Tagged: bandwidth

white and blue cables
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.

08
Jun
2020

Cox Communications is Looking for a Lawsuit

For the love of data caps Batman! Cox Communications is taking its ability to be a very bad corporate citizen to the next level this week. Not only are they throttling users with “unlimited” data, but they are punishing the whole network segment these users are on as well. Ars Technica reports, and Cox confirms, that they are doing this to keep their network experience consistent for all users… And by consistent they mean consistently bad.

Not only are their “gigabit” plans not actually gigabit (you only get “gigabit” download speeds, Cox caps you at 35 Mbps upload all the time), their “unlimited” data appears to not be the case either. When I hear of “unlimited” data that means that you can use all the data you want at the speed of the service tier you pay for. Apparently for Cox this means that you can do that until they decide that you have used too much data in your “unlimited” data plan and then the throttle you to 10 Mbps maximum for uploads. Then they start to threaten to terminate your account because you have used too much “unlimited” data on their network. So rather than getting what you paid extra for, you now get 72% less upload bandwidth and threatening phone calls.

The kicker is that not only does Cox take out their corporate wrath on the customer using more than their allotted “unlimited” amount of data, they also also take it out on everyone attached to that segment of the cable modem network. This is why I think the class action lawsuit is going to start really soon, likely for the following reasons:

  1. Cox is punishing others for a situation they didn’t cause nor can control.
  2. Cox is punishing people for using the service in a way that they reasonably should expect to be able to do given the plans they paid for.
  3. The “unlimited” data add-on is clearly false advertising if they are throttling connections based on using too much data.
  4. Cox is threatening the termination of contracts based on usage patterns that a reasonable person would expect to be allowed given the plans they are paying for.

I’m waiting to see the pandemonium that ensues when the attorneys start trying to pile on to this one. While Mike, who spoke to Ars, may only get a few bucks, the attorney fees will certainly be very enticing.

Aside from the class action lawsuit though, this is yet another example of cable companies abusing their customers because they can’t actually provide the service levels they promise. Or at the very least, this is a greed ridden money grab targeted at the customers that are already paying more for services to supposedly guarantee a positive experience. Instead of improving their networks, or better yet, just running fiber, carriers choose to act as parasites. They get away with this because in many areas there is only one broadband provider available so consumers have no choice. The perfect example of why monopolies are not supposed to be allowed by US laws and regulations.

What can you do to try and avoid Mike’s fate, or if you can’t avoid it, at least try and improve your situation? Start with these:

  1. Avoid cable companies whenever possible, or if you can’t try and sign up for fiber service if they offer it. Always choose fiber over a cable modem.
  2. Complain loudly and frequently to the carrier. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  3. Push for net neutrality regulation. Don’t let the FCC off the hook for pandering to big carriers and not the consumers that have to put up with this type of abuse.
  4. Report deceptive or unethical business practices to federal, state, and local regulators.
  5. Talk to news outlets about what you are experiencing. Nothing is better than shining the light on these situations. If the negative PR gets bad enough, these carriers will backpedal.
  6. And if you really feel like the case warrants it, talk to an Attorney.

I am curious to see what happens to Cox over the coming weeks as this story gains traction. Will they backpedal? Will we see a class action lawsuit? Will Cox realize the error of their ways and become a beacon of corporate benevolence in a corrupt world?

Who knows, but it will certainly be interesting to watch.