Lawmakers Complain About Comcast's Bullshit Expanded Usage Caps

from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

Last November, Comcast announced it would be expanding its bullshit usage caps and overage fees into the Northeast. For years, the Northeast had avoided the utterly pointless cash grab that is broadband usage caps because Comcast faced at least a tiny bit of competition from (uncapped) Verizon FiOS. But as federal and state regulators have grown more toothless and pathetic, Comcast's eagerness to expand the surcharges has only grown.

Reminder: Comcast's own internal memos have indicated such restrictions don't manage congestion or serve any valid technical or financial purpose. They're a glorified price hike on captive customers, and Comcast's decision to expand them (in addition to a bevy of other price hikes and fee increases) during a pandemic isn't being taken particularly well by lawmakers like Massachusetts State Rep. Andy Vargas:

"Rep. Vargas said it’s just a money grab. “Are they seeing increased cost as a business because people are using more data? And the answer to that question is no."

Comcast continues to push the claim that the caps are no big deal because only a few customers will hit the 1.2 terabyte monthly restrictions. But with entire households quarantined and hoovering up bandwidth during work Zoom calls and home education, that's simply not true. Usage has soared during the pandemic, and U.S. consumers already pay some of the highest prices for bandwidth in the developed world. Flat rate broadband has proven hugely profitable, and greed is the only thing driving this latest expansion.

Comcast wants folks hung up in a debate over whether "1 terabyte is fair," and not discussing why these confusing and arbitrary charges are being imposed in the first place, a ploy at least a few lawmakers, like Vargas, are seeing through:

"Rep. Vargas is not convinced. “This data cap is arbitrary, and there’s no reason for them to put this in place right now,” he said."

Vargas was one of a dozen Massachusetts legislators who "strongly urged" Comcast to reverse course during the pandemic:

"It is inconceivable that that Comcast would chose to impose this 'cap and fee' plan during a pandemic, when many Massachusetts residents are forced to work and attend school form home via the internet," the legislators said. "The last thing our consumers need is to worry about paying more for the same quality of service."

The question then becomes: what are lawmakers actually going to do about it? Telecom monopolies like AT&T and Comcast are powerful enough that they've effectively neutered any meaningful oversight on both the state and federal level. They're politically powerful enough that they literally get to write state law, usually with an eye on hamstringing competition. They were so politically powerful, they convinced the FCC to effectively self-immolate via the net neutrality repeal based on a bunch of bullshit data points that had been debunked for years.

Either we care about holding natural monopolies accountable or we don't, and based on the fact that Comcast will likely see zero penalty for price gouging during an historic health and economic crisis, it's not particularly complex math to determine which side of that line the United States falls on.

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Filed Under: andy vargas, broadband, competition, data cap, overage fees, usage cap
Companies: comcast


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 6:34am

    Oh man, if only they had the power to do anything about it.

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 7:13am

    Let me translate that for you...

    the phrase "lawmakers complain about company"

    actually means

    "See what I can do when your campaign checks don't arrive on time?"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 7:13am

    A year ago I was spending $280 a month on Comcast. That was for internet (their cheapest), phone, and TV. Most of it went to TV though. I finally cut the cord though. What really inspired me to do so was when I was watching a movie that had a good song over the ending credits and Showtime decided I didn't want to hear that song and ran a commercial instead.

    After I cancelled the phone and TV, Comcast actually called me up to ask me why. I told them straight up it was because I didn't see the value any more. I was watching streaming more and more often, and the ability to subscribe and unsubscribe pretty much on the fly means I can watch what I want (with a few exceptions) for much, much less. I saved at least a thousand dollars last year by eliminating TV and my landline.

    But one of the things I did do was increase my internet speeds to Comcast's 1 gigabit service. And I love it. It's worth the $120 a month I pay for it, but if they start nickel and diming me for using too much, I'm going to cut it back to what it was before. And I'll tell them exactly that.

