Comcast recently expanded its broadband caps across all markets, and Massachusetts lawmakers say the restrictions are “arbitrary, technically unnecessary, and unfairly harm vulnerable populations” amid a pandemic. In a letter to Comcast, twelve lawmakers noted that enacting price hikes during this economic downturn and health crisis is “tone-deaf and callous.”
“It is inconceivable that Comcast would choose to impose this ‘cap and fee’ plan during a pandemic when many Massachusetts residents are forced to work and attend school from home via the internet,” the lawmakers wrote.
Under the cap, customers consuming over 1.2 terabytes per month must pay $10 for each additional 50 GB used on top of their monthly bills. The surcharges are capped at $100 per month, or customers can avoid added fees by enrolling in the unlimited data plan, which costs an additional $30 per month.
According to Comcast documents, there’s no technical purpose to the broadband caps, and the limits don’t handle congestion, yet the company claims “fairness” around imposing restrictions on customers. These types of caps are often set in uncompetitive U.S. broadband markets. Besides Comcast, estimates show that approximately 179 U.S. ISPs impose usage caps.
“Network capacity is not an issue for Comcast or a valid excuse to charge customers more,” the lawmakers wrote. “We strongly urge Comcast to discontinue this plan and to reconsider any future attempts at imposing a data cap or any perversion of the principles of net neutrality in Massachusetts.”
In March, many ISPs came to an agreement with the FCC to temporarily suspend limits. However, companies like Comcast and AT&T have moved quickly to restore surcharges even amid a global crisis.
“Massachusetts has experienced the largest relative increase of food-insecure individuals in the nation due to COVID-19, and has suffered some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation,” the lawmakers wrote. “The last thing our constituents need is to worry about paying more for the same quality of internet service.”