30
Jan
2021

Cable Companies – Why Are We Still Having This Conversation?

ArsTechnica reports on yet another cable company, Mediacom, doing their best to act like the corporate bully with a monopoly they are. Mediacom is yet another cable company that puts caps on their users in terms of the upload and download bandwidth that they can use. You know, because those extra bits cost money or something. </sarcasm> Of course the real reason they do this is because they can, and they have a monopoly in their market, so who is going to stop them. Mediacom seems to be looking to take home the crown of worst corporate citizen during the Pandemic by shaking down their customers even before they hit their data caps. From ArsTechica users:

So, got a call from the Mediacom fraud and abuse department today. The rep told me they were calling customers that have “higher than average” bandwidth usage as they are having network issues. I hurried up and checked my account and only used a bit over 2.5TB last month. He told me my upload was 450GB over their average and if I didn’t reduce my usage they would either throttle or disconnect me. I argued that I used less than half of the total data allowed by my plan, but he said my 1.2TB of upload was too much and that this was my warning.

Source

The reading get’s really interesting when you start reading Mediacom’s Terms and Conditions and Acceptable Use Policy.

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:

The Monthly Usage Allowance does not: (a) give Customers or any user a right to any bandwidth at any particular moment in time; or (b) carry-over from month to month. Measurement of the Monthly Usage Allowance resets on the first day of the billing cycle, regardless of actual usage during the prior billing cycle.

Mediacom Terms and Conditions

The amount of the Additional Monthly Usage Fee does not include any applicable fees and taxes. The amount of the Additional Monthly Usage Fee and any limits on such amounts are subject to change at any time by Mediacom in its sole discretion.

Mediacom Terms and Conditions

All usage of the Service shall remain subject to Mediacom’s Acceptable Use Policy and the Customer Agreement. Without limitation, Customer’s usage of the Service cannot restrict, inhibit, interfere with or otherwise disrupt or cause disruption, performance degradation of other users or impair or threaten to impair the operation of Mediacom’s systems or network. 

Mediacom Terms and Conditions

But wait… Here are the best parts:

Please note that in using the Service you may be under your total bandwidth usage allowance but still have a negative impact on Mediacom’s network. Use that causes a negative impact on Mediacom’s network is prohibited and Mediacom may implement necessary network programs to address such use or such use may result in suspension or termination of your access to the Service.

Mediacom Acceptable Use Policy

Excessively using bandwidth, whether upstream or downstream, that in Mediacom’s sole opinion, places an unusually large burden on the network or goes above normal usage. Mediacom has the right to impose limits on excessive bandwidth consumption via any means available to Mediacom.

Mediacom Acceptable Use Policy

For example, these network management activities may include, but may not be limited to: (i) identifying spam and preventing its delivery to customer e-mail accounts, (ii) detecting malicious Internet traffic and preventing the distribution of viruses or other harmful code or content, (iii) temporarily delaying or terminating to or from high-bandwidth users during periods of high network congestion, and (iv) using other tools and techniques that Mediacom may be required to implement in order to meet its goal of delivering the best possible broadband Internet experience to all of its customers.

Yes, you are reading that right. Even if you paid for the service and the bandwidth, Mediacom may arbitrarily decide to shut off your service because they don’t like how much bandwidth you are using.

Let’s be clear, if companies like Mediacom were not trying to squeeze every dollar out of their customers that they can while investing as little into their infrastructure as possible, this would not be an issue. The pandemic has caught cable companies like Mediacom with their pants down and exposed the massive flaws in the infrastructure they have. The Pandemic also exposed the lack of investment in the broadband infrastructure by many cable service operators like Mediacom. Those coax cables running you your house aren’t new. They were never run with the expectation that hundreds or thousands of people were going to be trying to use what should be gigabit internet connections on the same cable that you parents watched classic show re-runs on. DOCIS 3.1 speeds require investment to achieve. Can you imagine getting 10 Gbps on your cable modem today? I didn’t think so.

In addition to lack of investment, cable modem networks have never been a technology that is overly scalable to begin with. When your network performance degrades with every person that starts tapping into the shared bandwidth of the network segment they are on, that is the first sign you are in trouble. Then when you add in the fact that much of that infrastructure sitting on the pole is old which leads to transmission issues the situation becomes hopeless. That is when companies like Mediacom start to write policies designed to effectively prohibit customers from using the service that they are paying for rather than investing all that profit they are making in upgrading their infrastructure to support the increased demand.

So that brings me back to the question that I initially posed in the title of this post:

Cable Companies – Why Are We Still Having this Conversation?

Why is it that cable companies routinely seem to make a point of acting like the worst corporate citizens when it comes to internet services? You would think they would get sick of the constant negative PR they get because of it. The fact that the negative PR hasn’t changed their behavior highlights one point:

Cable companies are far too protected and insulated from market pressure by antiquated regulations and rules that federal, state, and local governments have in place.

It is time for the FCC, which is now under new leadership, to re-write the rules and force these companies to behave in a consumer friendly manner. Infrastructure must be upgraded, monopolies need to be broken, and unfair consumer policies need to be tossed out. Let’s hope we will see some positive changes coming to in the next year or two.

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