Stop the Cap on Internet Pay Per Use!!

Fight Back Against Usage Caps for Cable, DSL, and Fiber Optic Broadband

If you are upset about unjustified usage caps, restrictive tiers, and overpriced consumption-based broadband services, it does absolutely no good to just spend your time here and let y0ur blood boil. You need to take effective action to send a clear message to broadband providers that you treat this issue as a deal-breaker, one that will absolutely cost them your business. But that’s not all. These companies need to know their abusive market practices cannot be allowed to stand. Inform them you will also be asking public officials to put a spotlight on this issue, and take immediate action to guarantee an open, competitive marketplace where consumers can find many choices for broadband. In places where that does not exist, government oversight is appropriate.

Since 1989, I have fought many battles with the telecommunications industry, in addition to having produced a weekly radio program to help educate and inform consumers about how to achieve their goals. In my personal experience, some methods of protest and pushing back are dramatically more effective than others. Since most people will not avail themselves of all of the options, I have arranged these options from most effective to least, and why. Start at the top and work your way down. Do what you can, tell your friends about this issue, and help them get involved too.

Remember that even if you don’t like in a broadband capped community, the only word you need to remember is: yet. Be certain that this wildfire of Internet rationing and profiteering has just gotten started. You can either help put this fire out today, or it will be in your town tomorrow.

We have a track record of making a difference, giving some companies pause, others enough headaches to pull back on draconian cap plans. But that only happens when you do your part! Larger corporations require a much larger, unified effort, to get them to change their position, so get involved! Help us help you!

1. Cancel your service and let them know why.

Nothing is more effective than calling up an offending provider and letting them know you are taking your business elsewhere, and why. Many providers are giving their customer service people scripts to read and training their “retention” departments to try and talk you out of your decision. Do not be taken in by the propaganda. Most companies exploring usage caps are telling customers “this is only an experiment” or “it’s a test.” Tell them to experiment on someone else. Understand the company is measuring how much push back they receive from angry customers. If a retention specialist can save your business and talk you out of canceling, that is a “win” for them, and provides confidence they can stall you from leaving, both now and in the future.

The longer you stay, the more they can “condition you” to modifying your online usage to fit within their new capped service. That fattens their profits considerably. Not only are you paying more for broadband, you’re also going to use it a lot less.

Companies will track a mass exodus of customers to competitors, and that will be the most effective way of telling them their “experiment” has failed and they need to rescind it to stop the bleeding.

Remember that you can make an even more effective impact by canceling all of the other services in your bundle. If you are on a cable bundle, drop your pay channels, drop digital cable, get rid of the phone line, or be even bolder and cancel all of your services. Not every area has effective competition for every service. If you need to keep some services, just make sure to tell the company you are dropping others, and it’s all in retaliation for their flagrant abuse of your relationship and trust with them. If it’s your phone company doing the capping, time to consider switching to a cell phone or a Voice Over IP provider like the local cable company or Vonage, Voipo, or any of the dozens of others out there.

If you are planning to cancel service when the cap actually begins, do not wait to let the company know of your plans. Start warning them today, not months from now. Make it emphatically clear you will not tolerate usage cap plans and you will cancel your service the moment this plan becomes effective.

When calling a competing company to establish service, be sure to tell them you are switching because their company does not have any usage caps or rationing plans. Let them know that is a critically important issue to you. It sends the message to competitors that following suit with a cap of their own is a marketing opportunity lost.


2. Contact your public officials, elected and appointed, and ask them to become involved in this issue. (United States)

Broadband service is becoming increasingly important, yet in many markets there is effectively a duopoly of providers dominating the market. The cable and telephone companies are traditionally the most significant players in most communities. For the last decade, cable has competed primarily on speed and telephone companies have usually competed on price. Capping fundamentally changes everything. In areas where competition is insufficient, the two providers can keep prices high, speeds low, and now establish punitive usage caps to maximize profits, leading residents with few, if any alternatives. Your elected officials need to know this, and that market concentration often leads to market abuse.

Local officials grant franchise agreements to cable operators, giving them the right to wire and service each community. Local officials have the right to revoke those franchises should a local cable operator not meet the needs of citizens in that community. Does a brutally capped Internet meet your needs? If not, demand that your town/city/village council consider revoking or not renewing that franchise agreement and give it to a company that will serve your needs. Your state has a Public Utility/Service Commission. While it typically does not have the authority to regulate broadband services from either cable or telephone, it can be made aware there is a problem, and that can be useful if your state legislature holds hearings and asks Commissioners to testify. The same holds true for your State Attorney General. He or she can conduct oversight to consider whether a provider is following state laws regarding business operations. Unfortunately, most states cannot effectively regulate this problem away because of federal laws which deregulated the telecommunications industry in the mid-1990s.

