Internet service provider Cox Communications has rolled out overage fees for its 1TB home internet data cap to five new locations around the US, the company confirmed to The Verge. While a trial began last year in Cleveland, Ohio before moving on to Florida and Georgia, the data cap charging policy has expanded to all customers in Connecticut, Arkansas, and Kansas, as well select regions in and around Sun Valley, Idaho and Omaha, Nebraska. A Connecticut customer, who told The Verge he just began receiving warnings about the charges from Cox, provided a link to the company’s support page, which was updated just yesterday with the new regions.
As part of the policy, customers of any Cox internet plan will be charged $10 for an additional chunk of 50GB of data after exceeding the standardized 1TB limit on all plans except its gigabit option. “This won’t impact 99 percent of our customers,” said company spokesperson Todd Smith in an email. “We have no additional locations to announce today. As decisions are made about any subsequent locations, we will announce these plans to our customers well in advance.” Cox internet plans have, prior to the first data cap trail period in Cleveland, outlined monthly data allowances in all markets. Yet the company didn’t charge overage fees for exceeding those caps until it began expanding the test beyond Cleveland. Instead, it used to simply suggest customers upgrade their plans.
Of course, Cox isn’t the only ISP to start imposing fees on home internet data caps. Comcast has been a notorious proponent of the policy, originally instituting a 300GB data cap on home broadband users before being pressured to raise the cap to 1TB last year. While Cox has started relatively small with only five states and select regions in three additional states, Comcast has been more aggressive about expanding its data cap policy. In October, Comcast began rolling out its data caps to a majority of customers in the US. Both Cox and Comcast have decided upon a $10 per 50GB overage fee, and fortunately that looks as if it will not be changing soon.
While Comcast has earned most of the flak here, AT&T raised its data cap for U-verse home internet customers to 1TB back in July. AT&T does at least offer unlimited usage to customers of its gigabit service. Comcast, on other hand, charges customers $50 extra a month to enjoy unlimited home internet use. Cox does not appear to have an unlimited option, although it does have a more generous 2TB cap for gigabit users.
Data caps are a contentious issue between ISPs and the Federal Communication Communications. The FCC remained quiet on the issue even as Comcast began implementing its data caps in select markets last year. However, the FCC spoke up in April 2016 during the government’s deliberations on the Charter-Time Warner Cable merger. As part of the approval, the FCC had a ban put in place on home internet data caps for the combined cable and internet provider for seven years.
Still the issue remains as more ISPs like Cox and others continue to institute restrictions on how internet is used in the home. In September, Netflix sent a letter to the FCC urging the commission to investigate data cap implementation and whether it should be banned for home internet use and whether unreasonably low caps should be allowed on mobile plans.
Netflix has its interests — the company has been transparent in its hatred of any ISP policy that would restrict streaming consumption. However, with President Trump in office and his new FCC Chairman and net neutrality opponent Ajit Pai in place, it’s unclear how deeply involved the commission will get in regulating the behavior of ISPs.
Update at 5:14PM, 1/24: Clarified that while Cox has used monthly recommended data allowances for years, it is just now beginning to implement overage fees in select markets. Also clarified that Arizona is not the only state in which Cox offers gigabit internet service.