Stop the Cap! and County Legislator Rachel Barnhart Urge FCC to Reject Charter Petition to Allow Data Caps

Public can submit comments to FCC until July 22  

Stop the Cap!, a consumer advocacy group, and Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart are urging the FCC to reject Charter Communication’s petition to allow data caps on Spectrum’s broadband customers.

Charter wants to be released two years early from conditions imposed by the FCC as part of its 2016 acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. One condition was that Charter would not impose data caps on broadband customers.

Charter argues that its competitors are able to charge customers when they go over data allowances. If Charter is allowed to cap usage, customers could face the same charges imposed by Comcast, which charges customers an extra $10 a month for each additional 50 gigabytes, up to $100 maximum. Comcast customers pay an extra for unlimited policies.

The FCC is accepting comments through July 22. Here is how consumers can easily submit comments.

Click this link. On the left-hand sidebar, there is a link marked “+Express.” It is circled in this screen shot.

Statement from County Legislator Rachel Barnhart:

It’s outrageous that Charter would even think about data caps in the midst of this crisis. The pandemic has shown that residential broadband internet should be treated as basic infrastructure. Workers and students without reliable or affordable connections have been left behind. Data caps would make the yawning digital divide worse.

Although Charter claims it is not considering data caps, there is no reason to believe local consumers won’t be hit with higher fees. We already pay $65 a month for broadband. This is an obvious attempt to make more money, as well as prevent people from cutting the cord and going to streaming-only services.

(Barnhart has long been an advocate for municipal broadband. She did her master’s degree capstone project on the digital divide.)

Statement from Phillip Dampier of Stop the Cap!:

Charter Spectrum is the only cable company in America asking the FCC for permission to cap customer usage during a pandemic. 

Every internet provider argued their networks were robust enough to handle pandemic traffic. So there is no justification for adding caps now.

Rochester still lacks meaningful internet competition. Although Greenlight has made progress, most people locally cannot subscribe. In fact, Spectrum maintains a local broadband monopoly because its chief competitor Frontier is now bankrupt and does not supply DSL service to most locations at the FCC’s definition of broadband – 25 Mbps.

Anything that threatens to further increase internet pricing exacerbates the affordability digital divide already found in Rochester. Income challenged residents already overpay for Spectrum internet service or have to jump through unnecessary hoops trying to qualify for Spectrum Internet Assist, the company’s discount program.

We agree with pre-merger Charter, which told the FCC it had an aversion to data caps and marketed the lack of them as a competitive advantage. Charter also told the FCC data caps create marketing challenges because it complicates consumer purchasing decisions, increases churn among subscribers, and undermines the company’s marketing that is based on the quality and speed of Spectrum internet service.