Home » usage caps » Recent Articles:

AT&T Leaves Data Caps and Overlimit Fees on Hold Until September 30

Phillip Dampier July 1, 2020 Consumer News, Data Caps No Comments

AT&T has announced it will continue offering unlimited internet to all wired residential customers, with no overlimit fees, through Sept. 30:

“You’ve got a lot of things on your mind right now, so we’re going to help carry the load by continuing to waive home internet data overage charges for AT&T Internet customers through September 30. That means new and existing AT&T Fiber and AT&T Internet customers can continue to video conference, binge shows and movies, play video games, etc., and won’t see overage charges on their home internet bill.”

AT&T had usage capped its wired home internet customers at different levels, depending on the grade of service:

These usage caps are on hold until Sept. 30. Customers will not incur overlimit fees until after that date.

Cox Returning to Usage Caps, But With a Bigger Data Allowance

Phillip Dampier June 29, 2020 Consumer News, Cox, Data Caps 1 Comment

Cox will return to data capping its broadband customers on Wednesday, July 1 but with a bigger usage allowance from now on.

Most Cox customers now face a data cap of 1 TB (1,000 GB) per month. Starting this week, Cox will raise the allowance 25% to 1.25 TB.

“Since the start of the pandemic we provided unlimited data to all customers because we did not know the impact that learn and work from home might have on our customers,” Cox said in an email to Light Reading. “After reviewing data consumption since the coronavirus crisis, we know that nearly 90 percent of customers would not have been charged for going over their 1 TB data plan.”

The other 10% of customers would find at least a $10 additional charge on their bill for an additional allotment of 50 GB of data usage, and another $10 for each additional block of 50 GB. Data caps and overlimit fees are arbitrary and do not reflect the actual cost an internet provider incurs for usage. But it can be a shock when customers open their bill.

 

Charter Spectrum Asks FCC for Freedom to Usage Cap Its Internet Customers

Charter Communications is petitioning the Federal Communications Commission for permission to usage cap its internet customers two years before the FCC’s ban on the company imposing data caps runs out.

Charter, which does business as Spectrum, is seeking an early exit from some FCC-imposed deal conditions Charter agreed to as part of an approval of its 2016 merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Out of concern that Charter’s merger could harm emerging online video streaming competition, the FCC required the company to not charge fees to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu to carry video traffic to its customers and not impose data caps and usage based billing schemes that would limit online video consumption for seven years.

“New Charter’s increased broadband footprint and desire to protect its video profits will increase incentives to impose data caps and usage-based prices in order to make watching online video more expensive, and in particular more expensive than subscribing to a traditional pay-TV bundle,” the FCC concluded in its 2016 order approving the merger, with conditions. “For seven years, we prohibit New Charter from imposing data caps or charging usage-based pricing for its residential broadband service. This condition ensures that New Charter will continue Charter’s past pricing practices and protects subscribers from paying fees designed to make online video consumption more expensive leading subscribers to stick with a traditional pay-TV bundle.”

Charter last week argued that with cord-cutting at an all-time high and video streaming alternative cable and video packages flourishing, there is no reason to continue the seven-year ban on data caps, noting that many other large providers including AT&T, Cox, Altice, and Comcast are free to impose data caps of their own.

“They are able to do so because, unlike Charter, they are not subject to a condition that artificially and unilaterally restricts the packages available to their customers,” Charter argues in its filing. “The online video distribution marketplace is almost unrecognizable compared to what existed in 2016. […] Consumers have never had more online video choices.”

Charter said a sunset of the prohibition of data caps was now overdue.

“As data usage skyrockets, the [ban on data caps and usage-based billing] artificially hamstrings Charter’s ability to allocate the costs of maintaining its network in a way that is efficient and fair for all of its customers—above-average, average, and light users alike,” the company argued. “Charter should be afforded the same flexibility as other broadband providers to respond to developments in the market. In short, tremendous changes in the marketplace have rendered the [ban on data caps and usage-based billing] no longer necessary, and thus ending it in 2021 would be in the public interest.”

The FCC’s 2016 order approving the merger between Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks, with a 7-year prohibition on data caps, was not unanimous. Separate statements from Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly were highly critical of most of the deal conditions the then-Democratic majority favored. Four years later, Pai now presides as chairman over a Republican-majority FCC that could take a favorable view of Charter’s request to end deal conditions early.

In 2016, Pai’s spokesperson complained about the imposition of deal conditions in the Charter-Time Warner Cable-Bright House merger, telling The Hill, “The FCC’s merger review process is badly broken. [Then FCC] Chairman Wheeler’s order isn’t about competition, competition, competition; it’s about regulation, regulation, regulation. It’s about imposing conditions that have nothing to do with the merits of this transaction. It’s about the government micromanaging the internet economy.”

Charter’s June 2020 filing focuses almost exclusively on streaming video competition to argue there is no longer any need to ban the company from imposing data caps. The FCC in 2016 concluded that data caps were a powerful anti-competitive weapon that could be used to keep streaming video competition from harming cable television packages. Charter argues that consumers now have many choices for streaming video, including cable-TV alternatives, which proves they have not engaged in anti-competitive behavior.

