Comcast Graciously Extends Suspension Of Completely Unnecessary Data Caps

from the how-sweet-of-you dept

After pressure from consumer groups, major ISPs last month announced that they would be suspending all usage caps and overage fees for 60 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, US consumers already pay some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world, and imposing draconian usage restrictions and overage fees created added hardships for consumers already facing unemployment and additional financial headaches due to the pandemic. Being the sweetheart it is, Comcast also stated it would temporarily stop kicking poor folks offline during the pandemic.

This week Comcast announced it would be graciously extending the suspension of said caps for another 60 days. This is, Comcast insists, part of the company's dedication to ensure people remain connected during a crisis:

"These extended measures will continue to keep Americans safe and ensure that households are equipped for students to learn and stay informed at home as the nation copes with this unprecedented disruption to our daily lives,” said Dave Watson, Comcast Cable Chief Executive Officer. “Our services have never been more important, and we’re doing everything we can to keep people connected to the internet."

The problem, as we just got done exploring, is that there's no justification for these limits in the first place. They never should have been imposed, therefore removing them, temporarily, isn't much of a concession or accomplishment.

Both leaked documents and industry executives long ago made it clear: usage caps don't actually help ISPs manage congestion. There's no technical purpose for them. There's no financial justification either, given that flat-rate broadband is perfectly profitable, and "differentiated pricing" already exists for the heaviest of users who need more than a residential connection can provide (aka: a business class line). Usage caps are little more than a cash grab on captive customers in uncompetitive markets, which is a major reason Comcast never implemented them in the Northeast, where uncapped Verizon FiOS is a major competitor.

Caps create an entirely additional problem in that incumbent ISPs can abuse these limits to give themselves an unfair market advantage. AT&T, for example, lifts these unnecessary restrictions for its broadband customers if they use AT&T's own streaming video services, but enforces them if the user uses a competitor's streaming video service like Netflix. Comcast has long exploited the restrictions in much the same fashion. In short not only are caps not technically or financially necessary, they open the door to an entirely new layer of anti-competitive behavior.

So while Comcast will likely grab kudos from press outlets and consumers that don't know any better, there's not much to celebrate about extending a temporary suspension of a business practice that was never justifiable in the first place.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: covid-19, data caps
Companies: comcast

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Heads up!, 2 May 2020 @ 3:48am

    Re: I call BS

    Just a heads up, on our last bill they took $100 off for what I'm assuming is the first two months of "no cap". Never asked for it (I forgot), but they did it on their own.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

Introducing the new Techdirt Insider Chat, now hosted on Discord. If you are an Insider with a membership that includes the chat feature and have not yet been invited to join us on Discord, please reach out here.

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.