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Call to Action! Tell the FCC “No” to Charter Spectrum on Data Caps!

Charter Communications has petitioned the FCC for permission to impose DATA CAPS on customers at least two years before the FCC’s prohibition on caps — a key condition imposed on the cable company in return for approval of its 2016 merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks — is scheduled to expire.

In 2016, the FCC told Spectrum its merger was NOT in the public interest without requiring some changes and conditions that would benefit you as a Spectrum customer. Because the FCC recognized that competition was uncommon in the cable industry, it knew there would be a temptation after a merger to slap data caps on internet customers for no good reason, other than the fact the company could. In fact, data caps have long been discussed as a deterrent to keep customers from dropping cable TV subscriptions in favor of streaming video. Why? Because if you stream TV programming from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling, and others, that data usage would quickly eat up any data allowances Spectrum would include with its data cap. Most companies with data caps make sure you pay dearly if you go over your allowance. The de facto standard overlimit fee is $10 for each 50 GB of usage, up to a maximum ranging between $100-200 a month! That kind of bill shock would likely push you back to cable TV.

The FCC hoped that a seven-year ban on Spectrum imposing data caps would give competition a chance to develop, and not just with streaming video. In fact, the FCC argued newly arriving cable operators, fiber to the home providers, and 5G services could probably create so much competition, data caps would likely disappear. Unfortunately, consumers have seen little competition emerge in the last four years. In fact, many still have only one choice — a cable monopoly — for internet service that meets the FCC’s minimum speed (25 Mbps) to qualify as broadband. DSL from the phone company rarely provides the speed available from your local cable operator. Fiber to the home competition is growing in some areas, but many homes still lack access. Although there has been much hype in the media about 5G, robust and fast wireless home internet will only be available in a fraction of homes for years to come.

Despite this reality, Charter is asking the FCC to let the ban on data caps expire two years early, which means they could slap data caps on customers just like you by next spring. Charter argues there are lots of streaming services now competing for your business, so there is no evidence Spectrum is hurting the marketplace for streaming television. Therefore, there is no need to protect consumers from data caps.

We argue several points in response:

Since this graphic was created, Time Warner was sold to AT&T and CBS and Viacom have merged.

Most large streaming video providers are owned by giant satellite, cable and telephone companies (Comcast’s Peacock, AT&T’s TV/TV Now and HBO Max, Dish Network’s Sling TV), giant TV conglomerates (ABC-Disney’s Hulu/Disney +, CBS-Viacom’s All Access), or tech companies (Apple TV, YouTube TV). Netflix has raised prices for its service, in part because it has been pushed to pay cable companies like Comcast “interconnection fees” to guarantee Comcast customers will get suitable service. Most streaming services not affiliated with telecom companies have opposed data caps all along, understanding they can be anticompetitive and hurt subscriber numbers.

What competition? Charter Spectrum customers likely still have the same competitive options they had in 2016, if any, which is not enough. Imposing data caps on home broadband service illustrates that lack of competition in action. Comcast has avoided imposing data caps on its customers in the more competitive northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, where it faces Verizon’s FiOS service, which does not have data caps.

Charter asked for and was granted approval of a merger consumers did not need or want. Charter voluntarily agreed to the FCC’s conditions to close the deal. A deal is a deal, but Charter now wants to walk away. The company is spending thousands on its attorneys to free itself from the FCC’s data cap ban while claiming they have no plans to implement data caps. Do you honestly believe them?

Consumers hate data caps. In fact, just having data caps on internet service can undermine a provider’s marketing and ad campaigns and make signing up new customers difficult. Companies with data caps lose more customers than those that don’t because customers switch if a new cap-free competitor comes to town. Just dealing with implementing complicated usage meters and upset customers complaining about their accuracy costs more than any revenue companies earn from overlimit fees. Remarkably, those are not just the views of Stop the Cap! Charter itself told the FCC those were just some reasons there was a strong business case against implementing data caps. Now it is asking the FCC for permission to impose data caps despite all that!

