Use too much internet and you could pay more money. Viewers are calling Kurtis Ming to investigate after Frontier Communications said they’re raising rates for those who spend a lot of time online. The message simple: cut down on what you do online. If you don’t your rates could jump up to $250 a month.
With five adults in the Edvalson family, someone is always online.
“My husband went through a period of unemployment and we cut out everything that was extraneous. And cable television had to go,” says Suzanne Edvalson.
Good thing you can watch just about anything online these days. But that could come at a price.
“I got an email out of the blue from Frontier,”
Suzanne shows us the email that was sent about her internet usage:
Dear: SUSANNE EDVALSON
Frontier is committed to providing the best possible broadband experience for all customers. We know our customers often use the Internet for services such as video, games and music downloads, however you may not be aware that your specific usage has consistently exceeded 100GB over a 30-day period. This is excessive for residential usage and more represents the amount of bandwidth usage of a typical business.
We want to provide you with some options. If you wish to maintain your current pricing plan, you may work with us to reduce your Internet usage. Another option is to move to the next price tier of $99.99 per month, which reflects your current average monthly usage. We are happy to discuss all options with you. Please call us within seven (7) days of the date of this letter at 1-877-273-0489, Monday – Friday, 8AM – 12AM ET, to review these options. If you do not wish to switch to another tier, please let us know. (We will also follow-up with a letter to discuss your options.) If we do not hear from you within 20 days from receipt of this letter, your Internet service will be disconnected.
We are committed to providing our customers with the highest quality service and that requires us to manage our network to ensure an optimal customer experience. All of our customers are entitled to equal access to the Internet and the ability to enjoy its available content at our committed level of service quality.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and understanding our promise to all customers. We would like to keep you as a Frontier customer and we look forward to your call.
“My first thought is: what you’re doing is wrong,” Suzanne says.
Upset, she called Frontier saying she doesn’t remember anyone saying her internet usage can be capped.
“All he would say is, ‘You need to call our legal department.” Every question, ‘You need to call our legal department,'” Suzanne tells us.
We called Frontier to ask about the new usage cap. The company told us it’s not a cap, but people who use the internet a lot slow it down for others. So they admit they’ve started charging customers in Elk Grove and Sacramento who use more than 100 gigabytes a month, which they call excessive.
What exactly do you get for 100 GB? We asked Frontier. They say that equals 10,000,000 e-mails, up to 50,000 photos, access to 800,000 websites, 6,700 hours of online gaming. But the real gigabyte guzzler is h-d video. Watch more than 16 HD movies a month and you’ll hit that 100 GB mark.
Suzanne finds it interesting right on Frontier’s website it offers “free TV.” It’s a service called My FiTV, which is a portal that streams video.
“You can scroll anywhere down on this page and you will not find anything about a cap,” Suzanne shows us while looking at the My FiTV page.
“This is akin to someone being asked to come eat at an all you can eat buffet and on their way out the door they’re being charged three times over,” says Derek Turner, Research Director at the consumer advocacy group Free Press.
Turner doesn’t believe frontier’s argument heavy users are clogging up the network.
“Frontier and other companies who’ve used this excuse in the past have provided absolutely no evidence that their internet is congested or that Frontier cannot make the normal, routine upgrades that are necessary to keep up supply in line with demand,” says Turner.
For now, Suzanne says she will try to get the family to cut down on their time online. But she won’t back down on her fight against Frontier.
“Voice your opinion. You know, nothing can change if you can’t be heard,” says Suzanne.
The Edvalsons were going over the 100 GB limit. Customers who use more than 250 GB are being asked to cut down their usage or pay $250 a month.
Do other local internet providers have usage caps? Another consumer advocacy group, Stop The Cap tells us Comcast may limit usage to 250 GB a month. Surewest, AT&T and Time Warner do not have caps.
If you need to lower your usage, keep in mind standard definition video use less bandwidth than high definition video. Frontier says it’ll have bandwidth monitoring tool that is free to customers by mid 2011.
Here is more of Frontier’s explanation of the new pricing structure:
The company letters were sent to customers that are using an excessive amount of the network. Well beyond any reasonable amount for an average user and significant enough to negatively affect other customers’ user experience.
The letters are meant to communicate to these customers that their usage is in excess and we would like to work with them to adjust their plan or their usage. In most cases our customers were not aware of their usage patterns and are willing to work with us to adjust their plans to fit their lifestyles. We do not have a customer capacity on our network. We are looking to work with these customers to help prevent degradation on our network to ensure the customer experience.
The pricing structure was put in place to help us maintain the network experience for all customers. If you choose to use a significant amount of bandwidth we believe you should pay for the service accordingly.
The letters were sent to four markets across the company. We routinely review network usage patterns and these users jumped out as consuming an inordinate amount of bandwidth, enough to negatively affect other customers’ user experience.
All of Frontier markets are reviewed for usage patterns as the markets receiving the letters were reviewed. These specific markets were not targeted.
The customers using an excessive amount of data negatively impact the network for other users. Preventing us from providing adequate bandwidth to all of our users during peak and non-peak times.
On the MyFiTV topic. Frontier’s myfitv.com website is a portal that we provide as a value to our high speed internet. This site does not have a warning regarding data usage. We believe that our customers will utilize this site as a complement to their video service currently in the home. We are currently working with our customers that are using excessive amounts of data to help them understand what their usage pattern is and how we can help them reduce their consumption or get them on the right plan. Our goal is to preserve the network quality to ensure that all customers have a quality user experience.