The back of a Comcast van driving along a street in Sunnyvale, California.
Enlarge / A Comcast van in Sunnyvale, California, in November 2018.

Dozens of state lawmakers from Massachusetts urged Comcast to halt enforcement of its 1.2TB month-to-month knowledge cap, saying the cap hurts low-income individuals through the pandemic and is pointless due to Comcast’s wholesome community capability.

“Community capability isn’t a problem for Comcast or a legitimate excuse to cost clients extra,” 71 state lawmakers wrote in the letter final week, someday earlier than Comcast introduced its knowledge cap to Massachusetts and different states the place it wasn’t already enforced. “Comcast itself claims it has loads of capability throughout its community, together with areas the place no caps are at the moment imposed… It’s inconceivable that Comcast would select to impose this ‘cap and charge’ plan throughout a pandemic, when many Massachusetts residents are pressured to work and attend college from residence by way of the Web.”

The letter stated the lawmakers “strongly urge Comcast to discontinue this plan, and to rethink any future makes an attempt at imposing a knowledge cap or any perversion of the ideas of web neutrality in Massachusetts.” The lawmakers additionally identified an announcement by Comcast govt Tony Werner, who stated the elevated broadband visitors brought on by the pandemic “has all been inside the functionality of the community.”

Comcast expanded its 1.2TB month-to-month knowledge cap to its complete 39-state territory this month after 4 years of imposing the cap in 27 of these states. In addition to Massachusetts, newly capped areas embody Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Extra customers exceeding 1.2TB monthly

The letter to Comcast Senior VP Mark Reilly, spearheaded by Democratic state Reps. Andy Vargas and Dave Rogers, disputed Comcast’s declare {that a} 1.2TB cap solely impacts a really small subset of consumers it calls “tremendous customers.” The lawmakers wrote:

Comcast claims that its deliberate knowledge cap will solely have an effect on a handful of consumers which might be excessive knowledge customers, nevertheless, Web shoppers are utilizing higher quantities of Web knowledge yearly. In 2016, Comcast itself estimated that simply 1 % of consumers used 1 terabyte of knowledge or extra a month. Nonetheless, latest statements by Comcast point out that 5 instances as many shoppers at the moment are exceeding its deliberate 1.2 terabyte threshold. Ongoing research additionally present a rising variety of shoppers are exceeding these arbitrary caps, forcing them to pay unjustified overlimit charges or subscribe to a expensive limitless plan for as a lot as $30 extra a month.

Comcast expenses an additional $30 monthly for limitless knowledge, or $25 for the “xFi Full” add-on bundle that features the Comcast gateway machine and limitless knowledge. Prospects who do not improve to limitless knowledge and exceed the 1.2TB cap should pay $10 for every further block of 50GB, as much as a most of $100 every month. Comcast is phasing within the expenses steadily, so clients in newly capped areas might begin getting overage expenses for his or her April 2021 utilization.

Overage charges increase digital divide

Broadband affordability was an issue for low-income households even earlier than the pandemic, and imposing knowledge caps and overage charges will make it worse, the lawmakers instructed Comcast.

“Web affordability is a rising concern that places much-needed Web service out of attain of low‐earnings residents, many who’re additionally from communities of coloration,” they wrote. “Getting into the COVID-19 pandemic, practically one-quarter of Massachusetts’ Gateway Metropolis households didn’t have a subscription Web service at residence. Further charges and caps will solely embolden the digital divide that exists for low-income households and communities of coloration within the Commonwealth.”

The lawmakers additionally wrote that “Massachusetts has skilled the most important relative improve of food-insecure people within the nation as a consequence of COVID-19, and has suffered a few of highest unemployment charges within the nation. The very last thing our constituents want is to fret about paying extra for a similar high quality of Web service.”

Comcast does provide a $10 month-to-month Web plan to qualifying low-income households, and the corporate has been praised by client advocates for enhancing and increasing this system through the pandemic. Comcast additionally briefly waived its knowledge cap because of the pandemic beginning in March 2020 however reinstated the cap in July.

“A really small proportion”

We contacted Comcast concerning the letter immediately and can replace this text if we get a response. Comcast supplied an announcement to WCVB, an area information station, reiterating its stance that the cap impacts solely “a really small proportion” of consumers “as a result of 1.2TB is an enormous quantity of knowledge.”

“Our knowledge plan is structured in a approach that the very small proportion of our clients who use greater than 1.2TB of month-to-month knowledge and generate the best demand for community improvement and capability pay extra for his or her elevated utilization. For these tremendous customers, we’ve limitless knowledge choices out there,” Comcast stated. Comcast additionally identified that it’s giving 60 days of free service to new clients who qualify for the low-income program, that it’s “waiving the requirement of not having again debt due so extra households can apply,” and making Wi-Fi hotspots out there to the general public without cost.

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