Overage fees for heavy internet users on Cox

Posted at 7:22 PM, Jun 30, 2017

Cox Communications rolled out plans to enforce new data overage fees on Wednesday. Customers in Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana and Oklahoma received an email explaining the policy.

In it, the company says many of its internet plans have been limited to 1 terabyte per month, and that going over that allotment would now cost $10 per 50 gigabytes.

Customers can expect to see the billing change in October.

A terabyte is a lot of data. Cox says only 2 percent of its customers ever reach that amount of usage.

But you may be getting there faster than you think.

In a statement, the company says internet usage doubles every two years and that by the year 2020 Americans could average 50 internet-connected devices in their homes.

Cox says "it makes sense that  users that consume significantly more data than allocated by their service plan should be notified of their overage so they can reevaluate their usage."

Consumer advocates are concerned.

"It's really a penalty and not anything related to an actual cost," says Matt Wood of Free Press, a digital rights advocacy group.

He says Cox is following a data capping trend amongst internet service providers around the country like AT&T and Comcast, and he questions why the same limits aren't applied to the other services the companies sell, like cable television.

"Nobody says you can only watch so many hours of TV per month if you're watching it on cable," he says.

Wood says the policy could be an attempt to keep people from completely cutting the cord, and "to make people think twice about switching to online video."

"By discouraging people from watching online videos they're encouraging people to keep subscribing to and paying for cable tv," he says.

And while one terabyte is the cutoff right now, Wood is concerned the threshold could be lowered in the future.

"We have asked the FCC at various times to at least look into these data caps," he says.

So far the agency seems unwilling, as it typically regulates internet access, not the how much people have to pay for it.
Wood says the tiered pricing system, where people pay more for higher speeds, is more fair to consumers.

"That's really a reasonable way to differentiate their pricing and to establish some limits of how much people can use at any one time," he says.

In the end whether or not the data cap trend continues, is ultimately depends on how much consumers push back. 

"Towards not just the companies but toward these government agencies," Wood says.

Cox says customers can receive alerts to monitor their usage.

Century Link also has data caps but does not have additional fees right now.  Instead the company sends warnings to consumers who use a lot of data.

A spokesman says they give the option to  "reduce their monthly data usage, upgrade their speed to a residential service with a higher data limit or upgrade their service to business-class High-Speed Internet service."