Comcast’s arbitrary data caps are unethical, especially during a pandemic (update)

Update: Comcast has suspended data caps in the northeast following widespread backlash over this policy. They’ve also increased speeds for their internet essentials package.

A few years ago, Comcast started charging subscribers for faster Internet speeds on a kind of tiered system. It was unethical and unfair because Internet access should be accessible and affordable to all. The Internet is a public utility and should be regulated as such, only the FCC gave cable and internet companies carte blanche to gouge customers by overturning Net Neutrality in 2018. Comcast, the nation’s largest ISP, has recently been instituting data caps in different markets, particularly where they have no competition from Verizon FIOS. They suspended this for a while at the beginning of the pandemic and are now reinstituting it and rolling it out in new areas.

We use Comcast, it’s the only fast Internet available in my area. This month I received notices that we were approaching, and then went over, our data cap of 1.2 TB. I only live with one teenager. This was the first I’d heard about a data cap and I was not happy. I find it particularly cruel to do this during the pandemic when people are out of work and working from home. I’m not the only one. Tom’s Guide has an article asking Comcast to stop this practice:

Earlier this month, Comcast Xfinity, the nation’s largest cable and home-internet provider, expanded its 1.2 TB broadband cap to 12 additional cities. This comes after an expansion this past November to parts of the Northeast.

Users on Twitter have been posting screenshots of their shrinking internet allowances, with Comcast sending warnings of approaching limits. While Comcast is courteous enough to waive one month of data overages per year, it will charge $10 per each additional 50 GBs used (maximum of $100) otherwise. Or users can upgrade to a truly unlimited plan for an additional $30 premium.

But as Americans continue to be squeezed by the Covid-19 pandemic, internet access has morphed from casual browsing and binging to a necessity. Work has been pushed to home offices. Schools have been relegated to the kitchen counters. Government relief continues to be fleeting, forcing families to pinch for every dollar. To put it bluntly, for Comcast to brazenly exploit American consumers during a pandemic is the height of business immorality.

[From Tom’s Guide]

Comcast will do whatever they can to fleece customers. I’ve threatened to cancel service before to get better deals. (Here’s how to do this.) The fact that they have different rates based on what people will pay is criminal and puts older people and less tech-savvy people at a disadvantage.

There is no other Internet service I can use in my area. I have no choice but to pay an extra $30 a month for unlimited data after this two month grace period. At least I’m working and can afford it. A lot of families are not in that position because they’re struggling and out of work. What’s more is that Comcast has been exploiting lower income customers this year by pitching services to them that they don’t need, all under the guise of being helpful. Read this twitter thread from a former employee who quit over this. The digital divide is real and it especially hurts children.

The good news is that Biden has appointed a new FCC chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, to replace that douchebag with ties to the industry, Ajit Pai, who deregulated everything. Rosenworcel could help reinstall net neutrality and make this bullsh-t that Comcast is trying to pull illegal.




Photos credit: Tima Miroshnichenko and Julia M. Cameron on Pexels

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10 Responses to “Comcast’s arbitrary data caps are unethical, especially during a pandemic (update)”

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  1. Kelly says:

    We only have Comcast here as well. I also upgraded to unlimited for the same reasons, we go way over their limit with 2 kids home doing high school and college all online. We were told the other day they are pushing off the data increase until August 2021.

  2. smcollins says:

    Ugh! I hate Comcast with a passion but unfortunately they’re the ONLY cable & internet provider in my area (which, of course, they take full advantage of). I get whatever lower rate bundles are available and then when that time period ends I call and negotiate for another one. It’s a never-ending cycle. I hope the new FCC director puts a stop to their unethical practices soon, and at some point they’re monopoly needs the be broken up as well.

  3. Kittylouise says:

    That really is shocking. I’ve just read that Comcast employee Twitter thread and can’t believe how high the charges are, especially where there is no competition in the area. How on earth do low income people afford bills upwards of $100 dollars a month, and when they need it for work and/or school during covid. I hope the new FCC chair is able to do something.

    It makes me feel very fortunate that our bill is only £20 a month unlimited. I live in an area with a lot of competition admittedly, but broadband costs are fortunately not that high in the UK.

  4. Aang says:

    Knock on wood Verizon Fios has been fine for us. $77 a month for unlimited high speed. We have no cable so we stream everything and have 2 full time students and two adults all working from home. No problems with speed. I hope it stays this way.

  5. Becks1 says:

    We have comcast – there is other internet where I am but its not as fast or reliable as comcast. But we have neve gone over the 1.2 TB limit (January was the first month where they were actually notifying people of it though and March is the first month when they’ll start charging.) We have two kids in virtual school and I’m teleworking FT and we watch a fair amount of streaming TV – but I think 900 gb is the closest we’ve come to going over in the past 8 months. So we’re going to keep an eye on it for now but I’m hoping we’re okay?

    Generally speaking though – this is a shitty time to institute such a cap. People arent going over their limits because they’re playing Fortnite online all day (well maybe some people are.) People are working and learning from home, people are probably watching a lot more TV since its the winter anyway, then factor in the pandemic, etc. – and it really is a shitty business move, especially after all the talk over the past year about how important reliable internet is.

  6. lisa taylor says:

    That is how the whole stupid stystem works in Canada … on phones and on home internet. There are unlimited data plans available in some urban centres but for us suckers, we have data caps … we do have national health care though, so I guess it is not right to complain.

  7. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Data caps are useless, especially for companies issuing them. Why would they choose to restrict advertising on both large and small scales? It’s corporate panic and stupidity.

  8. Heather H says:

    Cox in Arizona does this too and they are a monopoly here. We had Verizon FIOS before moving to Arizona and its been a shock having data caps. We wouldn’t go over it normally, even working from home but the teenager makes us hit our cap often.

  9. Regina Falangie says:

    T mobile is doing the same thing. I got a text yesterday warning me that I’m almost out of data and that once I past that point my internet speed will be less than dial-up speeds!! Ridiculous and criminal!!!

    • Anna says:

      I got a message like that from T-Mobile for my phone, too! Ugh. I find all of it so confusing (and they intentionally make it difficult to decipher). My cable bill went up and I don’t even use the cable, just the internet, don’t even have a cable box from RCN. But we’re stuck because the building has a contract with them.