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Lawmakers Fighting Against Comcast’s Data Caps During Pandemic

Stephanie Sengwe

Democratic state representatives Andy Vargas and Dave Rogers filed legislation to stop Comcast from placing a data cap and hiking prices for Massachusetts residents. According to Ars Technica, Rogers’ aim is “to push back at Comcast and any other service providers who try to raise prices or fees during a pandemic.” Both he and Vargas are arguing that Comcast’s planned 1.2TB monthly data cap will mostly affect low income households.

Comcast is not proposing the data cap for the state of Massachusetts alone. The company has already implemented the data cap in 27 states for several years, and recently placed it in an additional 12 states this month. “Comcast is easing-in enforcement so that the first overage charges for newly capped customers will be assessed for data usage in the April 2021 billing period,” Ars Technica reports.

If the bill passes, it would hold for as long as the COVID-19 state of emergency holds and for at least 60 days beyond that. The bill would forbid cable companies to “impose new data caps or allowances onto their subscribers” and impose “a moratorium on any pre-existing data caps or allowances” that were already placed.

Companies would also be prohibited from hiking the cost of any internet plans or “levying any new fees or charges” related to broadband service, or “shut off Broadband Internet Access Service or services for subscribers that are unable to pay overdue bill[s] due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 emergency.”

Last March, just as the pandemic was taking hold, Motherboard reported that 17 senators issued a letter to the nation’s biggest ISPs, urging the companies to lift their broadband caps and overage fees. “As organizations around the country formulate their responses to the recent outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, we write to discuss the steps that your company is taking to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth and remote support services,” the senators wrote, according to Motherboard.

Last year, AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, we’re among the internet service providers, agreed to assist customers who were working at home for their jobs or school because of the virus. For their part, AT&T will suspend all broadband usage caps. Companies such as CenturyLink and T-Mobile also agreed to not terminate service or assess late fees on customers and businesses that fall behind on their bills for 60 days as part of the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge. They also agreed to open wi-fi hot spots to any American who needs them.

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