A Comcast sign in Eugene, OR
Joshua Rainey Photography/Shutterstock.com

AT&T, Comcast, and T-Mobile have already lifted data caps, which are already indefensible at the best of times. No internet service provider should rake in extra profits from harsh data caps at a time when people have to work, study, and entertain themselves at home.

This matters. For example, Comcast normally charges $10 for each extra 50 GB of data their customers use above the 1 TB data cap. With companies asking their employees to work from home, schools canceling classes, large events being banned, and more people being asked to quarantine themselves at home, home internet usage will likely go up. That shouldn’t be an excuse to tack on extra fees and increase profit margins.

Here’s the good news: Some ISPs have already done the right thing. AT&T has lifted data caps on its home broadband service. Comcast has followed, removing overage fees for people who go over their data caps for now. For data on the go, T-Mobile is offering unlimited data to all its customers and an additional 20 GB of mobile hotspot data. More ISPs will hopefully follow.

Comcast is also offering its “Internet Essentials” plan for low-income families for free for the next two months and is raising its speed from 15 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up to 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.

Other ISPs have made much smaller moves but haven’t lifted their data caps. Verizon will waive late fees “for the next 60 days” “because of coronavirus,” which is surely better than doing nothing at all. Major ISPs like AT&T, Charter, CenturyLink, Comcast, Cox, Sonic, Sprint, and T-Mobile have also agreed with the FCC not to suspend their customers’ service and to waive late fees.

More ISPs need to step up and follow AT&T, Comcast, and T-Mobile’s leads.

We’ve never liked home broadband data caps. These fees are basically pure profit for ISPs. Internet connections are getting faster and faster, but data caps aren’t going up. You can pay for a gigabit internet connection from Comcast and it comes with the same 1 TB data cap as its slowest connection. These data caps never seem to rise even as ISPs add capacity to their networks.

As more people telecommute, video chat online, stream 4K content, and download ever-larger games, it’s easier than ever to push up against these data caps. This situation shouldn’t be a bonanza of extra fees for ISPs.

After all, if AT&T and Comcast can afford to lift data caps and have plenty of capacity to do so even while more people than ever are staying home, why can’t they permanently remove data caps? TechCrunch argues that ISPs could abandon data caps forever for this reason. We certainly hope they do.

Be sure to wash your hands.

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Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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