Armstrong customers bristle under price increases, tiny data caps

Armstrong Utilities maintains that "Less than 3% of Zoom customers are affected" by its 400 gigabyte data cap.

While some larger cable companies have upped their data usage caps to 1 terabyte a month, or eliminated usage limits altogether, some smaller operators are holding the line on strident ceilings, and customers are bristling in the process.

Take as an example Butler, Pennsylvania-based Armstrong Utilities Inc., which serves over 386,000 customers in six states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.

The usage cap on its standard “Zoom” 200 Gbps high-speed internet service is 400 gigabytes per month. 

One Armstrong customer located in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, took to Reddit to describe the cap as a “real bottleneck if you’re using video streaming services. There’s no option for unlimited data or to increase your cap.”

Added another Reddit user: “My Armstrong data cap is 200G. I have to spend precious brain time monitoring it.”

Meanwhile, another Armstrong user, Marshall University assistant professor Elbert Davis, in a letter to FierceCable said, “I have contacted numerous other ISPs, but none of them service my geographic area. If I want home internet, I’m forced to live under the Glorious People’s Democratic Republic of Armstrong Cable.”

Armstrong reps didn’t immediately respond to FierceCable’s inquiry to better understand the operator’s usage cap policy. 

Armstrong, however, does have a web page devoted to explaining the policy, which notes, "Less than 3% of Zoom customers are affected by these allowance plans. These allowance plans simply ask those who use in excess of their allowance to pay a very competitive additional cost or adjust the amount of Internet they use."

Larger operators with more nationally distributed footprints, and who face more competition, have either established very high usage caps or eliminated them altogether.

Comcast last year, for example, raised caps in markets in which it does maintain usage limits to 1 terabyte per month. No. 6 cable operator WOW!, meanwhile, recently restated its pledge not to implement data usage limits. 

For its part, Armstrong is also catching flak for steadily raising broadband pricing as it increases speeds in its largely rural, somewhat poor Mid-Atlantic and East North Central footprint. 

“When I first moved into Armstrong’s area, in 2015, the price was $45.99 for 30 Mbps,” a user told FierceCable. “This service tier had a 200 GB data cap. Yes, 200GB. In March, 2016, the 30 Mbps tier was eliminated, and we were forced into their 50 Mbps tier for $49.99, still with the 200GB data cap. In March, 2017, they eliminated the 50 Mbps tier, and forced us into their 100 Mbps tier, at $58.95. They did raise the data cap to 400GB.”