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart has teamed up with Stop the Cap! to fight Charter’s request to allow it to data cap customers.

Data caps do not protect broadband networks from congestion, and they are not about equitably sharing internet capacity. The ongoing pandemic just proved that big cable and phone companies have existing broadband networks more than capable of handling a large spike in network traffic. Reasonable, cost-effective upgrades will continue that success story for years to come with no need for arbitrary data caps. Make no mistake. Data caps are just another way telecom companies can monetize your usage to increase their already fat profits.

What can you do?

Until July 22, 2020, you can send a comment directly to the FCC urging them NOT to allow Charter’s request to sunset merger deal conditions early. Monroe County (N.Y.) legislator Rachel Barnhart and Stop the Cap! have teamed up to push this message through to Spectrum customers everywhere. We need to put the FCC on notice it must leave well enough alone and allow the deal conditions to remain in place. We also want to send a clear message to executives at Charter that customers do not want data caps… ever. It’s a message Stop the Cap! successfully delivered in 2009 to the top leadership of Time Warner Cable, and they listened. It’s now time to send another message to the folks at Charter. We sincerely hope they will listen too.

Here is a sample letter, which we urge you to adjust to reflect your own views and circumstances before submitting:

To Whom It May Concern:

Please reject Charter’s request to sunset the deal conditions it agreed to as part of its merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

A deal is a deal, and Charter agreed not to impose data caps on its customers for at least seven years. It now wants that prohibition lifted two years early, arguing competition has flourished over the last four years. In fact, little has changed for us. Competition has not flourished. We still do not have choices for broadband service and although there are more streaming video providers, most are owned by large cable, satellite, and phone companies or giant media conglomerates. Data caps will make me reconsider using these services because I cannot afford an even higher internet bill.

Competition is supposed to bring pricing down in a healthy marketplace. But my bill is only going up. What kind of company would ask for permission to slap usage limits on customers in the middle of a pandemic, after telling everyone their networks were more than robust enough to handle increased stay-at-home usage? The answer is a company that faces little competition and has no fear a competitor will use this request against them. Internet affordability is already an enormous problem, and data caps just make internet service even more expensive. We already pay among the highest prices in the world for service.

My family did not ask for this merger, and the FCC in 2016 determined it was not in the public interest to approve it without imposing a handful of conditions to allow consumers to benefit from the transaction. The FCC should insist Charter be true to its word and not impose data caps. Charter told the FCC in 2016 it had an “aversion to data caps, stating that instead of enforcing usage limits it chooses to market the absence of data caps as a competitive advantage” and that “there is a strong business case for not implementing caps” and that caps “undermined” its marketing messaging. Was Charter being honest with the FCC in 2016? Their current request for permission to lift data caps seems to ignore the positions Charter itself took with the FCC just a few years ago.

We urge you to deny Charter’s petition, which will allow Charter to continue making plenty of money from the sale of unlimited internet access and continue honoring its advertising commitments to sell internet service “with no data caps” as it does now.

To submit your comments on this issue:

First, click this link to be taken to the FCC website.

Second, click the link on the left sidebar marked “+Express” as circled below:


Third, fill out the form as completely as possible, and leave your comments in the “brief comments” box at the bottom.

You can also mail your written comments:

Mail TWO COPIES of your written comments, which should open with the greeting “Dear Secretary Dortch,” and close with your signature to this address:

Ms. Marlene H. Dortch
Office of the Secretary
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

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Mark
Mark
25 days ago

I think that it should be stressed that Charter currently advertises ‘No Data Caps’ as one of the major marketing points to attract new customers.

This ‘advertise one thing and change conditions afterwards’ has to stop! Charter should have to refrain from advertising this marketing point for a minimum of two years prior to imposing data caps!

Dylan Purner
Dylan Purner
24 days ago

I sent my opinion about this just now. Thanks for the link!

