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Businesses Communications

Consumer Complaints About Broadband Caps Are Soaring (dslreports.com) 148

Karl Bode, reporting for DSL Reports: Consumer complaints to the Federal Communications Commission about broadband data caps rose to 7,904 in the second half of 2015 from 863 in the first half, notes a new report by the Wall Street Journal. The Journal filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency to obtain the data on complaints, which have spiked as a growing number of fixed-line broadband providers apply caps and overage fees to already pricey connections. According to the Journal, the FCC has received 10,000 consumer complaints about data caps since 2015.
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Consumer Complaints About Broadband Caps Are Soaring

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  • We don't want any data caps, just because we don't. Heh.
    • That was a tongue in cheek comment, since at some level *all* data is metered.
      But the economics are quite different now than they were a few years ago.
      Hosting that used to cost $10,000 a month because of transfers can now be had for less than $100 or $200.

      We're talking about residential broadband here, and the incumbent Cable TV firms that are providing that badly want to protect their
      expensive traditional Cable TV service which many people don't see as necessary anymore.
      We want to stream what we
    • by tricorn ( 199664 )

      We don't want data caps because they don't make any sense. There's no shortage of bytes, they don't cost anything. The scarce resource is not bytes but bandwidth. Limits on data, whether with caps or "overage fees", are a very crude and ineffective method of allocating available bandwidth.

      Sell bandwidth directly, then allocate it based on current network availability. Use a modifier based on recent usage of an individual subscriber as a multiplier on current bandwidth allowed for short bursts for low us

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 23, 2016 @10:49AM (#51972413)

    the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material

  • by zenlessyank ( 748553 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @11:06AM (#51972501)
    They're Great!!
    • by bool2 ( 1782642 )
      Nothing wrong with them. But because they are bigger than lower case letters they must use more of something to transmit so definitely you should be charged more to transmit them!
    • There is exactly two things that are wrong with them.

      First, the psychological one. Getting a 100mbit link and a data cap of 10GB is like selling you a Ferrari but you only get 2 gallons of gas per month. What good is the Ferrari then? It's useless. Yes, it looks pretty and your friends will surely admire it and how fast it goes for the half mile you actually can drive, but that wears off quickly. You don't get more out of it than you got from your old Lada. Which is, incidentally, why people kept dialup for

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @11:10AM (#51972523)

    Most consumers can deal with a data cap fine... if it is reasonable. It turns out most people are reasonable Internet users: They use it to get what they want, and leave it idle otherwise so that others can share. It is only some people who really abuse it (like torrent heads who download any and everything just to have it) that would complain about any cap, no matter what it is.

    However rather than use it as a tool to help network quality, ISPs get greedy and try to use it to milk extra money from consumers. That means they want to set the cop too low on purpose, so people overrun it and have to pay more.

    Like I have no issue with my data cap on Cox. For one, it is quite reasonable, 2TB. That's a lot of usage, even with a high speed line. So the chances of me hitting it are very low, even if I have a month where I'm using a ton of data for whatever reason (like restoring from an online backup or something). Also it is a soft cap. If I hit it they don't shut me off, just call me and pester me (or maybe not even that if it isn't much over, I don't know I've never hit it). Only if there are repeated problems would they act.

    Now compare that to my boss who's on Comcast and ends up hitting his cap every month. Part of that is because he has a family whereas I'm single but more is because it is a 300GB cap. Our line speeds are the same (or near enough) but Comcast gives 15%ish of the bandwidth and it is a hard cap, you go over you pay a ludicrous amount for more. He's really annoyed, and I would be too in that situation.

    It seems when they start charging money for it, they just can't help but get greedy and stupid.

    • Agreed about Cox. I'm on Cox with a 700 GB/mo cap. I don't come anywhere close to using that much. The one month I broke 600 GB/mo was right after i finished setting up my Plex server and downloaded a metric ton of anime. And the only reason I know I used that much is because I was worried about the data cap so looked it up. And that's when I learned that Cox doesn't cut you off if you exceed your cap (they don't even have a policy for sending you a warning - they just say they may do something about i
      • by dhawton ( 691348 )
        Lucky for you two.. in 2012, when I was living in northwest Florida, Cox's cap was 350GB for the top-tier residential package.. my roommate and his fiance watched a ton of NetFlix.. I only found out about the cap when the shut me off for hitting the cap. I called the main customer service number, the one given by the "Your account has been suspended" screen when I tried to access the internet.. they had no idea what was going on and the only note on the account was to call the local office. Once I finally g
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I'm been averaging 17Mb/s 24/7. About 180GiB/day. 700GiB doesn't last long. Everything legal I must add.
    • Is Cox the only ISP you can choose from?
      • Technically, I can get Century Link but they aren't really competition. Cox offers speeds ranging from 15/2mbps to 300/30mbps. Century Link only goes to 6mb/768k which is really not at all enough for the Interwebs these days. They could stop being retards and roll out fibre, of course, but they won't because they are a phone company and thus have a terminal case of the stupids. Also in theory there are CLECs at Century Link but I'm not sure the status these days and they can't give any higher speeds. Wirele

    • they want to set the cop too low on purpose, so people overrun it and have to pay more.

