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Cox’s Data Limbo Dance: Slashes “Ultimate” Allowance in Half, Lies About Why

Phillip Dampier June 9, 2016 Broadband "Shortage", Consumer News, Cox, Data Caps, Public Policy & Gov't 10 Comments
Cox's data plan limbo dance. How low can they go?

Cox’s data plan limbo dance. How low can they go?

Cox Communications has cut by half the data usage allowance of one of its fastest broadband plans targeting so-called “heavy users,” exposing unsuspecting customers to expensive overlimit fees, while claiming usage caps are now mandated by law.

Stop the Cap! reader John C. wrote to tell us he discovered his allowance for Cox’s “Ultimate” Plan, delivering 200/20Mbps, has been slashed from 2,000GB to 1,000GB, with little warning except in an obscure support FAQ.

“About 95% of Cox customers are currently on a data plan that more than adequately meets the monthly needs of their household,” Cox claimed. “However, some households, particularly those with multiple Internet users that enjoy streaming TV or movies, may want to select an Internet package with a larger data plan. That is why we offer plans for all types of users so you can choose what is best for your household.”

The plan that most customers want is a flat rate, unlimited-use plan, one that Cox has unilaterally decided to stop offering. Just as bad: targeting the most widely available premium plan for a major usage allowance cut with no explanation whatsoever. It’s bad news for John, who says after paying Cox their asking price for Ultimate service, he cannot afford to also pay overage fees on top of that (currently $10 for each 50GB allotment, charged only in the Cleveland, Oh. area for now).

Customers who contact Cox and complain about their usage caps or allowance changes are being told false fables by Cox’s customer service specialists, who claim data caps are now the law in the United States.

Here is an example of an actual support session with Cox employees, (emphasis ours, edited (…) for brevity):

cox say noYou: I also learned that you have internet data cap?

Jenna: Data limits were implemented by the FCC in 2011. By law, we have to have them. If you exceed the limit for 3 consecutive months, you will be contacted to discuss your options for upgrading.

You: FCC? can you send me details about that

[…]

Jenna: As I mentioned, there’s no fee for exceeding those limits. If you exceed the limit for 3 consecutive months, you will be contacted to discuss your options for upgrading. You can save a copy of this chat transcript for your records if you wish.

Jenna: I can also get you over to Customer Care for more information.

You: so why would you mention FCC rules then?

Jenna: Because you asked about our data limits.

Jenna: That’s why we have them.

You: Sure so can you tell me what FCC rule from 2011 you are referrind to?

Jenna: Sure, I’ll get you the link to the FCC website.

[…]

Jenna: Sure thing. Allow me a moment to get you over to Customer Care chat for further information about our Data Caps policies, and why we have them.

[…]

Christian O.: I see, well our Internet packages have a data usage limit however if you exceed that limit we won’t downgrade your speed or restrict your access to Internet or charge you more.

Christian O.: I think I found some information on the date usage and the FCC on 2011. One moment, please.

You: but it says right there that you will cahrge $10 for 50GB after I reach data cap

You: And FCC is very strict about data caps

Christian O.: Give me a moment to check something.

You: ok thanks

Christian O.: If you exceed your data plan, Cox may notify you by email to alert you. Your service will not be interrupted if you choose to stay on your existing package except in the rare cases of excessive usage. In those extremely rare situations, Cox may suspend service after attempting to resolve the issue.

Christian O.: Cox is conducting a limited data usage trial in Cleveland, Ohio. In all other markets, Cox does not currently charge additional fees if your data plan is exceeded.

You: what you are doing with data caps / usage is illegal

You: But please send me the FCC rule from 2011 that Jenna and you mention

You: “Jenna: Data limits were implemented by the FCC in 2011. By law, we have to have them.”

Christian O.: I don’t have such rule that talks about that. Do you have the rule where it says that is illegal?

Christian O.: Just asking.

[…]

Christian O.: Honestly I don’t have any idea about the rule that Jenna was speaking about. Let me go ask my supervisor. One moment, please.

[…]

Christian O.: Unfortunately we couldn’t find any information about that rule established by the FCC.

