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Blue Ridge Communications Rations Internet Usage With Hard Usage Caps

blue-ridgeA tiny cable company serving communities around the Blue Mountain in eastern Pennsylvania has a big appetite for rationing Internet usage by imposing data caps and overlimit fees on their 170,000 customers.

Effective Sept. 1, Blue Ridge dropped off-peak unlimited use service and imposed a 24-hour rationing plan on its customers, including a familiar overlimit fee of $10 per 50GB of excess usage — the same fee created by AT&T and adopted by several other cable and phone companies.

Customers on the lowest priced plans are most at risk of encountering overlimit fees, which most providers claim are designed to make heavy users pay more for access. In the past, the company maintained rarely enforced “soft caps” and off-peak unlimited usage starting at 5pm. The “hard caps” arrived Sept. 1 with claims the company generously doubled the allowance for some customers, without mentioning it also eliminated off-peak unlimited usage. In terms of “fairness,” the heaviest users signed up to the fastest speed tiers get the most generous allowances while those at lower-price tiers are most likely to encounter an overlimit penalty fee:

  • Web Surfer $42.95 (1.5Mbps Download/384kbps Upload) – 150GB per month (no change)
  • G5 $52.95 (5Mbps/384kbps) – 300GB per month (was 250GB)
  • G10 $57.95 (10Mbps/800kbps) – 400GB per month (was 250GB)
  • G15 $67.95  (15/2Mbps) – 500GB per month (was 250GB)
  • Dream 60 $84.95 (60/3Mbps) – 600GB per month (was 250GB)
  • Dream 100 $124.95 (100/5Mbps) – 700GB per month (was 250GB)
Blue Ridge Communications is headquartered in Palmerton, Pa.

Blue Ridge Communications is headquartered in Palmerton, Pa.

To avoid a higher bill, customers will have to check a company-sponsored, unverified usage meter on Blue Ridge’s website and be ready to upgrade to a more costly Internet plan. Blue Ridge customers already pay substantially more for Internet service than other customers pay in the region. A Comcast subscriber in eastern Pennsylvania now pays $29.99 a month for the first 12 months of 25Mbps service, after which the price increases to as much as $66.95 a month. A less expensive 6Mbps tier costs $49.95 from Comcast, and a much faster 150Mbps tier is also available for $78.95, $46 less than what Blue Ridge charges for service that is 50Mbps slower.

“It’s no dream at 60 or 100Mbps, it’s a straight up gouging nightmare wrapped in greed and lies,” says Stop the Cap! reader Thomas, who lives in Palmerton and calls Blue Ridge’s parent company a local media and entertainment dictatorship. “My friends and relatives are stunned when I tell them one local company controls cable, telephone, wireless, the newspaper and the local news channel. It’s all Pencor through and through.”

Pencor Services, Inc., (Pennsylvania ENtertainment, COmmunications and Recreation) holds a unique position in eastern Pennsylvania. The rural character of the region has allowed Pencor to own and operate a large number of media and telecommunications companies. Pencor owns both Blue Ridge Communications — the cable operator and two local phone companies — Palmerton Telephone and the Blue Ridge Telephone Company. DSL service is offered, but it is “powered by” PenTeleData, another Pencor-owned operation. Wireless service is provided by Pencor-owned Pencor Wireless. In certain other markets, phone companies like Frontier Communications offer some competition, mostly low-speed DSL.

Pencor and its businesses have a substantial presence throughout the Blue Mountains region.

Pencor and its businesses have a substantial presence throughout the Blue Mountain region.

Residents get much of their local news from BRC TV-13, the local news channel on the Blue Ridge system serving Carbon, Monroe, Wayne & Pike counties and parts of Lehigh, Schuylkill, Northampton and Berks counties. BRC TV-11 provides local news on the Blue Ridge system serving Northern Lancaster County. Both stations are also owned by Pencor. So is the Lehigh Valley Press and the Times News newspaper operations.

A Facebook group has been organized to fight Blue Ridge on its new data caps.

A Facebook group has been organized to fight Blue Ridge over its new data caps.