Federal oversight, particularly with larger corporate players, can be especially effective in forcing change. The Federal Communications Commission, in particular, can be very useful in prodding operators to stay within the rules established by Congress. The FCC can also shine a bright light on issues such as these, which can draw the attention of legislators on Capitol Hill. Comcast learned this lesson just a year ago.

Members of Congress must also be a part of this discussion. You each have two senators and one member of the House of Representatives. They all need to be contacted and alerted to the importance of this issue. Congress loves to put fires out. They are more reactive than proactive. They tend to react more quickly when their offices are flooded with calls and letters about a particular issue. Large numbers of these from their districts often provoke hearings and legislation. But understand, legislative and regulatory changes in telecommunications law take years, not weeks, and require a massive investment in time and energy by constituents who will be up against highly paid industry lobbyists and special interests. It will also require companies offering broadband products (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.) to become involved in this fight. It is never a quick fix, but when an idea like usage caps is in a formative stage, it is much more vulnerable to oversight and attention from Congress and being pulled back as a result. Once firmly established, getting rid of rationing and limits is far more difficult.


3. Contact your provider repeatedly and complain regularly about usage caps.

Calling and writing to complain about usage caps can be useful when a company is actively trying to measure customer response and push back. Calling is by far the most effective and expensive for the company to deal with. Sending a letter through the mail carries more weight than e-mail, but feel free to do all of them in combination. In many cases, larger corporations will not be swayed by complaints alone. In reality, the actual loss of business through disconnects is the only surefire way make your voice heard loudly, quickly, and most effectively. But in meetings to deal with damage control and tracking the progress of their “experiments,” the number of protest calls and letters will be explored as well.


4. Complain to the print and broadcast media.

Media attention can be very expensive and stressful for companies to contend with. Negative press engages unaware consumers about these issues, provokes more activism, and is being tracked by public policy officials to learn about hot button issues back in their home districts. Unfortunately, many media outlets are not well educated on the issue of capping, and when time constraints exist, will often take the company position and reprint it with one or two quotes from upset consumers. Most don’t dig into the issues to learn there is a significant counterargument to capping, and that the industry’s position on this matter comes with absolutely no raw data or independent verification to demonstrate its veracity. We will continue to do our best to educate the media with facts, avenues they can pursue and questions to ask. You can help by spreading the word about this site, and others like it, and demand that the media stay focused on this issue.


5. Public protests.

Public protests are primarily effective when they draw media attention. Television media needs pictures to accompany a story and a public protest can be very effective at doing that. Radio call-in programs can also help keep unaware customers informed about this issue, especially when you can share your own arguments and push back against industry propaganda. The print media is usually best at exploring these issues in greater depth and detail, but reporters are highly variable in their knowledge on this issue and where to find answers. Help point them to websites and organizations that are opposed to capping. Public protests are rarely effective at changing company policies by themselves. But it adds to the discomfort level.


6. Online petitions, social networking groups, and angry comments left on media websites.

Unfortunately, when something like a usage cap issue appears, the first thing people want to do is come together for support, coping, and venting. They want to believe that if companies only knew how unpopular an idea was, they would drop it. So groups get formed, petitions drawn up, and much online conversation back and forth commences. I’m sorry to say doing these things alone will almost never amount to anything. Understand that each of these things can be useful components in the fight against usage caps, but by themselves they are by no means effective at changing policies. Online petitions are almost universally ignored by any company that receives them. They understand it takes seconds to join one, and most of those that do never go on to hurt the company’s bottom line. “They sign the petition, believe they’ve done their part, and move on with their lives as our customers,” is the most common refrain I hear about these things. Angry messages posted in comments on blogs and social networking sites are things that will be seen mostly by people who share your view, not by the company decisionmakers doing the capping. Some companies will visit sites to read what’s being said about them, and customer service and public relations people will sometimes engage those making comments, but they are often not the people who made the decisions about capping in the first place. They are simply doing damage control.

However, online petitions can be effective when leveraged for additional media and public official involvement. Social networking groups can be very useful in organizing calls to action, public protests, and lobbying campaigns. Participating in online forums and exchanges can give you the opportunity to help angry people channel that into more effective direct lobbying and action that will bring about actual results. Just remember these things alone will not provoke change.

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