But Charter ignored the FCC’s other chief concern about data caps and usage billing (UBP): the lack of choice of broadband competitors.

“[…] Subscribers will continue to have no (or limited) alternative cable or fiber […] options when faced with data caps and UBP designed to deter online video consumption,” the FCC concluded.

The FCC hoped that by 2023, consumers would have more options for home broadband service, likely driving usage caps out of the marketplace.

“Seven years may also provide the high-speed […] provider market sufficient time to develop further with additional investments in fiber from established wireline […] providers, Wireless 5G technology, use of smartgrid fiber for broadband, additional overbuilding, and other potential competitors to traditional wired […] providers,” the FCC wrote. “It is our expectation that these developments will foster competition in the market to make the anticompetitive use of data caps less tenable in the future.”

Unfortunately, broadband competition remains fleeting in many parts of the United States, where only one provider offers broadband service that meets the FCC’s standard of 25 Mbps for downloads.

Ironically, Charter executives were against imposing data caps on their customers when the company was seeking approval to acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

FCC:

“Charter in particular emphasizes its aversion to data caps, stating that instead of enforcing usage limits it chooses to market the absence of data caps as a competitive advantage. Charter also argues there is a strong business case for not implementing caps. Specifically, Charter explains that it terminated its enforcement of the usage limits trial in the AUP in January 2012 because the benefits to customers of continuing the trial (minimizing bandwidth consumption to preserve a positive Internet experience) would not exceed the program’s costs. Charter also states that caps create marketing challenges because they complicate consumer purchasing decisions. Furthermore, Charter argues that data caps increase churn among subscribers. Finally, Charter states that it plans to distinguish itself from its competitors based largely on the quality and speed of its broadband offerings and that data caps undermine that marketing message.”

But the FCC remained unconvinced by Charter’s statements. In a review of confidential internal company documents, the FCC found multiple instances where Time Warner Cable had not completely abandoned the idea of data caps, despite multiple high-profile consumer backlashes against the idea.

“We also note that despite Time Warner Cable’s relative lack of success in implementing usage-based billing, its internal documents leave no doubt that it is also incentivized to use data caps to protect its [cable TV] business,” the FCC concluded.

Four years later, Charter is among many cable operators reporting staggering losses of video customers that have chosen to “cut the cord” on cable television and have switched to a streaming competitor. If an incentive to data cap customers to protect video revenue was there in 2016, it stands to be much stronger today in 2020.

The FCC is now seeking public comment on Charter’s proposal until July 22, 2020. Stop the Cap! plans to file extensive comments on the matter and will shortly publish a guide for readers offering sample letters that can be sent to the FCC on this issue.

Antietam Broadband Ditches Usage Caps for Good: Pandemic Proved Caps Unnecessary

Phillip Dampier June 1, 2020 Antietam Broadband, Consumer News, Data Caps No Comments

Maryland-based Antietam Broadband has permanently shelved internet usage data caps, retroactive to mid-March, for all of its customers.

An ongoing study of customer usage patterns during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic by Antietam engineers showed data caps were no longer technically necessary. Antietam is one of dozens of telecom providers that temporarily shelved data caps under the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, a voluntary effort to suspend data caps, late fees, and service disconnections. After three months of collecting data about customer usage patterns and upgrade activity, Antietam Broadband president Brian Lynch said there was no legitimate need to return to usage caps.

Antietam may be the first U.S. provider to drop usage based billing after the FCC’s pledge expires at the end of June.

Lynch said customers appropriately self-managed their accounts, with heavier users (such as those now working from home) moving towards more profitable, higher-speed internet packages on their own. Antietam has traditionally offered seven different speed tiers, each including its own (now defunct) usage allowance:

  • Internet Starter: 5 Mbps down / 1 Mbps up, 500GB per month.
  • Go Fast: 10 Mbps down / 1 Mbps up, 500GB per month.
  • Ultra Fast 30:  30 Mbps down / 5 Mbps up, 600GB per month.
  • Ultra Fast 50:  50 Mbps down / 5 Mbps up, 750GB per month.
  • Ultra Fast 100:100 Mbps down / 5 Mbps up, 1,250GB per month.
  • Ultra Fast 200: 200 Mbps down/ 10 Mbps up, 1,500GB per month.
  • Flight Gigabit Fiber: 1,000 Mbps down/ 1,000 Mbps up, no usage limit.

“These are uncertain times,” said Lynch. “We felt a need to give customers as much certainty over their bill as possible. Eliminating data usage caps means that customers will know the exact amount of their broadband bill every month.”

It also reduces customer confusion by eliminating the need to factor in data usage when selecting the right broadband package. Now, Antietam customers buy based exclusively on speed needs.

The pandemic caused a significant increase in data usage, but Antietam’s network was capable of handling usage demands, Lynch added.

