More than 13,000 Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) users have complained to the FCC about the MSO's data usage limits, according to pay-TV dissonant blog CutCableToday, which said it used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the information.
That is an eye-raising number of complaints, given that Comcast only recently started testing usage-based pricing models in select regions, primarily in the Southeast. The MSO has stridently resisted calling the limits -- which generally charge broadband customers extra when they exceed 300 gigabytes of data usage for a given month -- "caps."
"The government needs to do something to stop this practice of capping," one of the complaint letters to the FCC stated. "PLEASE do something. We have no one to protect us!"
The most common complaint found by the information request was from customers who say that Comcast isn't measuring data usage accurately.
"As of writing this they currently place us at 271GB of 300GB (according to their online meter) used for the month of September," said one Comcast customer in Georgia. "However, our FreeBSD router tracks the total data used (outgoing or incoming) on WAN and only reports a total of ~147.054GB (139.93GB DL / 7.12GB UL) consumed in the same time period."
"[Comcast offers] a 'data usage meter' online that simply tells you how much data you have used every month with no detailed statement as to the accuracy of it [and] with no way to view where the data every month is being allocated," a Murfreesboro, Tenn., customer writes. "At the moment it simply says you've gone over without any real feedback to tell you exactly where the data was used and could potentially be used to fraud [sic] people into paying more for services as there is no way to dispute the data usage."
Comcast gave this statement to FierceCable: "We are conducting data trials in select markets around the country, covering a small percentage of our customers. We designed the various plans we are trialing with a minimum 300 GB/month data plan because more than 90 percent of our customers use less data than that and are not affected. The trials are providing us with invaluable consumer feedback. For example, we surveyed our heavy data users and 80 percent thought our data trials were fairer than our past approach, which was a 250 GB/month static cap. It's important to note that 10 percent of our customers are consuming nearly 50 percent of all the data on our network. As a result, these trials are based on the principle that those who use more, pay more and those who use less, pay less."
While other cable companies have imposed caps on data usage, Comcast's trials of the strategy have drawn intense public scrutiny.
"We see concerning things happening if you look at cable companies like Comcast now instituting data caps that just happen to be at a level at or below what someone would use if they're watching TV on the Internet -- and at the same time launching their own streaming service that they say doesn't count against the data cap," Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch told the blog CordCutting.com earlier this month. "It's something we've been warning Washington about for years, and it's a risk to OTT in general. We're net neutrality proponents, and want to make sure that rules are implemented so that it really is a level playing field for new players like us."
Sling TV CEO comes out against Comcast's data caps
Comcast: Stream TV is IP-cable and shouldn't count against data usage limits
Comcast says it publicly outlined its usage-based pricing philosophy back in 2012