WASHINGTON — According to news reports Wednesday, cable Internet provider Comcast continues to dramatically expand its practice of imposing broadband-usage caps and overage fees on Comcast users in cities across the nation. Most recently, Comcast has expanded the practice in markets across the South, where users are penalized with overage fees for exceeding a monthly 300 Gigabyte usage cap.
So far this year, the Federal Communications Commission has received thousands of complaints from Comcast users. The bulk of complaints concern billing errors and confusion about added fees related to data caps. The FCC has yet to investigate whether the use of data caps unfairly and unreasonably penalizes customers — though advocacy groups like Free Press and Public Knowledge have called for such investigations for the past four years.
Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
“Comcast continues to exert its dominance in the uncompetitive market for high-speed Internet access, increasing the bottom line for its incredibly profitable broadband business on the backs of hard-working Internet users. There are almost no costs that the cable giant incurs from expanded data usage — but Comcast keeps imposing these arbitrary limits and penalties on more of its customer base simply because it wants to.
“Data caps have a very real impact on Internet users’ wallets and online behavior. These kinds of limits dampen the use of broadband by discouraging use of the applications that drive economic growth and innovation from Internet content creators. The steep cost of broadband services in the U.S. is already a significant barrier to access for many. These punitive caps create even more problems for cash-strapped Americans seeking to get online.
“Imposing such caps is also part of Comcast's scheme to stifle innovation and choice in online video and cloud-based services. Access providers including Comcast try to justify caps by suggesting that they mitigate broadband-traffic congestion. Yet there’s absolutely no real-world evidence of congestion on wired networks across the board.
“Internet access providers that also provide multichannel video services love using these arbitrary caps and limits. Monopoly-minded providers like Comcast have a built-in incentive to protect their legacy businesses. And they’ve captured market share to such an outrageous extent that they can harm their customers at will.
“It’s long past time for lawmakers and public interest regulators to get answers about Comcast’s justification for its data caps, and the impact these caps have on the affordability and openness of high-speed networks.”