from the captive-markets dept
As the press and public have grown increasingly critical of the cash grab, Comcast has responded -- by first pretending it didn't actually have usage caps (they're "usage allotments," Comcast insists), then by claiming these limits are necessary to establish "fairness" in the broadband market. In this latest e-mail sent to customers, Comcast falsely informs customers that they have nothing to worry about, because the majority of customers will never hit the company's cap:
"The median usage for XFINITY Internet customers is 40 GB of data in a month. And based on your recent usage history, it appears this new 300 GB data plan will not impact you. If you are not sure of your monthly data usage, please refer to the Track and Manage Your Usage section below...While we believe that 300 GB is more than enough to meet your Internet usage needs, if for any reason you exceed the 300 GB included in your plan in a month, we will automatically add blocks of 50 GB to your account for an additional fee of $10 each. We’re also implementing a three-month courtesy program. That means you will not be billed for the first three times you exceed the 300 GB included in the monthly data plan.Isn't that sweet. Of course it's irrelevant what the median customer consumes, because we're on the eve of the cord cutting revolution, and every house in the country will soon be burning through 300 GB as entire families consume streaming video (and soon 4K streaming video) like popcorn shrimp. Comcast knows this, and wants to get usage caps in place before this inevitable future delivers a round house kick to the face of its traditional TV revenues. You'll note the e-mail to customers doesn't even try to provide a reason for the caps, since Comcast long ago gave up on the bogus claim that such limits help police congestion.
Historically, Comcast has aimed these usage cap "trials" at less competitive markets, where users can't really vote with their wallet. But this latest expansion includes Chattanooga, Tennessee, home of one of the more notable municipal fiber broadband deployments by the name of EPB broadband. Comcast not only tried to sue EPB out of existence, it effectively bought a state-level protectionist law to ensure EPB couldn't grow. As such, it's odd Comcast is now eager to drive its customers to a competitor it tried for a decade to destroy, though EPB likely appreciates the sentiment all the same.
Historically the FCC has been utterly tone deaf to the anti-competitive, anti-innovation implications of both usage caps and zero rating, seemingly buying the broadband industry's claim that rate hikes imposed on captive markets are somehow about "creative experimentation." There have been some reports that the FCC is watching Comcast closely, but it's far from clear if the agency will ever actually act, and our new neutrality rules don't specifically forbid caps. The only real solution to Comcast's cash grab is competition, but unless you're lucky enough to live in an area with Google Fiber or municipal broadband (like the EPB example above), Comcast's got you exactly where it wants you: captive and capped.