BREAKING NEWS: Comcast Introducing 1.2 TB Data Cap in Northeast, Mid-Atlantic Regions

Comcast has quietly updated its online customer support website to reflect the forthcoming introduction of data caps to the last remaining major regions of the country where it has avoided imposing them for years.

The nation’s largest cable company will debut its 1.2 TB data cap usage plan on January 1, 2021 in Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.

“Customers in select markets can take the months of January and February to understand how the new 1.2 TB Internet Data Plan affects them without additional charges,” Comcast wrote on its new customer FAQ page. “We’ll credit your bill for any additional data usage charges over 1.2 TB during those months if you’re not on an unlimited data plan. It does not apply to Xfinity Internet customers on our Gigabit Pro tier of service, Business Internet customers, customers with Prepaid Internet, or customers on Bulk Internet agreements.”

But effective March 1st, residential customers will begin facing overlimit fees for exceeding their data allowance at a rate of $10 for each 50 GB of excess usage, up to a maximum of $100 a month. Customers will not be credited for unused data, cannot rollover unused data, or be charged less than $10 in overlimit fees, regardless if one used 1 MB or 49 GB over the 1.2 TB allowance.

Customers approaching their usage limit will receive email, text messages, and Xfinity X1 on-screen notifications upon reaching 75% (email only), 90%, and 100% of 1.2 TB of data usage. Overlimit fees that subsequently start accumulating will be noted in email and X1 on-screen notifications for each additional 50 GB of usage over 1.2 TB, up to the maximum overage charge of $100.

Customers can return to the unlimited data plan they had before January 1st by paying an additional $30 a month for an unlimited add-on plan.

Comcast imposed data caps on residential customers in other parts of the country for years, but had avoided doing so until now in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states where Verizon FiOS is a frequent competitor. Verizon does not impose formal data caps on its residential customers. The introduction of data caps by Comcast is likely to result in a shift of some customers towards Verizon, if FiOS is available.

Comcast is certain to be criticized for expanding data caps in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as the number of cases explodes in the United States, pushing more people than ever to work from home. The resulting increased usage will expose a growing number of Comcast customers to overlimit fees, starting at $10 additional a month. Usage caps are also not expected to slow the company’s ongoing rate increases. One of Comcast’s most successful businesses is selling residential broadband, often with no significant competition, and with customers unlikely to drop service there is plenty of room to raise prices further.

Protesters in front of the Time Warner Cable in Rochester, N.Y., protesting the introduction of data caps in 2009.

Fighting Back

The most effective ways to combat data caps are:

  1. Switch providers and tell Comcast you are leaving because of the imposition of data caps. Reject any arguments that suggest usage allowances will impact only a handful of customers. Ongoing studies show a growing number of consumers are exceeding these arbitrary “allowances”, forcing them to pay unjustified overlimit fees or subscribe to a costly unlimited plan for as much as $30 more a month. Usage caps are unnecessary in 2020. Comcast itself claims it has plenty of capacity across its network, including areas where no caps are currently imposed. But they now think it is appropriate to introduce caps in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Organize a noisy but legal protest in front of a local cable store or Comcast’s headquarters and contact newspapers, radio and TV stations in advance to invite them to cover the event. Be sure to carry signs and designate one or more members to be interviewed by the media about the unacceptability of data caps. We can supply talking points on request.
  3. Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and complain about Comcast imposing data caps. This is especially effective when tied-in with local protests, which may attract elected officials to the cause. There is precedent for companies backing down if consumers coordinate with elected officials and loudly protest. Tell officials your community’s digital future should not be dictated by Comcast and its unwanted data caps. More competition is needed, and until it substantially exists, ask them to ban “data plans” for home broadband service. Ask them to support municipal solutions, such as public/municipal internet service.
  4. Remind everyone that internet availability is not the only issue. Affordability is also a growing problem that puts much needed internet service out of reach of low-income citizens. Imposing data caps is just another way of raising prices and deterring innovation.

