By Public News Service
CHICAGO – A consumer watchdog group in Illinois is asking Internet users to sign a petition aimed at convincing Internet service providers, or ISPs, to drop potential plans for data caps and new overage charges.
This comes as one of the country’s largest ISPs, Comcast, is rolling out new data usage billing trials in several cities.
Jim Chilsen, communications director for the Citizens Utility Board advocacy group, says the changes could end up costing some customers more than they’re paying now, and could hurt competition in the marketplace.
“The data caps aren’t in the Land of Lincoln yet, but Comcast is showing signs that it could roll this out nationwide,” Chilsen states. “And we want people to let ISPs know that we’re angry about this.”
A regional Comcast spokesman confirmed there are no user-based billing trials in the Chicago market.
Comcast’s previous data cap has been suspended locally since 2012.
Supporters of the new billing methods say they’re more flexible and only the heaviest Internet users would end up paying overage charges.
According to Comcast, only about 8 percent of users nationwide would hit the proposed monthly data cap of 300 gigabytes.
As an example, someone would have to stream about 100 hours of HD videos before being billed an overage charge.
Still, Chilsen says with more people working from home, and more devices and apps online, more people could end up feeling the sting of a data cap.
“What’s particularly disturbing about this is, U.S. consumers already pay some of the highest broadband rates in the world,” he points out. “We’re talking about an industry trend that is going to make our Internet bills even higher.”
Chilsen says more than 1,700 hundred people have signed the no data cap petition on CUB’s website.
Meanwhile, as a low-cost alternative, Comcast points to its $10 a month Internet plan, which has been available to about 30,000 low-income Chicago households since 2011.