Internet data caps are not like pizza — where taking a slice could mean fewer slices for everyone else. I don’t think Verge readers have trouble understanding this concept? It’s been well-established that ISPs have no trouble delivering unlimited data, even during — say — a global pandemic when vast throngs of the population have suddenly found themselves working from home.
This, however, did not stop WideOpenWest (aka WOW!) from using pizza to justify brand-new, possibly-never-before-seen data caps for its cable internet subscribers, starting June 1st, 2021, as Ars Technica reports.
Here’s a portion of the email subscribers are receiving:
What’s a monthly data usage plan? Let us illustrate …
Imagine that the WOW! network is a pizza. Piping hot. Toppings galore. Every WOW! customer gets their own slice of pizza, but the size of their slice is dependent on their Internet service plan. While customers who subscribe to 1 Gig get the largest slices, those with Internet 500 get a slightly smaller piece, and so on. But, it’s all the same delicious, high-speed pizza that you know and love.
Now, say you’re not full after your slice and you grab another. That extra slice is like a data overage. Don’t worry—we got extra pizza... umm, data... just in case. If you exceed your data allowance, we’ll automatically apply increments of 50GB for $10 to your account for the remainder of the current calendar month. Total overage charges will not exceed $50 per billing statement no matter how much data you use. Even better—the first time you experience a data overage, we’ll proactively waive fees.
To explain how nonsensical that is, here’s a paragraph from a story I wrote late last year which I think you might enjoy reading as well:
Forget for a moment that Comcast itself was caught red-handed explaining that data caps have nothing to do with network congestion. Forget that the CEOs of several smaller ISPs have admitted that internet capacity is anything but scarce. Forget that Comcast disabled its own congestion management system because it found it was unnecessary. Forget even that Comcast is a wildly profitable company whose cable division spends only a tenth of its yearly revenues on keeping that network strong. The proof that data caps are a swindle is something you probably witnessed yourself earlier this year: Comcast, AT&T, and T-Mobile all suspended their data caps when the pandemic hit, and the internet kept on working without a hitch.
The kicker here is that WOW knows full well its network is nothing like pizza — because for years, including during the pandemic, the company proudly boasted that it didn’t have a data cap. It was the reason to pick WOW over Comcast, one subscriber told Ars Technica.
To which I say: wow.
What would cause WOW to abandon its values for profit? I can’t say for sure, but I’d hazard a guess it might have been emboldened by Comcast’s recent decision to make data caps the norm across the United States starting
March July sometime next year. Because that’s the state of internet “competition” in the United States: so few real choices that when one ISP turns up the profits, it’s probably safe for neighboring ISPs to do same. If you’re locked into just one or two bad choices where you live, I’d recommend telling the FCC.