“Since the pandemic began, we have seen as much increase in broadband usage as we generally would see over the course of a year,” said Lynch.

10% of Homes Now Exceed Comcast/AT&T/Cox’s 1 TB Usage Cap; Average Use Now 402.5 GB

Note that data usage is slightly higher for users with “flat rate billing (FRB)” plans vs. those stuck with “usage-based billing (UBB).” (Source: OpenVault)

A record 10 percent of U.S. households now exceed 1 TB of data usage per month, putting some customers at risk of overlimit fees for exceeding data allowances that are usually enforced by AT&T, Comcast, Cox, and other telecom companies. Those caps are temporarily suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

OpenVault, which collects average data usage from several service providers, reports a dramatic increase in the number of homes it designates as “power users” that consume at least 1 TB of data each month. In the first quarter of 2019, 4.2% of customers regularly exceeded 1 TB of usage. During the same period this year, that number shot up 138% to 10% of customers. “Extreme power users” that consume 2+ TB of data increased a record 215% from just one year ago, now representing 1.2% of broadband households. Last year it was 0.38%.

Overall total broadband usage across all users increased 47% in the first quarter of 2020, reaching an average of 402.5 GB a month. But that number mostly comprises average usage before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many to work from home. OpenVault originally predicted in January 2020 that monthly usage would reach 425 GB by the end of 2020. But with most Americans sheltering at home, measurements now suggest average broadband usage already exceeds that, reaching a record high of 460 GB in April.

“Nearly all the growth in broadband usage we would have expected for 2020 has now been achieved in the first quarter, with much of it concentrated in the last two weeks of the quarter,” OpenVault reported.

Despite usage growth, broadband providers in the United States are universally confident their networks are more than capable of sustaining the increased traffic. In fact, many providers report a spike in new customers, upgrades to higher speed tiers, and at least one — Spectrum, is confident enough of its network capacity to give away two months of broadband service to households with school-age children for free.

NCTA–The Internet & Television Association reports the biggest increases in broadband traffic are occurring on the upstream side, likely because of video teleconferencing. Although downstream traffic also spiked after the pandemic forced many businesses to close their offices, that traffic has flattened out and most recently has even decreased slightly.

Source: NCTA

Broadband providers may have lost key arguments to support reimposing data allowances and usage caps after the pandemic eases. Not only have broadband networks managed dramatic spikes in traffic with no significant difficulties, there are no signs of any “data tsunamis” in the future, even as broadband usage growth exceeds predictions. NCTA reports that 99.8% of the time broadband providers had “ample” or “excess” capacity available, not only to sustain current traffic levels but also potential future spikes in traffic. Peak traffic usage reaching levels where reduced capacity was available was identified just 0.2% of the time, causing a “minor impact on performance and customer experience.”

The current crisis is likely to bring a flood of new revenue to many broadband companies, even without usage overlimit fees. Since the pandemic began, OpenVault reports a 3.75% growth in premium-priced gigabit speed upgrades, up 97% from the same time last year.  In the New York City area, gigabit service subscriptions at Altice/Optimum increased 56% as many workers began to telecommute.

The biggest challenge the cable broadband industry faces as a result of this year’s usage growth is a need to accelerate plans already under development to increase upload speeds. Much of the recent traffic growth came from upstream traffic, which is cable broadband’s biggest Achilles’ Heel. Cable broadband networks devote most available bandwidth to downloads, with only a small fraction devoted to upload speed. Cable companies are expected to modestly increase upload speeds in a few months and will eventually deploy the next DOCSIS standard, supporting far faster upload speeds, beginning sometime next year.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Robert Deed: 2 years later and Suddenlink is still using Docsis 3.0 :p...
  • Gloria Steiner: Hooray!...
  • Eric: I've had Frontier fiber internet since 2015 and haven't had any problems until Ziply took over. Since Ziply took over, my internet service has been g...
  • Eric: 2.7 and 4.3 are odd numbers.. 4.3 doesn't seem right in the first place....
  • Crazyfrankie56: I don't know about that because there was some speculation that Comcast sent money to Biden's campaign last year before the start of the Presidental p...
  • Crazyfrankie56: We all know that Ajit paihole is going to pull his BS tactics again to try to stop anti data cap comments from being public just like he did with Net ...
  • Crazyfrankie56: Data Caps need to be banned and illegal and its got to happen now. I have had it with Ajit paihole he is the most disgusting money hogging pig way mor...
  • Joshi: This is rediculous! We are still in the middle of the pandemic here. More and more people are still online working from home and it's not over yet. Da...
  • Catwoman: I would disassociate myself from the Frontier name if I were you. They have a lousy reputation in Seattle area....
  • Gaius Wickser: I've seen outages before with ELN but never when their site is inaccessible and you call customer service you get a prerecorded message but cannot tal...
  • Julian Hatton: A regional municipality suffered a water main break that triggered a service interruption with an upstream network provider. This issue currently impa...
  • Julian Hatton: What does it mean “to be dumbed”?...

Your Account: