Several US cable operators and telcos are temporarily lifting data caps and data overage charges to help deal the higher data demands expected from the COVID-19 outbreak that is forcing millions of people to work from home.
Among the latest to join this group is Cox Communications, which announced Monday it has eliminated data usage overages for the next 60 days. Cox residential broadband customers with a 500 Gigabyte or unlimited data usage add-on plan will receive credits, said Cox, which has also boosted the speed of its $19.99 "Starter" plan to 50 Mbit/s (downstream) for the next 60 days.
Cox has eliminated data usage overages for the next 60 days.
Examples of other US ISPs with legacy data plans for residential customers that have lifted those policies on a temporary basis include AT&T, Mediacom Communications, Comcast and Cable One/Sparklight.
They are all putting those policies on ice as the FCC last week called on US broadband providers to "relax" data caps. That request was made alongside a broader "Keep Americans Connected Pledge" led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and backed by dozens of service providers to help minimize broadband service and network disruptions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Those on board with the 60-day pledge are taking measures that include the suspension service terminations for customers who can't pay their bills, the waiving of late fees and the opening up of Wi-Fi hotspots.
While a growing number of ISPs have volunteered to suspend their data usage policies, the Communications Workers of America, Consumer Reports, Public Knowledge, Free Press and other consumer groups jointly published a letter encouraging all US broadband service providers to lift their data caps and waive data cap fees. Consumer Reports Senior Policy Counsel Jonathan Schwantes, said in a statement, writes: "Not only are these actions pro-consumer, they're a no brainer and all ISPs and wireless carriers can and should do more to give consumers relief during this crisis where many of us will be working from home for weeks, if not months."
Many of the individual organizations in the group have already criticized the use of data caps and usage-based broadband service policies as an unnecessary way to drive more revenues and keep OTT video competition in check, rather than as a network management tool.
The consumer groups' letter also urges US ISPs to share with the FCC data collected on the number of customers served, by what packages, and where expanded services were provided during the emergency. They were particularly interested in the effects of raised data limits on service quality and network management or any other challenges raised by waiving the usual consumer waiting periods for access to services. Those stats will better help the government identify network weaknesses, vulnerable communities and will prep the nation for the next major crisis of this sort.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading, special to Broadband World News