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CenturyLink Announces Usage Caps; Conveniently Exempts Their Own Video Content

Phillip Dampier November 21, 2011 Broadband "Shortage", CenturyLink, Competition, Internet Overcharging, Online Video 4 Comments

CenturyLink announces their own Internet Overcharging scheme; customers call to cancel their service.

CenturyLink is quietly introducing usage caps for its broadband customers that will limit residential customers to between 150-250GB of usage per month.

The Internet Overcharging scheme was inserted into the company’s High Speed Internet Service Management disclosure page, and suggests heavy users are using an inappropriate amount of data, slowing down the network for other users:

The majority of CenturyLink High-Speed Internet customers make great use of their service and comply with the CenturyLink High-Speed Internet Subscriber Agreement. An extremely small percentage use their service excessively, or at such extreme high volumes, that they violate the terms of their CenturyLink High-Speed Internet Subscriber Agreement. While this high volume use is very rare, CenturyLink is committed to helping these customers find a high-speed Internet solution to better meet their needs.

CenturyLink is announcing the following Excessive Usage Policy (EUP), which will become effective in February 2012:

CenturyLink’s EUP applies to all residential high speed Internet customers and is only enforced in the downstream (from Internet to customer) direction. Video services provided by CenturyLink PRISM™ TV are not subject to the usage limits. The policy has the following usage limits per calendar month:

  • Customers purchasing service at speeds of 1.5Mbps and below, have a usage limit of 150 Gigabytes (GB) of download volume per month.
  • Customers purchasing service at speeds greater than 1.5Mbps, have a limit of 250GB in download volume per month.

There are no overage charges or metering fees for usage as part of the Policy.

The company exempts their own video service PRISM TV from the scheme.

“It’s another CenturyLink ripoff in action, and despite their claims that they treat all data the same, they certainly do not,” says CenturyLink customer Rob Cabella. “Their video programming is sent from local facilities, as data, down the same pipe as their broadband service, yet they conveniently leave their TV product out of the usage cap equation.”

Prism customers can watch unlimited TV, but face limited broadband usage over the exact same pipeline.

Cabella says PRISM operates much like AT&T’s U-verse.  Fiber provides service into individual neighborhoods and then standard copper phone lines deliver service the rest of the way to customer homes.

“It’s one pipe they divide up for video, phone, and Internet, but they are protecting their video service by limiting broadband use while leaving their television and phone service completely unlimited,” Cabella says.  “Video is the biggest bandwidth hog of all, and CenturyLink invites you to watch as much as you want, as long as it comes from them.”

Cabella thinks the very fact CenturyLink is offering unlimited video disproves their argument about ensuring appropriate levels of broadband usage.

“Their local facilities get overloaded to the point where they temporarily stop signing up customers, yet it’s a video free-for-all, as long as you get your video from ‘the right place’ and that sure isn’t Netflix or Hulu,” Cabella notes.

CenturyLink’s limits will apply to broadband customers signed up for PRISM or the company’s traditional DSL service.  Uploads will not count against the cap.

For the moment, overlimit fees will not be charged and the company will send warning letters to offenders that invite customers to migrate “to a higher speed if available or to a business grade data service that better fits their bandwidth usage.”

Customers who repeatedly exceed their usage limits after being notified may have their service discontinued.

Cabella isn’t waiting.

“I called my local cable company which still offers unlimited service and signed up this morning,” Cabella says. “CenturyLink didn’t even know what I was talking about when I called and said their website must have been hacked or in error.  Why would I want to do business with a company that doesn’t even have a clue what their own business is doing?  Goodbye CenturyLink.”

Currently there are 4 comments on this Article:

  1. Scott says:

    This anti-competitive behavior of CenturyLink treating data differently from competitors vs. their own video data is exactly the kind of abuse we need to get the FCC and government in general involved regulating the Telephone and Cable Industry.

    Caps and metering are out of control with overcharging and abusive pricing in many markets with duopolies.

    Competition since deregulating is virtually non-existant in the majority of markets, and those that try face near impossive odds to compete with regional telco or cable co’s that lobby or price them out of business before they have a chance.

    Now online services like Netflix, Amazon, VUDU, Google, etc are suffering due to the lack of any real network neutrality rules as their content which they’ve already paid the bandwidth for is being double charged to consumers with metered fees in order to extract more direct revenue or make the providers own video package more financially attractive with “free” delivery.

  2. Virux says:

    The problem is clear: the problem is that the system is expensive to run and maintain as it is. This should clear up the mystery of how such a small company could buy out a technology business like Qwest.

    I think if they’re going to do this, they need to isolate two different portions of their plan. They need payments that are parallel with 1) Bandwidth speed and 2) Bandwidth usage. I also think drawing the line at 1.5mb/s isn’t a good idea, the usage amount should be hiked up for each speed plan.

    As for their push towards their PRISM system, it’s probably a lot more efficient for them to use PRISM and stream it right from the ISP rather than having the video go through the ISP, to the Netflix server, and then have Netflix send the data back to you. Besides, you’re already paying for PRISM which pays for the extra bandwidth.

    I’m not going to be naive and assume that CenturyLink are money-hungry monsters who are trying to screw us. I just think the system Qwest built is losing money while offering competitive prices, and we’ll see what happens.

    Obviously if they do anything stupid, they’ll lose all their customers.

    I’m positive they don’t want that.

    • PRISM is not much different than AT&T U-verse. It is a fiber to the neighborhood system that reduces the amount of copper wire broadband signals have to travel, allowing existing wiring to support faster broadband speeds. PRISM hands you essentially a single broadband pipeline CenturyLink divides up for TV, phone, and broadband. It is really ALL just a data pipe. But CenturyLink has, for business reasons, not decided to meter video signals that come over its TV service. But they do limit your online video consumption.

      Data is data, bits are bits. They have decided their broadband service is ripe for customer pocket picking, so they engage in Internet Overcharging. Whether you watch Hawaii 5-0 over Hulu or PRISM’s TV service, it really makes little difference. But if you watched it over Hulu, you might decide it wasn’t worth paying PRISM for TV service. Hence the price and usage limiting disparity.

      • Virux says:

        PRISM isn’t the reason why you’re using fiber data pipes, if it’s in your area- and you don’t have PRISM, you’re still using fiber-optic channels beyond your homes copper wire. Qwest introduced fiber long before CenturyLink made the acquisition.

        All PRISM is, is a TV service streamed by CenturyLink. The only reason that they’re biased towards it, is because it’s more efficient to them if you watched PRISM instead of a Hulu or Netflix server which uses a lot more resources on their side; especially when there are hundreds of thousands of people streaming Hulu and Netflix in from different pipes, that’s a lot of traffic to handle opposed to one PRISM pipe branched off to each neighborhood. This is the reason why PRISM is unmetered, they’re encouraging you to use their own TV service which is more efficient for them to operate.

        I just don’t think the reason they’re creating limits is to monopolize their TV service, that’s all I’m saying. Regardless, I don’t think the way they implemented the limits was very thought out.

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