To clarify, the FCC neither has rules for or against data caps. It has remained neutral on the subject, although FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler recently advocated imposing a moratorium on data caps or usage billing for up to seven years as a condition of approving Charter Communications’ acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Here are Cox’s current data plans, which are effective for all residential customers. However, only customers in Cleveland will face penalties for exceeding them at this time.

Package Monthly Included Data Speeds

Download / Upload

Starter 200 GB 5 Mbps / 1 Mbps
Essential 250 GB 15 Mbps / 2 Mbps
Preferred 350 GB 50 Mbps / 5 Mbps
Premier 700 GB 100 Mbps / 10 Mbps
Ultimate 1000 GB 200 Mbps / 20 Mbps
Gigablast (Where Available) 2000 GB 1 Gbps / 1 Gbps

Currently there are 10 comments on this Article:

  1. Len G says:

    “The plan that most customers want is a flat rate, unlimited-use plan, one that Cox has unilaterally decided to stop offeringThe plan that most customers want is a flat rate, unlimited-use plan, one that Cox has unilaterally decided to stop offering”

    Then it’s time we stop using Cox.

    I’m all for data caps.. for the ISP, and a reverse cap at that (more like a minimum). Customers should have a guaranteed “right” to 1000gb (min) and 100 Mb/s for NO MORE THAN $50. Doubling price doubles the Mb/s and cap as well. This can happen if it is legislated. Wake up congress.

  2. Andy W says:

    I’d love to hear why caps are lower for people who pay for slower service. What does speed have to do with delivery capacity? Looks like people who can’t afford fast service will be juiced if they want to watch Netflix.

  3. Emily H says:

    I am in Kansas and for YEARS I have paid starting at $50.00 to currently $64.99 as of my bill Feb.10. 2017 ( looking at my bill right in front of me) and I have for all these years got 50gb we had 3 choices my plan, next one up was $79 and the highest for unlimited was $99. Also let me mention, no where on this current bill does it mention data restrictions! And cruising through Wal-Mart the other day the Cox table set up to get people to sign up with all kinds of information in NONE of them do they mention the data restrictions!

  4. Jonathan says:

    Emily H. There absolutely has been data caps for a long time now. They do not list the data caps on your bill. The data cap for your service can be found by logging into your account. I have subscribed to Cox ultimate for many years now, and was and have had a 2000 Gb data cap for the past year. Out of no where, I got the below email from Cox stating my data cap for ultimate would be cut in half and that I will now have to pay if we go over. Based on my household usage, we usually use around 1000 GB of data, so this could have a great impact. Before this change, we were utilizing half our allotted data each month. Now, we could be looking at incurring additional monthly fees by using the same amount of data. That is ridiculous! All these years, Cox usually makes improvements where they provide faster speeds and higher data caps. Now they want to reduce them, but cut them in HALF???!! This is ridiculous, especially for someone who has been a customer for 16 years. I will now be shopping for a different ISP.

    Dear Jonathan,

    We are writing to inform you of an upcoming change to Cox High Speed Internet service in your area related to data usage.

    Your Cox High Speed Internet service currently includes a data plan of 1 TB (1,024 GB). Beginning 07/06/2017, if you exceed your monthly data plan we will automatically provide additional blocks of data for $10 per 50 gigabytes (GB), as needed.

    To help you get accustomed to this change, you will be provided a grace period for your first two billing cycles after the effective date. You will not be charged if you exceed your data plan during this grace period.

  5. Shari Douglass says:

    What can we do? Do we have a leg to stand on legally? I received the same message Jonathon received. I had a long chat online. With no resolve. I told them to have a supervisor or someone fro. Their legal team to call me. Ha! I have no idea what to say when they call, but this is crap! They think customer’s are going to just roll over and take this. On top of the message the same as Jonathon’ s they have also raised our rate by $18 in 2 months!!! What the crap?!

  6. I am writing about this today so keep an eye on our home page. If you folks are in Phoenix, I’d assemble a group of 10+ people, find a day when it isn’t 120 degrees out, and picket Cox’s local office. I can put you in touch with some of the local media there who I guarantee would love to cover such a spectacle. This is how we got Time Warner Cable to back down and ditch caps in 2009. It didn’t take hundreds of people.

