.

          At this point I usually start to mention every non-religious form of the idle hands moral I can. Most common response to that is silence.

          Though hopefully that one guy from the Dominican Republic moves on to web design as he hoped when finishing school, he was really nice.

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

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 15 Aug 2017 @ 7:21am

    This is why broadband should be treated as a utility.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 8:19am

    I have Cox and my usage was benign. But then I signed up for cloud storage and it ballooned very close to the limit. I don't think I can do cloud storage any more...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 8:36am

      Re:

      Don't worry, in a short while you can pay an extra $15/month for the cloud access package, where a select number of partners (Read: companies we bullied into paying us to get into the program) doesn't count against your cap for the first 1,000 Gigs of usage ($50/10 gigs after)

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 8:42am

        Re: Re:

        Bingo. I can see the writing on the wall. I'll be building a combination beehive/server in my backyard with a direct cable for my backup plan.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          just wait until we ask for that to be regulated so that it can be codified into regulatory law and ALL isp's will do it instead of just Cox.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 7:07pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Problem is not regulation. Problem is who rights the law and who pays (bribes) for a specific wording of the law.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 7:00pm

      Re:

      Benign...what the f8ck...so if you use more bandwidth you are maligned? lol, your language is crooked...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 8:20am

    I want to know what board of weights and measures is auditing their claim of how much data I use. I'm not inclined to just trust them.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:06am

      Re:

      From what I've read, their meters are not very accurate.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:42am

      Re:

      I want to know what board of weights and measures is auditing their claim of how much data I use.

      Keep in mind that "use" isn't really an appropriate concept for data. Talking about the amount of data you receive from a datagram-based network is like talking about the amount of mail you receive: it's not technically under your control, and you just have to hope you're not getting unrequested stuff.

      The FCC should update the definition of broadband to require unlimited usage at 25/10 Mbit/s (and should impose a latency limit too). Only people paying the extra $50 would be considered to have "broadband", which would affect price comparisons.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Aug 2017 @ 8:41am

    I wonder whats gonna happen when someone does the math on how much traffic the ads are stealing from consumers who have to pay for overages & they sue.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:09am

      Re:

      If they include ad packets in their measurement of traffic and then complain about usage of ad blockers, I would not be surprised.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:58am

      Re:

      I wonder whats gonna happen when someone does the math on how much traffic the ads are stealing from consumers

      Probably none. It's not Cox sending ads. Users are viewing pages that reference ad servers, and it's their choice whether to download the referenced content.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 12:59pm

        Re: Re:

        "it's their choice whether to download the referenced content."

        Not when javascript is active - it's automatic. Website redirect does not ask whether you would like some unknown/untrusted code to run on your machine.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 2:33pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Not when javascript is active - it's automatic.

          The point was that the browser is meant to behave as directed by the user, which is why it's sometimes called the "user agent". Adblockers exist, and will block javascript requests just as well as images/CSS/whatever. And of course users can block javascript entirely, or avoid going to sites with advertising.

          Web ads have nothing to do with Cox, anyway, unless the previous complaint was about advertising from Cox's website or emails (or if Cox is doing some ad-replacement thing).

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 7:12pm

        Re: Re:

        A pop-up is NOT my choice. It just "pops".

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2017 @ 7:31am

          Re: Re: Re:

          A pop-up is NOT my choice. It just "pops".

          What? Hasn't every browser blocked those by default for the last decade? If not, choose to use a better browser.

          If you really want more choice, you could use a whitelisting approach for URLs fetched by your browser. Then ads definitely won't be getting through. FWIW, Firefox still allows you to disable automatic fetching of images, or of third-party images.

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

  • identicon
    Jeffry Houser, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:22am

    Still the best ISP I ever had

    Despite this, Cox is still the best ISP I ever had...

    Customer service has primarily been top notch when I do have to call up.

    My only other options is Frontier--and they were much more problematic.

    The only reason I'm not on a COX business tier plan is because they charge more for less speed.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:47am

      Re: Still the best ISP I ever had

      Yeah, that's the hell of it: in spite of everything, Cox is still probably the best of the major ISPs. That's how low the bar is.

      I'm a Cox customer. They're my only option. But even if they weren't, the only other ISP in my area is Centurylink, so I'd probably stick with Cox even if I had another choice.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 7:13pm

        Re: Re: Still the best ISP I ever had

        Monopoly = Duopoly and very close to Oligopoly, a few firms and CEOs can easily agree on how to gouge prices and how to close doors to potential competition.

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:35am

    I wonder...

    ... how much they charge to not use their service at all?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:50am

      Re: I wonder...

      Just compare the minimum cable plus Internet bundle price, to an Internet only plan, and you will have your answer.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 15 Aug 2017 @ 10:49am

    TO MUCH TIME ON MY HANDS

    When the Internet HIT, in Portland Or. the Telecom had setup for a 6% usage rate..
    MEANING that they only installed ENOUGH connections to power 6% of the populace at ANY TIME..
    When it DID HIT, it took 5 years to get things upto 80%..BUT it was all to install Fiber from MAIN SITE TO SITE..and that was for DIAL UP and ISDN..around 2000..

    NOW..
    Fighting NOT to do the last mile, Fighting for caps and restrictions..
    LETS NOT SAY FIGHTING...
    LETS SAY PAYING SOMEONE OFF...GIVING A LIFETIME FREE ACCESS TO LIMITED INTERNET.. BUYING VOTES..
    And who gets to pay for it???
    YOU DO..
    no matter what you do, IF YOU DONT QUESTION, they will add Strange Surcharges, and misrepresent themselves AND THEIR SERVICES..

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 15 Aug 2017 @ 3:43pm

    Ooh. Prepaid overages every month? Sign me up.

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

  • identicon
    Kevin Hayden, 17 Aug 2017 @ 8:52pm

    Share a connection

    If you have a neighbor you trust, maybe it's time to start sharing a connection via wifi, etc. One bill plus $50 (split 2 ways) is probably a lot less than a bill each with data data caps. If you're not topping out on the speed you should be able to consume all the data you want for less. Bonus - If you can alternate signing up for new service every time an incentive plan for a 'new' customer comes around you'll probably be able to get the lowest rate available all the time.

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


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