One of the first-world concerns that have been prevalent over the last few months since we all started living on the internet due to the coronavirus is ‘Will broadband survive?’ and ‘What if Netflix goes down, what will I do?’.
In the main, with a little bandwidth tweaking here and there by the big companies we all can relax, we look to have got through the worst of the technical challenges.
Whatever the reason, and we kind of hope it is something to do with the current demand rather than just a seemingly odd decision by a department head, an entire neighborhood has had its net usage throttled by Cox Communications because one user has been hammering his (and this is the key bit) unlimited data plan that he pays extra for!
Yes, you did read that correctly. Ars Technica has been in touch with Mike from Florida who has been with Cox for years, paying $150 a month, including a top-up fee of $50 per month for ‘unlimited data’. Cos generally has a data cap of 1TB per month.
Now we all know that companies apply a Fair Use clause to their plans to make sure that unlimited data, doesn’t actually mean that – that is something the law for some reason seems to allow, but that is an argument for another day.
It seems that Mike’s average 8TB per month usage has irked somebody at Cox to the point they have felt the need to come down hard, not just on poor old Mike, but on the entire neighborhood.
Initially, Mike was contacted by Cox three times saying they needed to speak to him regarding his usage and that his “extraordinarily high amount of data” needed “adjustments to be made immediately.” The threat then gave him five days to cut his usage or his service would be terminated.
Mike told Ars Technica: “ Since I work from home, I naturally was very concerned they would pull the plug on me and I’d be unable to work. Immediately calling the number [provided in the voicemail], I was funneled directly to a department for “questions about your recent Internet speed changes,” and spoke with a representative there. He went on to explain that their network is overburdened and since I was an above-average user, I was being targeted to lower my usage or else have my account terminated… I tried to explain that my usage is not out of the ordinary for me. My day-time bandwidth usage is paltry (most of my bandwidth consumption is scheduled from 1am-8am), and that Cox should have been upgrading their infrastructure instead of oversubscribing nodes and pocketing the record revenue. I was told if I did not make a substantial decrease in my upload data usage, my service would be terminated.”
Cox then sent an email to Mike, and this is where this story stops being about one man’s argument with a large corporation, stating:
“During these unprecedented times, many people are working and schooling from home, and maintaining connectivity is important. We are working to provide a positive Internet experience for everyone, so we’ve adjusted our Gigablast upload speeds in your neighborhood from 35Mbps to 10Mbps, now through July 15, 2020. Your download speeds have not changed.”
When questioned Cox said : “We have identified a small number of neighborhoods where performance can be improved for all customers in the neighborhood by temporarily increasing or maintaining download speeds and changing upload speeds for some of our service tiers.”
Cox defended the temporary 10Mbps upload speed for its gigabit-download plan, saying that “10Mbps is plenty of speed for the vast majority of customers to continue their regular activity and have a positive experience.”
The thing is when you are paying $150 for an unlimited service you don’t need the company to tell you what is ‘plenty’.
The whole scenario is very strange and surely opens up Cox to complaints and potentially legal action by irate customers being penalized for living close by Mike.
Cox has since updated its webpage to state: that the gigabit plan’s upload speeds are now “10Mbps in limited areas to support consistent service across customers during periods of sustained increased Internet usage.”
It’s a strange world out there.