    TV coverage is VERY bad news for a gouging cable company. Corporate finds out and rings the alarm bells. But TV needs pictures. A protest attracts TV, which also usually attracts politicians who then attract TV again, then Cox comes out with their dog and pony show of lies and nonsense, which enrages more customers who can be encouraged to picket again, which starts the TV coverage again and then the heat isn’t just felt on the sidewalk.

    The reason these companies get away with this stuff is that people usually gripe on a forum and that is it. They don’t spend an hour protesting in front of the cable company with TV cameras and newspapers covering every juicy moment. When they do, it quickly becomes apparent that such usage cap programs are not worth the bad publicity and potential involvement of politicians, and they ditch them. But if folks sit back and just let “someone else” do the work, nobody does and the caps stay.

    I say this from personal experience and was standing next to Sen. Chuck Schumer on the cable company’s front lawn when Time Warner realized the error of their ways and dropped their compulsory cap experiment and they have never been back since. It always surprises me why others don’t follow this when their own cable companies start gouging.

    If you don’t like your internet bill now, just wait. Wall Street, which loves data caps, also wants customers paying at least $90-95 a month for internet access, and companies are gradually raising prices to get to that level. We should be there within the next two years.

  7. John N says:

    Internet datacaps are rolling out all over the country. Comcast and Cox Communications are setting the bar at 1 Terabyte a month before additional fees are incurred at a rate of $10 per 50 gigabytes.
    For the record, 50 gigabytes is the top end size of a 4k film at this point so you would be paying 10 dollars for every 4k movie you watched, or approximately that much for 8 hours of 4k Youtube streaming.
    Who will this affect the most? As society grows our interrelationships are largely dependent upon our ability to relate to each other, and in an information age relating is often done through shared digital experiences. Are you watching the same show as someone else? Did you see this movie? Did you catch that podcast? Did you hear the latest Billy Idol song? Have you ever seen the look of disappointment on someone’s face when you said that you hadn’t seen something they loved? That brief feeling of isolation from that person, or the inability to relate to them?

    Most of these are just entertainment issues and represent your average consumption of data. With the advent and rollout of 4k content these streams become substantially larger, and Comcast as well have Cox have stated that these datacaps only impact about 1% of their customer base. That was true last year when their studies were done and the majority of the country hadn’t adopted the technology yet. Now 4k is poised to spring on the market. The next gen gaming consoles will all support 4k streaming to ensure they are the media center of the living room. TV’s themselves are cheaper and often support streams through relatively cheap peripherals like the 4k Chromecast, Nvidia Shield. It will be difficult to stay under a 1 Terabyte limit at that point for any household.

    Now what happens when you have a larger family? More users, more streams of data, faster consumption of the service and data cap. They might not all be streaming 4k but when you are talking about multiple devices streaming simultaneously it’s relatively easy to reach 1TB rather quickly. It’s almost like a datacap on home usage targets specific types of households with larger families, or students who regularly consume streams of data to supplement their education. The argument could be made that datacaps like this target the uneducated, and the middle to lower income households. It used to be that staying in and watching a movie was the cheap alternative to going out for a night on the town, but my data usage each month is approximately 5 Terabytes, so I would be looking at a $900 bill each month. Maybe a cheap night out on the town for a few hundred dollars would be a better alternative for my family, to help reign in some of that data expenditure.

    Do we want our internet providers to dictate your educational opportunities? Your ability to relate to society? Maybe you might think twice about having that next kid, after all are you sure you can afford one more stream of data to a healthy growing mind? Do you really want your internet company to affect the safety of your home and family if you can’t check the streams on the cameras that you had hooked up for while you were at work those long nights? Is this really the direction we are going?

    • Don Mockaitis says:

      Time to go to the Public Library and watch their DVD’s. Here where I live they will also do an inter–library loan for them. Also read more free books at the library. Another thing is to start sharing clubs at work or at church or at school swapping movies you have purchased as your investment in the club. Say Nyet to the greedy f–ks. (folks?).

    • Don Mockaitis says:

      Time to go to the Public Library and watch their DVD’s. Here where I live they will also do an inter–library loan for them. Also read more free books at the library. Another thing is to start sharing clubs at work or at church or at school swapping movies you have purchased as your investment in the club. Say Nyet to the greedy (folks?).

  8. Robert says:

    Cox sucks







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