Monroe County Legislator asks FCC to reject Spectrum petition for data caps on customers

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart (D-21) and Stop the Cap!, a consumer advocacy group, are asking the FCC to reject Charter Communication’s petition to allow data caps on Spectrum’s broadband customers.

In the petition, Spectrum asks 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 Spectrum would not impose data caps on broadband customers.

“It’s outrageous that Charter would even think about data caps in the midst of this crisis,” Barnhart said in a statement.

Spectrum argues that its competitors are able to charge customers when they go over data caps. The petition mentions that Comcast, Cox, Altice, AT&T UVerse, and Verizon Fios each have data cap or similar data usage policies.

“As data usage skyrockets, the DC/UBP (Data Cap and Usage-Based Pricing) Condition artificially hamstrings Charter’s ability to allocate the costs of maintaining its network in a way
that is efficient and fair for all of its customers—above-average, average, and light users alike,” the petition reads.

Barnhart says that if Spectrum is allowed to cap usage, customers could face the same charges imposed by Comcast, which costs an extra $10 a month for each additional 50 gigabytes, up to $100 maximum.

“It’s outrageous that Charter would even think about data caps in the midst of this crisis,” Barnhart said in a press release. “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.”

“Charter Spectrum is the only cable company in America asking the FCC for permission to cap customer usage during a pandemic,” said Phillip Dampier of Stop the Cap! in a press release. “Every internet provider argued their networks were robust enough to handle pandemic traffic. So there is no justification for adding caps now.”

The petition sites speed of the growth of “online video distributors” as reason to be released early from the conditions, claiming the places online to view and consume video have grown far beyond what the original seven year agreement envisioned.

The FCC is accepting comments online through July 22.

When reached for comment on the matter, a Spectrum spokesperson shared:

We are not even considering implementing caps now and have no plan to do so. We’ve all seen very clearly over the past few months how quickly things can change, including from completely unexpected events – not to mention that we are part of an industry that changes and grows quickly. The FCC noted the same thing when it created this framework for the merger conditions to be in place for 5 vs. 7 years – that its ability to predict market conditions “diminishes the farther into the future we look.” No other provider is subject to these conditions, we’re just looking for a level playing field and we are doing that through the process the FCC laid out for this purpose in the merger order four years ago.

The full petition can be found below:

The FCC is accepting comments online through July 22.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story throughout the day.

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