    And I hate Comcast for keeping that sword of Damocles hanging over my head because otherwise I've had great service from them. And I live in an apartment complex with hundreds of units, and yet I almost never have outages or slowdowns. If they want to raise prices, then they should do so (and they have. My bill was $3 higher this month). But don't sell me a service and then tell me I can't use it.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 5 Jan 2021 @ 8:19am

    I Imagine their costs have probably gone down now that they have more people working from home. Perfect time to increase prices to make extra profit!

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

  • icon
    David B (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 8:50am

    They don't even have their act together on this

    Here's an email I sent to a "regulatory lawyer" whose address I found on their web site. Don't know if it will have any impact, but made me happy.

    Today I got an email from Comcast that said:

    "So far, you’ve used 75% of the data included in your plan for December 2020. We’re letting you know because your bill can be impacted if you go over your 1TB (1024 GB) plan.

    "As a courtesy, we waive overage fees for the first two months you exceed your data plan each year. You have courtesy month(s) left. Keep in mind that after you used all of your courtesy months for the year, you’ll be charged $10, plus tax, for every 50 GB of data you use over 1TB, up to a maximum of $200."

    When I clicked the link to "Monitor and Track my usage" the page says I have :

    "267GB remaining of 1229GB monthly plan (December 01 - December 31)."

    When I then clicked the link that goes to this page https://www.xfinity.com/learn/internet-service/data, the page says

    "Customers who use more than 1.2 TB of data in a month for the first time will not be billed for exceeding the limit. After that, blocks of 50 GB will automatically be added to your account for an additional fee of $10 each plus tax. Charges will not exceed $100 each month, no matter how much data you use."

    So....

    1) Is the monthly maximum $200 per the email, or $100 per the web site pages?

    2) How many bytes, actually, is the cap? Is it "1TB (1,024 GB)" per the email, or or "1,229 GB" per the first web site, or 1.2 TB per the second web page?

    3) Court decisions and various international standards debate the exact meaning of abbreviations like "GB" and "TB", but it seems that US law has come to use decimal meanings for the abbreviations (GB = 1,000,000,000), so the binary version (1,024,000,000) would be referred to by the international standard codes like "GiB" and "TiB".

    As for me, I think I'll save this email for contacting Customer Service in case I get billed extra. :)

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 9:13am

    Whatever happened to anti-gouging laws?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 9:34am

    so, instead of complaining about them, how's about getting off your fucking wankers and doing something about them? all you people do is make out that your upset, while in the next breath, your doing whatever's needed to get Congress to throw $millions more at them, even though you know full well, it'll promise everything and give nothing!!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      Yeah, that's what we're all doing. By the same premise, why don't you shut your fucking yap, as your comments complaining at authors or commenters here have absolutely zero effect on the situation. But thanks for playing.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 1:51pm

        Re: Re:

        You could, you know, send mail to your federal Senator and Representative, explaining your position. Or, you could snark back at someone trying to encourage such communication.

        Neither may result in action, but I'm sure one or the other will make someone feel better about it.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 3:43pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "so, instead of complaining about them, how's about ..."

          ".. send mail to your federal Senator and Representative"

          Title of Article: Lawmakers Complain About Comcast's Bullshit Expanded Usage Caps

          LOL

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

  • identicon
    Chris Brand, 5 Jan 2021 @ 10:14am

    inconceivable?

    ""It is inconceivable that that Comcast would chose to impose this 'cap and fee' plan during a pandemic" - You keep using that word, I don't think you know what it means.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 1:59pm

      Re: inconceivable?

      Huh. Are they using the same data rates that we are using?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 3:57pm

      Re: inconceivable?

      inconceivable adj. the state of constantly calling something one thing to distract or mislead others from the reality.

      Example: A politician being called stupid to distract from their willful and malicious intent is called "inconceivable" by their political supporters.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 10:16am

    As if Comcast pays per packet or byte.

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

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 7:08pm

    They were so politically powerful, they convinced the FCC to effectively self-immolate....

    I do so wish that someone, anyone, would cite for me the Chapter and Verse where it says that the FCC gets to abdicate its mandated responsibilities, without repercussions.

    Oh, wait... This is the era of #45, where responsibility is a curse word. Crap, I momentarily forgot what year it was. Sorry everyone, please forget this request and carry on.

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


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