Comcast data cap blasted by lawmakers as it expands into 12 more states

The back of a Comcast van driving along a street in Sunnyvale, California.
Enlarge / A Comcast van in Sunnyvale, California, in November 2018.

Dozens of state lawmakers from Massachusetts urged Comcast to halt enforcement of its 1.2TB month-to-month information cap, saying the cap hurts low-income individuals in the course of the pandemic and is pointless due to Comcast’s wholesome community capability.

“Community capability is just not a problem for Comcast or a legitimate excuse to cost clients extra,” 71 state lawmakers wrote in the letter final week, sooner or later earlier than Comcast introduced its information cap to Massachusetts and different states the place it wasn’t already enforced. “Comcast itself claims it has loads of capability throughout its community, together with areas the place no caps are at the moment imposed… It’s inconceivable that Comcast would select to impose this ‘cap and payment’ plan throughout a pandemic, when many Massachusetts residents are compelled to work and attend college from dwelling by way of the Web.”

The letter mentioned the lawmakers “strongly urge Comcast to discontinue this plan, and to rethink any future makes an attempt at imposing a knowledge cap or any perversion of the ideas of internet neutrality in Massachusetts.” The lawmakers additionally identified a press release by Comcast government Tony Werner, who said the elevated broadband site visitors attributable to the pandemic “has all been inside the functionality of the community.”

Comcast expanded its 1.2TB month-to-month information cap to its entire 39-state territory this month after 4 years of imposing the cap in 27 of these states. In addition to Massachusetts, newly capped areas embrace Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Extra customers exceeding 1.2TB monthly

The letter to Comcast Senior VP Mark Reilly, spearheaded by Democratic state Reps. Andy Vargas and Dave Rogers, disputed Comcast’s declare {that a} 1.2TB cap solely impacts a really small subset of shoppers it calls “tremendous customers.” The lawmakers wrote:

Comcast claims that its deliberate information cap will solely have an effect on a handful of shoppers which can be excessive information customers, nonetheless, Web customers are utilizing higher quantities of Web information yearly. In 2016, Comcast itself estimated that simply 1 p.c of shoppers used 1 terabyte of knowledge or extra a month. Nonetheless, latest statements by Comcast point out that 5 occasions as many purchasers are actually exceeding its deliberate 1.2 terabyte threshold. Ongoing studies additionally present a rising variety of customers are exceeding these arbitrary caps, forcing them to pay unjustified overlimit charges or subscribe to a expensive limitless plan for as a lot as $30 extra a month.

Comcast prices an additional $30 monthly for limitless information, or $25 for the “xFi Full” add-on bundle that features the Comcast gateway machine and limitless information. Prospects who do not improve to limitless information and exceed the 1.2TB cap should pay $10 for every further block of 50GB, as much as a most of $100 every month. Comcast is phasing within the prices regularly, so clients in newly capped areas may begin getting overage prices for his or her April 2021 utilization.

Overage charges increase digital divide

Broadband affordability was an issue for low-income households even earlier than the pandemic, and imposing information caps and overage charges will make it worse, the lawmakers advised Comcast.

“Web affordability is a rising concern that places much-needed Web service out of attain of low‐revenue residents, many who’re additionally from communities of colour,” they wrote. “Getting into the COVID-19 pandemic, almost one-quarter of Massachusetts’ Gateway City households didn’t have a subscription Web service at dwelling. Further charges and caps will solely embolden the digital divide that exists for low-income households and communities of colour within the Commonwealth.”

The lawmakers additionally wrote that “Massachusetts has skilled the largest relative increase of food-insecure people within the nation on account of COVID-19, and has suffered a few of [the] highest unemployment rates within the nation. The very last thing our constituents want is to fret about paying extra for a similar high quality of Web service.”

Comcast does supply a $10 monthly Internet plan to qualifying low-income households, and the corporate has been praised by consumer advocates for improving and expanding this system in the course of the pandemic. Comcast additionally temporarily waived its information cap because of the pandemic beginning in March 2020 however reinstated the cap in July.

“A really small share”

We contacted Comcast concerning the letter right now and can replace this text if we get a response. Comcast offered a statement to WCVB, an area information station, reiterating its stance that the cap impacts solely “a really small share” of shoppers “as a result of 1.2TB is an enormous quantity of knowledge.”

“Our information plan is structured in a method that the very small share of our clients who use greater than 1.2TB of month-to-month information and generate the best demand for community growth and capability pay extra for his or her elevated utilization. For these tremendous customers, we have now limitless information choices obtainable,” Comcast mentioned. Comcast additionally identified that it’s giving 60 days of free service to new clients who qualify for the low-income program, that it’s “waiving the requirement of not having again debt due so extra households can apply,” and making Wi-Fi hotspots obtainable to the general public without cost.

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