A well-placed source in Washington, D.C. told advocacy group Stop the Cap that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is prepared to take a detailed look at the issue of Internet data caps and usage-based billing if a major cable operators impose usage allowances on broadband internet access.
Comcast introduced a usage cap market trial in Nashville, Tenn. in 2012 but then expanded it to include Huntsville and Mobile, Alabama; Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, Georgia; Central Kentucky; Maine; Jackson, Mississippi; Knoxville and Memphis, Tennessee; Charleston, South Carolina; and Tucson, Arizona.
In short, its pushing it out nationwide.
“Two and a half-years is exceptionally long for a ‘market trial,’ and we expected Comcast would avoid creating an issue for regulators by drawing attention to the data cap issue during its attempted merger with Time Warner Cable,” said the well placed source. “Now that the merger is off, there is growing expectation Comcast will make a decision about its ‘data usage plans’ soon.”
Comcast is limiting residential customers to 300GB of usage per month, after which an overage fee of $10 per 50GB applies. Comcast is using the usage-based billing to force customers to upgrade to the most expensive plans, which do not have such limits. That move is seen by abusive and predatory by the FCC.
Comcast customers in market test cities have been universally unhappy with the usage caps, after being confronted with inaccurate usage measurement tools or “bill shock” after claiming to find surprise charges on their cable bill.
One federal employee incurred $200 in overage fees on his April Comcast bill. Yet was only spending $70 a month on broadcast basic cable television and Comcast Internet service.
As a cord-cutter, he could instead rely on one of several alternative online video providers like Netflix or Hulu, but watching these services subjected him to hundreds of dollars in extra fees.
This is likely the primary aim of the billing scheme – force customers to pay the same price as internet plus TV, at a time when users are increasingly cancelling their TV service.