Comcast Forced To Back Off Broadband Cap Expansion... Until Next Year

from the how-gracious-of-you dept

Last November, Comcast quietly announced that the company would be expanding its bullshit broadband caps into the Northeast, one of the last Comcast territories where the restrictions hadn't been imposed yet. Of course Comcast was utterly tone deaf to the fact there was a historic health and economic crisis going on, or how imposing unnecessary surcharges on consumers already struggling to make rent wasn't a great look. In some states, like Massachusetts, lawmakers stood up to the regional monopoly, going so far as to push a law that would have banned usage caps during the pandemic.

After gaining some bad press for the behavior, Comcast initially delayed the efforts a few months, hoping that would appease folks. When it didn't, Comcast last week announced that it would be suspending the caps until 2022. This, according to Comcast, was to give consumers "more time to become familiar" with the restrictions:

"The ISP’s reasoning for the delay, according to the announcement, is that the company realizes that the “data plan was new for [its] customers in the Northeast,” and it wanted to “provid[e] them with more time to become familiar with the new plan.” This isn’t a courtesy the company extended to other states when it expanded the data caps to them (apart from the one or two “free” overage months). But to be fair, there also wasn’t a global pandemic going on during those rollouts."

The problem, as we've noted repeatedly, is that these restrictions shouldn't exist in the first place. The other problem, the pause only applies to the Northeast; the majority of Comcast markets already face such arbitrary limits, and will see no reprieve, pandemic or no. As such, delaying them is more about managing PR blowback than making any serious concession. It's theater.

There's no technical reason for such restrictions to exist on a fixed line network in 2021. The restrictions don't manage network bandwidth, something that can already be done with existing hardware. Such restrictions aren't financially necessary either; Comcast's flat-rate broadband margins are significant, and any "extremely heavy users" can already be shoved toward business-class tiers. Caps only have two real purposes: (1) to impose covert price hikes on uncompetitive markets without changing your advertised rates, and (2) as an anticompetitive weapon in the streaming wars.

As such, it's not entirely clear what Comcast wants these users to "get familiar with." Familiar with getting ripped off by a massive telecom monopoly that not only faces no real competition, but fairly feckless federal regulatory oversight? 83 million Americans have only the choice of one ISP. Federal regulators could either work tirelessly to drive more fiber-based competition to market (and no, neither 5G nor next-gen satellite are magic bullets), or they could step in to hold monopolies accountable in the absence of that competition. Here in the United States, we do neither. At least not consistently.

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Filed Under: broadband, broadband cap, competition, data cap
Companies: comcast


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  • identicon
    Make this a real law, 25 Feb 2021 @ 6:47am

    Here's an idea

    In a just and decent world, any provider company that hits saturation within their networks should (by law) prioritize investment in equipment upgrades and personal additions before any shareholders take a penny.

    Caps are NOT a real thing.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2021 @ 7:15am

      Re: Here's an idea

      From what I have read, there is no saturation as their networks are not overloaded and have plenty of capacity, maybe that has changed but I doubt it. Caps are simply a money grab in my opinion.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2021 @ 6:56am

    This is a disaster! Investment in network buildout will plummet! Plague and unemployment will stalk the land! Comcast will be forced to raise prices for everyone--especially for people of color and inadequate means!--in order to sustain the executive bonuses to which they have become accustomed! Racial tensions will escalate! Comcast apologists will spam Techdirt!

    Go Ahead. Laugh. It's already beginning. And it is, of course, all Mike's fault. Personally, I hate everyone--so I just stopped by on my daily promenade around the internet, to remind them that I don't care anyway.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2021 @ 8:58am

    Fight the bully now, or he'll just keep taking your lunch money.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2021 @ 9:08am

    Maybe I'm too simplistic.
    Maybe something good might actually come from data caps.
    Maybe data caps will prevent the success of self driving cars.
    I'd rather pay for data caps than pay for (rent) self driving cars.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2021 @ 9:10am

    At the end of the day, aren't flying taxi's really just gyro-copters?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2021 @ 9:12am

    and any "extremely heavy users" can already be shoved toward business-class tiers

    Advocating this makes you no better than companies like Comcast. Why should users be pressured to upgrade to a business-class account (or any other service / account really) for fully utilizing what is being paid for?

    It's not the users' fault that the unlimited X Megabit/sec the users' are paying for cannot handle the traffic 24/7/365.

    Comcast has its models and if users' habits deviate from those models, that's Comcast's problem. It needs to update its models and invest accordingly in its networks.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2021 @ 9:31am

    When you're nearing rock bottom, there's nothing left to do but raise prices, or get a face tat, or pose for Playboy.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Feb 2021 @ 1:19pm

    Perhaps one needs to ask what the fsck is wrong with the courts in this nation.

    QI is handed out like free mints to cops who do horrific things then claim we didn't know forcing a baton into someones ass was violating their rights...

    A court ruled that a market of 1 is a competitive market.

    DoubleThink... its been here for a while.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2021 @ 2:49pm

    any "extremely heavy users" can already be shoved toward business-class tiers.

    Please explain the difference between this rationale and usage caps.

    Keep in mind that there are specific benefits that business-class tiers have that "residential broadband" does not - the primary one being speed, allowing for simultaneous devices. There may be others, such as fixed IP addresses, port availability, etc. If the customer is satisfied with the (advertised) residential rates, why should they be forced to a business account?

    But none of these matter if Comcast isn't even providing you the residential speed you are paying for.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2021 @ 6:53pm

    just like ...

    Just like boiling a frog... you just get them familiar with the increasingly warming temperature and they don't even notice when they're boiling :)

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


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