FCC Votes Unanimously to Expand 5 GHz Wi-Fi Frequencies Despite Auto Industry Protests

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. communications regulator on Wednesday approved a plan to allow a growing number of wireless devices to use part of a spectrum previously set aside for automakers to develop methods for vehicles to communicate with each other, a decision that the Transportation Department warned could result in “thousands of accidents.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 5-0 to split the spectrum block set aside for auto safety. Over the objections of automakers and some U.S. agencies, the FCC decision finalized a plan announced last year to divide a block of the 5.9 GHz spectrum band that was reserved in 1999 for automakers to develop technology called DSRC, but has so far gone largely unused. Under today’s decision, a 45 MHz portion of the band — 5.850GHz to 5.895GHz will be reallocated to unlicensed Wi-Fi services and made available for consumer use. Consumers may have to purchase new equipment to take advantage of the new frequencies.

45 MHz of the wireless auto band, shown in green, will join the 5 GHz Wi-Fi band shown in blue. Automakers will still be able to use 30 MHz of frequencies from 5.895-5.925 GHz.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said there is “a pressing need for us to allocate additional spectrum” for Wi-Fi, noting the coronavirus pandemic underscored “consumers need access and more bandwidth to be able to engage in telework, remote learning, telehealth, and other broadband-related services.”

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao had warned the FCC decision could result in “thousands more deaths annually on road and millions more injuries than would be the case otherwise.”

Major cable, telecom and content companies back the FCC proposal to open most of the spectrum band to Wi-Fi use.

Comcast Corp praised the FCC vote, saying Wi-Fi is “central to American homes, schools, and workplaces and carries more broadband traffic than all other wireless technologies combined.”

Automakers favor using the spectrum for developing technology to allow vehicles to exchange data about location, speed and direction.

House of Representatives Transportation Committee chairman Peter DeFazio called the decision “a gift to corporate interests at the expense of public safety,” adding it “will undermine decades of development and over a billion public dollars that the transportation community has invested in these technologies.”

The technology has previously been offered on just one General Motors Co vehicle. Government studies have suggested that, if widely adopted among, it could prevent at least 600,000 U.S. crashes annually.

GM said “the FCC has moved towards jeopardizing roadway safety.”

The FCC plans to transition the upper 30 megahertz from DSRC to enable a different automotive communications technology called Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything and use the other 45 megahertz for wireless use. Safety advocates question if the new technology will work.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)

Increased Investment and Fierce Competition Brings 1.5 Gbps Internet to Western Canada

Phillip Dampier November 12, 2020 Broadband Speed, Canada, Competition, Consumer News, Shaw, Telus No Comments

Shaw is western Canada’s dominant cable operator.

While American cable companies have cut back investing in their high-speed broadband services as competition languishes, a price and service war has erupted between western Canada’s biggest cable and phone companies, with consumers winning the benefits of increased investment and fierce competition.

Shaw Communications, the largest cable company west of Ontario, has just upped the ante with the introduction of 1,500/100 Mbps unlimited internet service for $127 (all prices in $US) a month. The new speed tier, known as Fibre+ Gig 1.5,  is delivered over Shaw’s existing DOCSIS 3.1 cable broadband network, and is already available in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Victoria, and is gradually expanding outwards to smaller cities, including Banff in Alberta, and Burnaby and Dawson’s Creek in British Columbia. Shaw also offers a traditional gigabit unlimited plan in most of its service area, offering 940/25 Mbps for $88/month. Both high-speed plans include a two-year contract.

“The hard work and investments we’ve made in building, upgrading and expanding our Fibre+ and Fast LTE networks and services — nearly $22.8 billion over the past seven years — allow us to deliver these ultrafast speeds to western Canadians over our existing infrastructure,” said Zoran Stakic, chief operating officer and chief technology officer. “These ongoing investments are the foundation to providing our customers service beyond one gigabit today and ultrafast speeds to more places in the future.”