Coverage of the usage cap imposition and customer reaction to it, best characterized as hostile, came from media not owned by Pencor.

Milfordnow! reported “when analyzing similar cap programs that have been implemented by other cable companies, it is apparent that bills may be rising substantially for heavy users.”

The cable company countered it expected only 3% of customers to affected by the new caps, which has some customers wondering why they need them at all.

“You have to wonder if caps affect almost nobody, why do companies spend so much time and energy imposing them,” said Thomas.

“Everything from downloads to YouTube, Netflix and even online gaming count against their new 24-hour cap,” Milford resident John Ferry III told the Pocono Record, reporting his latest bill was about $46 over previous charges. “They are telling people they have doubled the cap, but this is not true. By removing the off-peak time, which was essentially a free period, there is no math that makes it double.”

Blue Ridge customers have begun to organize a pushback against the data caps through a new Stop Blue Ridge Cable Data Caps Facebook page.

Currently there are 15 comments on this Article:

  1. Doug says:

    I opened a complaint with the BBB when they went from 60GB during peak for the G15 (15down/2up) to a 250GB monthly cap. After complaining to the BBB they went back to only capping during peak hours but at the higher cap (250GB).

    I suggest everyone else affected should open complaints with the local BBB:

  2. Lani says:

    I had no idea they were making changes. Until I just received a message stating I reached 90%. We don’t have another broadband company in the poconos. I will be filing a complaint with the BBB also.

    • Jackie says:

      Last week received an email, this week they said I am at 90%. Never had this problem before. Called the company and they told me internet usage goes from the 1st of the month to the 31st. My bill goes from the 23rd to the 23rd. I asked them to cut it before it hits 100%. She claimed they can’t. Blue Ridge is just trying to screw the customers out of more money. If yu start Class Action suit count me in!

  3. Luigi says:

    Let’s start a class action lawsuit

    • barbara says:

      I go with you all

    • Dahlia says:

      If you do let me know, I will join. They try to say I used 865GB in one month and charged me an extra 20$ for overages. That is BS, there is no way in hell I used that much, not even if I streamed videos all day and night for 30 days. 1 GB for one hour of streaming on standard (non-hd) videos. 1gbx24hrs=24gb 24gbsx30days=720gbs therefore if I stream standard (which I do) 24 hours a day for 30 days I would have only used 720 gbs of data. Which I do not. I only stream at night when laying in bed. Any other data is simple facebook or browsing the web to read things.It is impossible I used 865gb in less then 30 days. I want to sue the living crap out of them. I wonder how to start a lawsuit like that.

  4. Thrawn05 says:

    I didn’t know about this until I got the email. I’m close to hitting my limit because I had to reload two computers. Learning about Pencor really open my eyes and boiled my blood.

  5. Jeff says:

    This is so disconcerting. We are getting GOUGED. I called Verizon today (concerning FIOS) and put in a request to have fiber optic available at our residence. It’s a 6-12 mo. waiting period for approval. Not sure if anything will come of it, but it’s better than nothing. I’ll be calling them periodically to check on my status. Will also be contacting BBB about Blue Ridge.

    • Paul says:

      We should all start pestering Verizon for a little FIOS for the holidays. I sure could use some FIOS with 3 tech. savvy kids in the house.

      OK its not funny!!

      What are our options? anyone have any ideas? I am all for a class action suit.

  6. Ryan says:

    just filed a BBB complaint as well.

  7. barbara says:

    let me know what you are doing

  8. Jesse Messenger says:

    Sign this petition to make real change: https://www.change.org/p/blue-ridge-communications-blue-ridge-communications-remove-the-data-cap – if they don’t lsiten, let’s bring the battle to city hall. PA needs Anti-Trust laws.

  9. Tony says:

    Data caps have been updated. Better, but still annoying.

    Web Surfer – 200GB
    G5 – 450GB
    G10 – 550GB
    G15 – 700GB
    Dream 60 – 800GB
    Dream 100 – 1000GB (1 TB)

  10. De Saponara says:

    Will file a bbb complaint. Blue Ridge absolutely needs to lower their prices all around so people can afford. They will lose customers!

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