SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – As people continue to struggle financially in the COVID-19 pandemic, one Springfield city councilor is urging the city’s primary internet provider to reconsider its impending data cap.
In a news release to 22News Thursday, City Councilor Jesse Lederman said Springfield should evaluate the internet access and affordability across the city in the coming year.
“The internet has become an essential utility for individuals, families, and businesses,” Lederman stated. “Residents should not be nickel and dimed in the wake of a global health pandemic as they attempt to access education, conduct commerce, and participate in government.”
A Comcast spokeswoman for the Western New England Region told 22News about 95 percent of their customers are not impacted by this plan, even during the pandemic, because 1.2 terabytes is a massive amount of data that enables consumers to:
- Video conference for 3,500 hours
- Watch 1,200 hours of distance learning videos
- Stream 500 hours of high-definition video content a month
- Play more than 34,000 hours of online games
“In fact, the median data use by our customers is 308GB, which doesn’t come anywhere close to the 1.2TB level. Our data plan is structured in a way that the very small percentage of our customers who use more than 1.2 terabytes of monthly data and generate the greatest demand for network development and capacity pay more for their increased usage. For those superusers, we have unlimited data options available. Customers can track their data usage through the MyAccount and Xfinity mobile apps, MyAccount online, and the X1 platform – and as I mentioned, no customers will pay for Unlimited Data or any 1.2TB data overages until at least April (which will be reflected in their May bill). This gives them time to get to know their usage needs.Comcast – Western New England Region
Lederman said he sent a letter to the President of Comcast’s Northeast Division on Thursday after learning that Massachusetts residents will become subject to a monthly data-cap in 2021. Residents will face coverage charges if they exceed it unless they enroll in an unlimited plan.
In his letter, the Springfield City Councilor said, “Public reports indicate that bandwidth has not been challenged even at the height of the pandemic, though many families are feeling the pinch economically. An increased internet bill when many families are facing fixed needs with regard to internet access adds up.”
Lederman added that with social distancing expected to be necessary into next year, he believes that residents will continue to access the internet in greater numbers and for longer durations.
Comcast said customers will receive notifications at 75 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of the threshold. If they exceed 1.2TB, they see overages from January and February reflected on bills but they’ll be fully credited back.
Customers also get a courtesy month credit under the data plan for exceeding the threshold in any future month. But customers have the option to enroll in our unlimited data plan, xFi Complete, for an extra $11 per month if they are xFi customers.
Any customer who is not on an unlimited data plan will be charged $10 for every 50GB “block” over 1.2TB, the company said. The maximum monthly overage charge a customer can receive is $100.
Councilor Lederman said he received messages from residents concerned about the rising cost of internet access and the lack of options, even before the pandemic began.
“I will be speaking with colleagues in government, residents, and industry experts in the coming year regarding how we can explore improving access to and affordability of internet service as we head towards the end of our existing exclusivity agreement,” Lederman stated.