Internet companies begin reinstating broadband data caps on customers

Comcast, Cox and AT&T acocunt for seven in 10 broadband Internet connections in the United States, according to research data. (Logos: Comcast/Cox/AT&T/Handouts, Graphic: The Desk)

In March, a coalition of the leading Internet service providers in America announced they would provide relief to individuals and families who were sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 health pandemic by temporarily lifting broadband data caps, allowing those stuck at home unlimited access to their favorite streaming sites and work-from-home applications.

But when those companies said “temporarily,” they meant it.

The voluntary agreement forged between Internet and phone companies ended July 1, and so too did most of their goodwill gestures.

At the start of the month, Internet companies began restoring broadband data caps, despite the fact that unemployment remains at a record high and numerous states are reversing course and shutting down businesses as coronavirus infection rates increase.

During the months-long health crisis, Internet and phone companies also pledged to provide financial relief to customers impacted by the changing health and economic conditions by agreeing to not suspend service for customers who could not pay their bills and waive late payment fees in other cases.

Companies who entered into this voluntary pledge included AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Verizon, Consolidated Communications, Charter/Spectrum, Cox Communications and T-Mobile.

On Wednesday, Comcast restored its broadband data cap for customers in most of its service areas, though it agreed to increase the monthly cap from 1TB to 1.2TB, PC World reports. Comcast does not impose a data cap in the northeast portion of the United States where it competes with Verizon Fios. The company said it would continue to offer unlimited access to Comcast WiFi hotspots through the end of the year.

AT&T has also restored Internet data caps for customers, but the company says it will continue to offer payment relief for struggling subscribers. Customers have to submit a fee waiver directly to the company to qualify for payment relief plans, though the company will automatically suspend overage charges for phone calls, text messages and data services for both residential and business customers.

Charter/Spectrum appears to be more stingy — though the company doesn’t impose broadband data caps on customers, it did roll back financial relief plans and shut off WiFi hotspots to non-customers.

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