Sarah
Sarah
24 days ago

Awwww, poor charter isn’t making enough money. 70 a month i work from home, like a lot of other people at this time. Isn’t this convenient for charter?

Jourden
Jourden
24 days ago

All data that is collected from Americans should be paid for by the agency seeing how we are the fundamental source of income for their income. Why do they get to make money for free. Collecting data is collecting our digital print. I could go deeper but no one can handle that.

Jourden
Jourden
24 days ago

#boycottcharterspectrum

John W Daugherty
John W Daugherty
24 days ago

#lawsuit for charter spectrum

Sandy Morris
Sandy Morris
23 days ago

This is not right but wtf is nowadays they find a way to screw people and then they want kids to learn at home and if they do this parents are not gonna be able to pay it plus cant u sue cuz that’s false advertisement right FCC PROTECT OUR CHILDRENS ABILITY TO LEARN

Zak
Zak
23 days ago

The site won’t allow you to “enter” your name while using a mobile device. What kind of sh** is that? We live in 2020 America! Who still requires you to find an actual computer to sign a petition, or file a complaint? How barbaric for a government run site. Must just be another way to deter people from being herd. It’s just gonna end up like it did with net neutrality, we’ll tell them how we the people feel, they’ll ignore us and get their own bots to send a million blurbs for the data caps, then it’ll be overturned,… Read more »

Crazyfrankie56
Crazyfrankie56
23 days ago
Reply to  Zak

I am not surprised by what Ajit Paihole yes he is a Paihole in what he is doing I knew he was going to make it harder to post comments on the FCC site and put in bots to say we can’t live without data caps which complete utter BS finding ways to screw us all and yes Charter NEEDS TO BE SUED because they are under contract and they signed it when they merged with Time Warner Cable that they agreed no data caps until 2023. We have to vote this November and vote for Joe Biden whether you… Read more »

Unserved
Unserved
22 days ago
Reply to  Crazyfrankie56

You cry about data caps from Spectrum. Well then cancel their service and get Hughesnet or Viasat instead. Just remember that you will have to keep their service for 2 years under contract with a huge EFT if you cancel. After you experience them you will bow to Spectrum as your savior. I certainly won’t vote democrat just so you can watch TV. You just have to accept that TV programs cost money to make and that “cable bill” that you avoided is now back in a new form.

Dude
Dude
22 days ago
Reply to  Unserved

Keep licking Spectrums boots Frankie.

Joshi
Joshi
18 days ago
Reply to  Unserved

Hughesnet or Viasat also has data limits. Satellite internet is useless. None of us should have to pay for their stupid BS overlimit fees There is no since in you trying to convince us to subscribe to those expensive cable tv packages we cannot afford. Your refusal to vote democrat is irrelevant here. If you want to support those greedy corporate companies by putting more money into their pockets, then go kiss their asses.

Unserved
Unserved
17 days ago
Reply to  Joshi

Yes but a lot of people have no choice but Hughesnet or Viasat. That is my point. You people crying for “net neutrality” also crack me up. It aint worth the paper it is written on when companies like Hughesnet and Viasat can be granted “exemptions” for “network management” because they oversubscribe their services. Then there are the jokers that want the internet providers to be “utilities” (which I would be all for it as then they would be forced to build to my address). But guess what, all the current subscribers bills would go up to pay to build… Read more »

Joshi
Joshi
16 days ago
Reply to  Unserved

Hughesnet and Viasat are unreliable companies. Nobody should subscribe to them. No, they are not the only choices out there. . Satellite internet is only for people who live out in rural areas where no broadband provider offer services to them. People can use a wifi in public spaces to go online instead if data cap providers like Comcast are the only ones providing the internet service in their city which is a monopoly. What you are saying is irrelevant and you sound very prejudice. Net neutrality has nothing to do with network management or people oversubscribing. Net neutrality is… Read more »

Robert R
Robert R
10 days ago

I will leave them if they do.

DCUNY
DCUNY
9 days ago

Submitted my letter this morning

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