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Cox Starts Threatening Disconnection if You Use Their Product
May be Considering Per Byte Overage Penalties
by Karl Bode 10:21AM Wednesday Nov 02 2011
Cox Communications has traditionally had what are called "soft" caps, or usage caps that aren't usually enforced, but may be enforced if congestion in a market is particularly bad. Back in September we reported how Cox Communications would be moving from soft caps to tougher enforcement, warning users that they'd be booted off the network if they consume "excessive" amounts of bandwidth. What Cox has traditionally considered to be excessive can be found here, and varies by market and tier.

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Cox's new system will give customers four warnings. On the initial three warnings, users will be upsold to more expensive usage tiers. On the fourth warning Cox threatens disconnection, but will give users plenty of opportunities to avoid disruption. Users in our forums say that Cox is telling them the company has expanded their security and support staff to handle the new work load:
I have spoken with an Employee at Cox and was told that they have expanded their "Security Department" adding an entire new call center for the sole purpose of Data Cap Usage enforcement. He stated that the disconnects have become somewhat automated and if you go over them by more than 1GB you will be disconnected. I have been disconnected 3 times so far and was told by the technician I would have to call back EVERY MONTH to reconnect if I go over by more than 1GB. I have 6 people in our home, and 200GB is nothing when we all use HULU, and Netflix in addition to Reddit.tv and Youtube HD.
Cox pioneered the practice of cordoning off infected user PCs from the Internet until they called Cox support. It appears that Cox is using a similar system here, with users who cross the cap being forced to call in and apologize to Cox for using their product. Repeat offenders are greeted with a Cox warning screen that prevents full Internet access, and are sent an e-mail after disconnection urging users to call in. A Cox tech told one user overage penalties are also in the works:
The Tech I spoke to says this is just the beginning and even he thought it was ridiculous and commented how their network isn't anywhere near capacity. Also stated that Cox will be rolling out new "service options" in the near future where we will have a new selection of Internet Plans with increased bandwidth and/or will pay per GB over the limit.
ISPs are imposing such caps and overages to offset lost TV revenue due to Internet video, and despite breathless claims by industry, the penalties (at least on wireline networks) have absolutely no attachment to actual costs or congestion. It's effectively a way for the ISP bean counters to future-proof revenues -- artificially constricting the pipe and jacking up consumer costs for a product that costs less and less to provide each year. One problem we continue to see is that ISPs have had a hard time tracking and billing usage accurately, and despite ISP desire to bill like utilities -- no regulators have shown an interest in monitoring meter accuracy.

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