While Comcast has always argued that only a small percentage of customers would hit their monthly data caps, the complaints filed to the FCC about these new policies sure seem to tell another story.
There were 7,904 consumer complaints to the FCC about data caps in the second half of 2015, almost 10x the first half of the year, which saw only 863 respectively.
Many consumers in areas where Comcast is “testing” out a new system that limits subscribers to 300GB data caps (Comcast also doesn’t want consumers using that phrase) are being hit with overage charges on a monthly basis. It didn’t take long for the average consumer to hit these caps through regular streaming usage as noted by The Wall Street Journal’s latest story covering recent trends in cord cutting.
The story recaps several average consumers who are left without other options except subscribing to television service again in order to avoid data usage, paying for the overages at about $30 extra a month, or lastly slimming down their data consumption.
Marcien Jenckes, Comcast’s executive vice president of consumer services says, “people who are consuming the most should carry more of the bill rather than raise everybody’s bill by the same amount.” But of course the lighter users who don’t ever get anywhere near the data caps certainly aren’t given a discount, which under this logic would only be fair, right?
Interestingly too, companies like Comcast aren’t counting their own streaming video options against data caps, meaning only third party services like Netflix are getting consumers in trouble. For those interested in understanding more about net neutrality, this is a great example of a violation of such principles.
It appears the FCC is watching closely though, as in order to get the Charter / Time Warner Cable merger approved, the companies had to agree to a minimum three years of not trying to impose data caps on consumers. The WSJ is also reporting that the FCC is hoping to extend this timeline even further.
The FCC is clearly concerned about monopolistic practices when it comes to cable internet providers and if these services continue to create predatory policies, it seems likely that more regulation will be necessary, or more likely, incentives for competition.
Update: If you’re looking to file a complaint, Eric Ravenscraft at Lifehacker has put together a very handy guide here.
Do you have data caps in your territory? Do you go over them and if so how quickly each month? Let us know in the comments below.