      My pet peeve is services that have the same cap across all their different service levels... 5Mbps or 500Mbps having the same cap is absurd, and eliminates any real benefit to the higher-priced plan.

      The big problem is landline internet service providers want it both ways... They want to sell you SPEED, and then sell you QUANTITY. Can you imagine your water utility charging you more money for 40PSI service instead of th

      • Well yes and no with bandwidth cost. The marginal cost, like per bit routed is minimal to none. However the infrastructure isn't free and the more people want to use, the more of it you need. That's where sharing and playing nice have to come in. You can't just say "Well get more capacity," because not only does that cost money, but there are limits you start to reach in terms of how much traffic a router can pass and so on. It is a lot for the really big ones, but still limited (900tbit/sec total capacity

        • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
          Only 900Tb/s? That's only 900,000 1Gb links and several times more bandwidth than peak world wide usage. If a single router has enough bandwidth to handle the entire world without congestion, then 10 of these should be able to be 10x faster.
          • Citation needed on that peak worldwide number. Also that single router is the Cisco CRS-X, when outfitted with maximum number (72) of 16-slot shelves fully populated with line cards and represents the maximum aggregate switching capacity of the system. Each shelf being an 84-inch rack and costing 6-7 figures.

            Seriously, big bandwidth costs big money and requires high end ASICs. If it actually interests you, spend a bit of time looking in to it (it is really cool, I love high end networking gear). If not no b

            • by Bengie ( 1121981 )

              Citation needed on that peak worldwide number.

              I guess you missed many of those /. posts about peak bandwidth over the years. Even if not "world wide", Netflix(~35%) and Youtube(~20%) make up 50% of peak USA internet usage and Netflix has claimed during FreeBSD conferences that they are near the 10Tb/s mark. It doesn't take much to figure out the USA's peak bandwidth is below 100Tb/s, or was several years back when this data was valid.

              I do agree that those network devices are expensive, but when you're making $3bil+/month in revenue from the services

        • the infrastructure isn't free and the more people want to use, the more of it you need.

          The end-user connection equipment has some costs, but that's up-front, and doesn't change with maximum or minimum usage.

          Goes double when you are talking something like cable since you share the network with neighbours, and you share the spectrum of the wire with video.

          Absolutely not. A coax cable has over 1GHz of bandwidth, and that's only shared within a neighborhood these days, as nearly all have fiber-optic distributi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 23, 2016 @11:25AM (#51972607)

    Look, the simple fact is us consumers are being abused. The caps are intentionally too low, because they have no purpose other than to squeeze out more revenue. It's rent seeking. The sick part is we built their tenements for them. We gave the ISPs billions in tax subsidies to build out better infrastructure, and they didn't. Rather, they kept the subsidies AND retained ownership of the infrastructure. I don't actually give a shit how we solve it, but less regulation is not the solution in this case. Unlike what seems like everyone sometimes, I don't have an ideological position for more or less regulation. Some regulation helps and some hurts. It's not all bad, and it's not all good. But, it's clear that the broadband industry needs more regulation. Here's my position: as long as low regulation and deregulation is working for all of us, great. But, when an industry is clearly abusing its consumers and obviously has no intention or incentive to change, it's time to bring out the big regulatory hammer. I guess we no longer have a big hammer. The only regulation that seems to pass anymore is regulatory capture benefiting the entrenched players.

    We need out legislature to work for us. Look at the democratic race. It basically centers around the fact that even if the Bernie has more popular support, the party will just give the super delegates to Hillary. They're fucking us. They are fucking us harder than the ISPs. And, we still don't vote third party. No, that would be throwing your vote away. It's like high school. If you don't vote for the most popular candidate for student council, it's because you're a loser. If you don't vote for a major party, it's throwing your vote away, because you picked a loser. Jesus, this country is fucking retarded.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I mostly agree with you but the simple problem with regulation is that regulators and politicians can be bought by lobbyists. I know for a fact that if Google fiber came through my area, my cable internet prices would drop by $20/month and they would lift the data caps, because Google fiber is $80(?) a month for gigabit with no data cap. What we really need is mandated competition in all cities, and then force those ISPs to offer same price service to the surrounding suburbs. Unfortunately, if you choose

    • is that a lot of folks will counter by saying that the last thing we need is _more_ government regulation. Gov't is the problem, not the solution, and the worst words you'll ever here are: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.

      I don't know what to say to that. I've never found a way to counter folks that say that. Part of the problem is these folks listen to right wing talk radio that gives them talking points to reinforce their viewpoint. They can out maneuver most folks in a debate because they
  • this is why (Score:4, Informative)

    by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @11:27AM (#51972617)
    I pay extra for a "business connection". No caps, static IPs, PTR records, no DCMA torrent monitoring, etc. The only issue I've ran into is a layer-7 SMTP block, which got removed with a phone call. But having to pay $95 a month for it does suck quite a bit. Several years ago I knew this was coming; once we got "conditioned" via cellular data caps, hardline caps were next. Without specific laws to stop them, corps will do everything and anything for extra profit. Good luck with those complaints, your also probably locked into a forced non-court arbitration agreement in your multi-volume "terms of service contract" too.

