As Comcast Broadband Usage Caps Expand, Company Still Refuses To Admit They Even Have Caps

from the Tomato,-tomahto dept

Like the boiling frog metaphor, Comcast continues to slowly deploy usage caps in a growing number of uncompetitive markets in the hopes that nobody will notice until it’s too late. As noted previously, Comcast has started imposing a 300 GB monthly cap in more than seventeen “trial” markets, after which users have to pay $10 for each additional 50 GB of usage. In a most recent wrinkle, the cable operator has also started offering users the honor of paying $30 if they want to avoid these usage caps entirely. It’s a glorified rate hike on what’s already some of the most expensive broadband in the world.

Amusingly, for some time now Comcast spokespeople have been scolding any reporters that call these restrictions a “usage cap,” in the belief that changing the terminology will somehow fool the public into thinking paying more for the same service is somehow reasonable. No, states Comcast, it doesn’t impose usage caps — it delivers friendly neighborhood “data thresholds” that provide greater “choice and flexibility.”

This week the company’s usage caps went live in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and the Keys, and once again Comcast spokesfolk are making the rounds trying to force journalists to adhere to specific lingo when discussing the plan:

“Charlie Douglas, a Comcast spokesman, argues that its wireless-style plans aren’t a cap. A true cap, he argues, was what Comcast implemented in 2008 when it told users that if they used more than 250 gigabytes per month they would be first warned and then cut off from service. That plan ceased in May 2012. Comcast insists that its offering since then is better described as a “data usage plan.” “We don’t call it a cap,” Douglas says. “We call it a data plan just like wireless companies have data plans.”

Apparently, Comcast believes it gets to unilaterally redefine what a broadband usage cap is, and that the public is too stupid to realize when they’re looking at a rate hike if you just call it something else. Contrary to common wisdom, usage caps don’t really help network congestion, and even the cable industry has admitted caps aren’t about congestion anyway. What are they about? Comcast’s deep-rooted love of fairness, apparently:

“Why would a company that has plenty of capacity on its network need a data plan? It’s not a matter of capacity, Douglas argues, but fairness. “Ten percent of our customers are consuming half of all of the data that runs on our network each month,” Douglas says. “So part of the rationale for all of these trials is this principle of fairness. Those who want to use more pay more, and those who want to use less pay less.”

Right. Except fairness would be simply moving those 10% of users on to business plans if they’re such heavy users, and leaving the rest of the user base alone. Fairness would be truly usage-based plans that let your grandmother pay $5 a month for her thrice-weekly viewing of the Weather Channel website and e-mail use. Instead, Comcast is imposing caps and overages (a rate hike) on all users right on the eve of the 4K and Internet video revolutions, knowing full well most user households will run face-first into the caps over the next few years.

That’s of course because caps aren’t about “fairness” either, they’re about ensuring that Comcast gets to keep revenues fat and bloated as more cable TV customers cut the cord and shift to Internet video. Apparently Comcast believes its users are collectively too stupid to realize this, and that by simply fiddling with basic definitions (it’s not a usage cap, it’s a wholesome family consumption calculator!) the public will nod dumbly and graciously accept one of the biggest rate hikes in Comcast history.

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Comments on “As Comcast Broadband Usage Caps Expand, Company Still Refuses To Admit They Even Have Caps”

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20 Comments
That One Guysays:

When you have no other choice

Apparently Comcast believes its users are collectively too stupid to realize this, and that by simply fiddling with basic definitions (it’s not a usage cap, it’s a wholesome family consumption calculator!) the public will nod dumbly and graciously accept one of the biggest rate hikes in Comcast history.

I’m not so sure that it’s due to thinking that their customers are idiots, so much as knowing that most of their customers flat out have no other option. You can do whatever you want, treat your customers as abysmally as you feel like if you know that there’s no competing company/service that they can go to.

I imagine they use the word-games primarily for PR purposes, so that they can at least pretend not to be screwing their customers as much as possible if a government agency/representative comes looking. If they didn’t have to worry about that they’d probably call them ‘what are you going to do about it?’ charges and laugh all the way to the bank.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: When you have no other choice

And you can thank the FCC for this shit, which is why them pushing Net Neutrality was a farce.

The new rules are shit and will only allow the FCC to further keep its power over a market where they get to pick and choose who gets what.

