FCC Flooded With Over 13,000 Complaints Over Comcast's Data Caps
Comcast's expansion of data caps into new markets recently created a flood of thousands of complaints to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as a recent report exposed.
For the last couple of years, Comcast has been slowly expanding the number of Xfinity broadband customers that are eligible to be charged for exceeding a 300GB per month limit of data traffic. After hitting 300GB, Comcast charges an overage fee of $10 per extra 50GB, along with offering an "Unlimited" plan that costs about $30-$35 per month on top of the usual bill.
First portrayed by Comcast executives as a trial program to experiment with its data policies -- that was limited to a few "test" markets, the number of markets Comcast has put under those data limits has dramatically increased this year.
As of Dec. 1, Comcast expanded its data cap trials to several major markets, including Atlanta, Miami, Little Rock, and most puzzlingly, Chattanooga -- which has its own world class municipal gigabit fiber network that one would think Comcast would try to compete with. But it should come as no surprise that, as a result of the rollout of these new data caps, the FCC has been deluged with complaints.
More than 13,000 complaints were filed with the FCC about Comcast's data caps, according to a report from cord-cutting advocate CutCableToday, which obtained and published nearly 2,000 of those complaints after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FCC.
You can read all 2,000 vetted complaints on CutCableToday, but here's a selection of some of the best.
Though Comcast claims only about one percent of its custmoers are affected by the data cap set at 300GB per month, one user from Plantation, Florida begged to disagree:
I object to this new policy of forcing customers to pay more for exceeding pre-established data caps by this greedy corporation. The caps will be exceeded even by moderate users of the internet due to forced video ads on pretty much every single web page that one loads into a browser. This is not right. These cable companies are already charging us too much for internet service. Now Comcast wants to charge us a $30 a month fee to prevent them from charging us even more fees. This is a rip off.
Another customer from Richmond Hill, Georgia, complained that they caught Comcast consistently overestimating the data they use per month -- in effect, accusing Comcast of lying to the customer while charging them more:
Comcast monitors and charges us for a soft data cap. For every 50GB we consume over the 300GB allotment we pay a fee of $10. However, every month they grossly overestimate the usage on our account.
As of writing this they currently place us at 271GB of 300GB (according to their online meter) used for the month of September. However, our FreeBSD router tracks the total data used... and only reports a total of ~147.054GB... consumed in the same time period. There appears to be a huge discrepancy between what Comcast reports and what is actually being consumed.
Another customer from Nashville, Tennessee, said there was no way they could use their Comcast Internet enough to reach the 300GB cap because they often weren't at home. Nevertheless, they were hit hard, and suddenly, one month by the new surcharges:
Comcast just surprised me with a bill that shows that I owed $180 for over cap surcharges. I called the same day I got the bill, and they also let me know that I owe another $220 for over cap surcharges. (That's right, a surprise $400).
Whether or not that was a result of Comcast's faulty measurements, the complaint points to the new financial liability that data caps and surcharges put on regular Internet users, if their computers are hijacked by hackers or their WiFi networks aren't secured.
One user from Huntsville, Alabama concisely demonstrated why Comcast's data caps is a killer for anyone who's an avid gamer:
One game from Steam can be 40 gigabytes! Just one game!
Finally, a complaint from a Comcast customer in Florida illustrated the root of the problem with the newly imposed caps and fees:
Many of us don't have a choice in the matter, because Comcast is the only Internet provider available to us. This is monopoly in its purest form.
As the Consumerist pointed out, the word monopoly appeared over 250 times in the first batch of 2,000 complaints published by CutCableToday.
Though the FCC imposed stronger Net Neutrality regulations this year, it has been mostly hands-off about data caps -- even those like Comcast's, which the company even admits is not necessary for optimizing network traffic or clearing congestion.
And though it promotes high-speed Internet alternatives like municipal broadband, it's unlikely that the FCC would, or could, do much to actively break up cable monopolies in some markets, which allow Comcast to impose new limits and fees without worrying about losing its customers.
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