“We know that there’s a growing segment of people — including heavy gamers, content creators and super streamers — who need access to ultrafast internet services, and that need has only increased during the pandemic as many of our customers manage the reality of having multiple people working from home and sharing bandwidth,” said Paul Deverell, president of Consumer, Shaw Communications. “With the launch of our Fibre+ Gig 1.5 product, we are delivering the speeds and capacity needed by today’s super users and data-heavy customers, while confirming Shaw’s position as the western Canadian leader in gigabit speed deployment.”

Telus is western Canada’s largest phone company.

Shaw’s increased investment is designed to fend off its chief competitor, Telus. In 2020, Shaw discovered a growing number of its broadband customers defecting in favor of Telus, the region’s telephone company. Telus is expanding its own high-speed offering, which relies on fiber to the home service. In some areas, Telus offers 940/940 Mbps service on a two-year contract for $76 a month and a 1,500/940 Mbps plan for $127 a month — which matches Shaw’s price but vastly exceeds Shaw in upload speed. To further sweeten the deal, Shaw gives its premium-speed internet customers discounts on Shaw Mobile services — including the exclusive rate of $25 per month on Unlimited Data wireless plans for Shaw Fibre+ Gig 1.5 and Fibre+ Gig internet subscribers.

Shaw claims its infrastructure has made it possible to offer gigabit service to at least one million more western Canadians than Telus. Telus has been gradually scrapping its legacy copper wire network in favor of fiber optics, but will likely take over a decade to complete the transition in significantly populated communities.

While Canadian cable companies are pushing DOCSIS 3.1 to the limit, American cable companies have taken it easy this year, reducing estimated budgets for network investment, returning to data caps, and putting further upgrades to next generation DOCSIS 4.0 on hold for at least a year or two. With AT&T and Verizon distracted and focused on spending billions to build 5G wireless networks, both companies have stopped significant expansion of fiber-to-the-home service for residential customers, reducing competitive pressure on cable operators. This reduced competition allows cable companies an opportunity to raise rates on broadband customers, and Charter Spectrum has done exactly that, announcing a general $5/month increase on residential internet service to take effect by the start of 2021.

T-Mobile Expands Wireless 4G Home Internet Service in MI, MN, NY, ND, OH, PA, SD, WV and WI

T-Mobile is widening its wireless home broadband pilot program to cover more than 20 million additional underserved and unserved households in 130 communities in parts of nine states.

“Home broadband has been broken for far too long, especially for those in rural areas, and it’s time that cable and telco ISPs have some competition,” said Dow Draper, T-Mobile executive vice president of Emerging Products. “We’ve already brought T-Mobile Home Internet access to millions of customers who have been underserved by the competition. But we’re just getting started. As we’ve seen in our first few months together with Sprint, our combined network will continue to unlock benefits for our customers, laying the groundwork to bring 5G to Home Internet soon.”

T-Mobile Home Internet customers currently pay $50 a month for unlimited wireless internet for their home or business, using T-Mobile’s existing 4G LTE network. To prevent cell tower saturation, T-Mobile is making the service available on a first-come, first-served basis, where coverage is eligible, based on equipment inventory and local network capacity. T-Mobile is also protecting its high-value mobile customer base by prioritizing mobile network traffic, so speeds may slow for home internet customers during times of peak cell tower usage.

The company adds that its 4G service will soon be joined by a 5G home internet service, which should increase speeds and capacity. The company claims:

  • The service is self-installed, so no installation visits or charges.
  • Taxes and fees included.
  • No annual service contracts.
  • No “introductory” price offers.
  • No hardware rental or sign-up fees.
  • No data caps, but network prioritization may affect speed during peak usage periods, and video streaming resolution may be limited based on available speed in your location.

Other Details:

  • Pricing: $50/month with AutoPay (price includes sales tax and regulatory fees “for qualifying accounts” whatever that means, and if you don’t AutoPay, the price is $5 higher.)
  • Credit approval required.
  • T-Mobile will supply an LTE Wi-Fi Gateway with the service, for in-home use only at the address on the account. The gateway must be returned if you cancel service or pay $207.

