Last month, internet service provider Cox began charging residential customers in Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, and Oklahoma an extra $10 for every 50 gigabytes of data they use over 1 terabyte in a month, bringing the total number of states it charges caps for to 16. Cox’s moved matched other leaders in the industry aggressively implementing capped service, like its competitors Comcast and AT&T.
BroadbandNow, which is a partially industry-funded search engine for home internet providers, is identifying and releasing data on the ISPs trying to jump on the capped data bandwagon. According to their search of provider websites as of August 7, approximately 196 of the 2,500 government-identified providers on their list advertise data-limited plans on their websites.
The monthly caps in question vary from as low as 3GB—roughly what Netflix says will be consumed in an hour of HD programming—to as high as 3TB.
According to ArsTechnica, Newport, New York’s NTCNet, which has the 3GB cap in place, says the cap is not enforced and is only there as a placeholder in case they need to enforce limits in the future. But a number of other services had caps under 10GB, while numerous services capped accounts at under 100GB.
As ArsTechnica noted, some of the largest broadband companies including AT&T, Comcast, Cox, CenturyLink, Mediacom and Suddenlink were on the list, as well as major satellite providers Exede and HughesNet. Many of the ISPs on the list charge overage fees for further access or offer unlimited plans at higher rates, though some others do not aggressive enforce the caps.
All of this data, of course, does not necessarily cover various other ways ISPs can screw over their customers, like throttling internet access for heavy users or overselling capacity out of ignorance or deliberate profiteering. In the past, some ISPs have also used deceptive advertising language to give the impression plans which simply raise overage fee thresholds are actually unlimited, i.e. by saying the plans aren’t limited to a set amount.
Currently, the Federal Communications Commission is under the dubious leadership of Donald Trump appointee Ajit Pai, who has declared war on net neutrality and seems determined to roll back rules which prevent ISPs from implementing tiered services or throttling competitors. In that light, last year’s attempts by content providers like Netflix to fight data caps via FCC regulatory action now look somewhat quixotic.
BroadbandNow’s data also doesn’t say anything about mobile providers, for whom data caps and other tricks to limit customer utilization of bandwidth are basically a fixture of the landscape; Verizon Wireless, for example, has begun openly throttling mobile video.