The FCC has caused the very problem we are asking them to resolve!

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: When you have no other choice

Please explain how the FCC is causing this as Comcast has these caps in place before the FCC did anything they just didn’t enforce it.

It’s been shown over and over Comcast is only looking out for Comcast, not it’s customers. These data caps are arbitrary numbers that Comcast creates, just like the wireless companies. Comcast knows that the future of TV is going to streaming services. They are going to enforce their rules now so they can maximize their profits. Nothing to do with Net Neutrality.

Karl Bodesays:

Re: Re: When you have no other choice

“I’m not so sure that it’s due to thinking that their customers are idiots, so much as knowing that most of their customers flat out have no other option. You can do whatever you want, treat your customers as abysmally as you feel like if you know that there’s no competing company/service that they can go to.”

Totally agree, but even that has limits.

Time Warner Cable tried to cap all of its users in 2009, and despite being stuck in uncompetitive broadband markets the absolute stink customers raised caused the company to totally reverse course.

Ninjasays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: When you have no other choice

Comcast is doing it homeopathically so the stink raised will not be too spread.

On a side note, 300Gb may not be that low but let’s just think about it a little: how much of it goes towards unwanted content such as ads (specially those incredibly annoying video ones that plague youtube and other sites) and stuff you don’t necessarily agree with but comes enabled by default (telemetry, tracking data, auto-playing videos, big video buffers that you end up not watching). Seeing through this point of view these caps are even worse.

Anonymoussays:

I have had a representative come to my door twice in two years telling me what Comcast plans to do in the future in my area. Both times they failed. I actually had the second rep leave her business card because I suspected this was another ploy by Comcast and even told her that I suspect this is another ploy by Comcast and that she was only spreading misinformation since the majority of people would not know how to check and Comcast will back out. The claim was that the lines where being upgraded and that our speeds would be doubled but our cost would be the same. I was also told I would see the changes in 2 months. After 4 months and no changes, I called her and ask about the upgrades that where promised. I was told the Comcast made a mistake and that the upgrades where not planned for my neighborhood.
My biggest suspicion is they are doing this in order to keep people from cutting cords. They promise all this new stuff and it keeps people on a few months longer. Then either cancel those upgrades or they were never planned in the first place.
One small local ISP offers gigabit internet and I am trying to convince them to them to extend their fiber line to my neighborhood.

Anonymoussays:

considering that this is due to the cozy relationship between members of Congress and the broadband companies, isn’t it about time that citizens started to demand that their representatives started working for them, rather than just rigging things so certain businesses, for a price, get to do mostly whatever the hell they like, including screwing customers into the ground? perhaps a gentle hint that ‘keep sitting there doing nothing for us and see your seat collapse next election’ might stir some action?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

isn’t it about time that citizens started to demand that their representatives started working for them, rather than just rigging things so certain businesses,

Lets look at this from a politicians viewpoint, there electorate is a mob with varying opinions, which makes working for them difficult, while lobbyists present them with consistent ideas for laws. This makes it much easier to work for the lobbyists rather than the electorate.

Anonymoussays:

Comcast will get it only when new competition comes to the market place, just like the rest of the telcom groups. You want an example, look at the reaction when they found out Google was going to set up fiber and charge a lower fee. Suddenly they were all worried about their customers leaving them after years of abuse. Had I the choice, I would not be using the ISP I am now using but would change if for no other reason than I’m tired of attempts to sucker me into higher priced programs, tired of the shitty infrastructure in which corrosion is part of the reason for a lack of a dependable internet that I pay for but sometimes go a week or so without while they try and find someone from another city to come fix the problem. We don’t even have a local repairman to address these issues when they come up.

We in the US need competition in the worst sort of way. It would nip in the bud these sorts of farming for new income from established accounts.

Anonymoussays:

This is a way to deter people from cutting the cord on cable television, among other strategies Comcast is using. If you stream 2 HD movies off of itunes per day, you have hit the “threshhold.” Comcast also has stripped Apple of distribution rights for a lot of NBC Universal content making it inaccessible to those who have previously purchased it. When I complained about this, they informed me there were other places I could find the content besides Apple. My response, I already paid for it. I was told they would look into it, and some content became available again. I only got a response from them because I filed a complaint with the FCC over their practices. More people should do the same.

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