List of New Cities & Towns:

Michigan

  • Adrian
  • Alma
  • Alpena
  • Ann Arbor
  • Battle Creek
  • Bay City
  • Big Rapids
  • Cadillac
  • Coldwater
  • Detroit-Warren-Dearborn
  • Flint
  • Grand Rapids-Kentwood
  • Hillsdale
  • Holland
  • Jackson
  • Kalamazoo-Portage
  • Lansing-East Lansing
  • Ludington
  • Midland
  • Monroe
  • Mount Pleasant
  • Muskegon
  • Niles
  • Saginaw
  • Sault Ste. Marie
  • South Bend-Mishawaka
  • Sturgis
  • Traverse City

Minnesota

  • Albert Lea
  • Alexandria
  • Austin
  • Bemidji
  • Brainerd
  • Duluth
  • Fairmont
  • Faribault-Northfield
  • Fergus Falls
  • Grand Rapids
  • Hutchinson
  • Mankato
  • Marshall
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington
  • New Ulm
  • Owatonna
  • Red Wing
  • Rochester
  • St. Cloud
  • Willmar
  • Winona
  • Worthington

New York

  • Binghamton
  • Corning

North Dakota

  • Bismarck
  • Dickinson
  • Jamestown
  • Minot
  • Williston
  • Fargo
  • Grand Forks
  • Wahpeton

Ohio

  • Akron
  • Ashland
  • Ashtabula
  • Bucyrus-Galion
  • Cambridge
  • Canton-Massillon
  • Cleveland-Elyria
  • Coshocton
  • Defiance
  • Findlay
  • Fremont
  • Lima
  • Mansfield
  • Marion
  • New Philadelphia-Dover
  • Norwalk
  • Salem
  • Sandusky
  • Tiffin
  • Toledo
  • Wooster
  • Youngstown-Warren-Boardman

Pennsylvania

  • Altoona
  • Bloomsburg-Berwick
  • Chambersburg-Waynesboro
  • DuBois
  • East Stroudsburg
  • Erie
  • Gettysburg
  • Harrisburg-Carlisle
  • Huntingdon
  • Indiana
  • Johnstown
  • Lancaster
  • Lebanon
  • Lewisburg
  • Lewistown
  • Lock Haven
  • Meadville
  • New Castle
  • Oil City
  • Pittsburgh
  • Pottsville
  • Reading
  • Sayre
  • Scranton–Wilkes-Barre
  • Selinsgrove
  • Somerset
  • St. Marys
  • State College
  • Sunbury
  • Williamsport
  • York-Hanover
  • Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton

South Dakota

  • Aberdeen
  • Brookings
  • Huron
  • Mitchell
  • Pierre
  • Rapid City
  • Sioux Falls
  • Watertown
  • Yankton

West Virginia

  • Clarksburg
  • Cumberland
  • Elkins
  • Morgantown
  • Weirton-Steubenville
  • Wheeling

Wisconsin

  • Eau Claire
  • La Crosse-Onalaska
  • Menomonie
  • Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield

T-Mobile Home Internet: This company supplied video explains how the service works. (1:15)

Charter Spectrum Raising the Price for Internet Service to $75 a Month

Phillip Dampier November 2, 2020 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News 52 Comments

Charter Spectrum is raising the price of its internet service by $5 a month starting in December, making most internet-only customers pay $74.99 a month for service starting at 100 Mbps.

An internal customer service document obtained by Stop the Cap! shows the company plans to raise the base internet price for all customers except those still subscribed to a package bundle containing traditional cable television. However, if you subscribe to a streaming TV package like Spectrum Choice, Essentials, or Stream, the rate hike will apply.

Customers subscribed to higher speed tiers (Ultra, Gig) or have a grandfathered Time Warner Cable internet package without cable TV can also expect a $5 increase.

Customers will be notified about the rate hike on their November bill, with new pricing taking effect from Dec. 2, 2020.

 

 

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