    If I had to pay for my bandwidth, I figure our bill would be at $600-$800 a month. Maybe less now that UVerse was bumped up. I forgot to install bandwidthD, and AT&T's page just says "your unlimited so we don't know" on my current usage lol.
    • You're fortunate. Some people live in areas where business class connections are available only to subscribers physically located in a business-zoned part of the city.

      • I guess those places haven't heard of a "home business". As a last resort, someone could get an EIN online within a few minutes and use this if the ISP requires one.
        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          The business is being run out of a business that the city or county considers to be in a residential zone.

          • These are the kinds of laws that I, as a Progressive Republican, find abhorrent. As long as your not running a retail / manufacturing business from your house, local government shouldn't place restrictions like this. And especially the local government shouldn't force ISPs to follow their arbitrary zoning laws and restrict what types of connections citizens can have just based on the location they want the service to be at. What if your job requires a static IP at your house? I guess in those cities, you j
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Over here in Europe, the caps on broadband/DSL/fiber/cable/whathaveyou have been gone for ages. There.Are.No.Caps. And the world didn't end on account of that as we have indeed fair prices for fair service. Let me say it again: unlimited internet usage.

    Meanwhile in the US it seems like the stoneage of 1990s metered connections. Honestly, I don't understand how you can put up with being abused by the telecoms so badly.

  • Okay, my mom pays for a 75 MBit connection a month.
    But there's, ostensibly, a 300 Gig cap a month.

    If a cablemodem were run at maximum throughput for that month, it'd pull down approximately 23 terabytes.
    The cap is, essentially, 1.2% of that.

    Now, nobody is saying that a consumer connection should deliver that full 23 terabytes month in and month out. While bandwidth is (relatively) cheap, it sure as hell isn't THAT cheap, and it's understandable that various broadband companies simply couldn't handle that s

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday April 23, 2016 @01:05PM (#51973207)
    that Cox (or was it Comcast) reported in their SEC filing that the actual cost of providing broadband is about $7/mo (total cost). Being an SEC filing it wasn't likely to be a lie (you don't lie to investors. Everyone else, ok, but not investors ).

    I don't know about the rest of /. but I pay $75/mo. There's really only 1 broadband provider. In theory I could go with DSL but it's slow, very unreliable and when it breaks they don't fix it. They just wait for you to cancel service and go back to cable.

    When we have a service that has so much demonstrated value and that virtually everybody wants and that costs only $7/mo to provide you'd think we'd make it a public utility. Of course, everytime we suggest that it gets shouted down with "Do whatever you want just not with _my_ money!"... :(. I miss doing things for the public good. And I miss the days (how brief) when we didn't just hand billions of dollars worth of public infrastructure to companies so they could take on a 90% surcharge.
  • I think Comcast doesn't realize the data cap issue could be MUCH more serious than they thought.

    It may be more than just a streaming video problem from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and so on. The likes of Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are pushing for more and more operations "though the cloud," and that could really use up a lot of data over the Internet in the near future.

    I believe that the downfall of data caps won't be a lawsuit from Netflix, Amazon or Hulu, but from Apple, Google and Micro

  • I think the bigger issue is a lack of significant competition. For example, look at cities where Google Fiber is even just a rumor. All the sudden, the incumbents start offering faster connections with greater bandwidth and for less money than they do in other locales. What we really need to do is to make it easier for Google and others to expand into more cities.

    One of the most significant barriers to entry is that the telco and cable providers have exclusive use of the "low voltage" part of the pole.

  • Please don't votes down as flame bait. For those of us not in the USA we do genuinely wonder why someone would chose a capped plan? A few years back here in NZ we were envious of US customers who had unlimited plans while all ISPs here had capped plans. Once the first ISP here offered unlimited data the churn from the other ISPs was huge with the majority of new connections choosing them. Others followed suit and the die hard money grabbing hold out ISPs realised they had to follow suit too or go out of
    • While I realise some customers in the USA may have only one choice of ISP

      That assumption is why you don't understand. It's not some, it's most. Here's an excerpt from a report from the US Department of Commerce:

      [...] only 37 percent of the population had a choice of two or more providers at speeds of 25 Mbps or greater;only 9 percent had three or more choices.

      Source. [doc.gov]

      Another article [arstechnica.com] says basically the same thing, coming from the FCC.
      And even when customers DO have a choice, I wonder how often one of them would offer 'Unlimited' when its competitor doesn't.

  • The C-level executives in any large company are disconnected from the customers who buy/use their products, being concerned with the "high level" views. But for most of those companies, they know that they have some competitors in the marketplace and will lose market share to those competitors if they fail to deliver.
    In the case of domestic US ISPs, decades of almost completely unregulated consolidation have put pretty much the whole country in a situation where each geographical area has a single large inc

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