Cox Communications is beginning to warn high-speed Internet subscribers who exceed their monthly bandwidth usage allowances, and encouraging them to upgrade to more expensive tiers.
The cable MSO recently added bandwidth usage meters to the accounts of high-speed Internet subscribers. Cox customer service representatives are now contacting subscribers who exceed usage allowances.
Cox's allowances range from 30 gigabytes monthly for its economy tier, which would only allow a subcriber to download five HD movies each month, to 400 gigabytes for its Ultimate package, which would allow a subscriber to download 67 movies each month in HD, according to a usage table Cox posted online. Subscribers who take the preferred tier can download 200 gigabytes monthly, which is enough data to download 42 million emails, 20,000 songs, 500 streaming TV shows or 33 high-definition movies, according to Cox.
Screenshot of Cox data usage allowances, from its website.
While Cox isn't yet blocking subscribers who exceed data allowances from surfing the Web, the MSO is beginning to warn subscribers that they are using more bandwidth than they are paying for. According to DSL Reports, the MSO is issuing subscribers four warnings. In the first three warnings, Cox suggests that subscribers order a tier offering a larger data allowance. In the fourth warning, Cox warns subscribers that there service may be disconnected, according to the report.
Cox wouldn't detail its strategy for warning subscribers, but the company confirmed that is notifying customers that exceed data allowances. "We communicate with customers who exceed the limit associated with their package to help them reduce their usage or consider a different package that would better fit their needs. The method and frequency of communication may vary, so we don't share specific steps," Cox spokesman Todd Smith told FierceCable.
While Cox isn't yet charging fees to subscribers who exceed data usage allowances, the MSO could be using its bandwidth meters and warning system as a way to prepare subscribers for the day when they may be charged fees for exceeding data usage. Last month, Suddenlink Communications began charging subscribers who exceed usage allowances $10 for every 50-gigabyte increment that exceeds the allowance.
Cox addresses the question of fees in a FAQ section of its website. "Cox does not currently charge you an additional fee if you exceed your allowance. If you determine that your Internet data usage consistently increases, we recommend that you consider a Cox High Speed Internet package that more closely matches your use of the service."
It's a tough balance for Cox and other cable MSOs that are relying more and more on selling high-speed Internet access to grow revenues. While selling faster tiers to heavy Internet users could boost revenue for Cox, it could lose subscribers if it were penalize customers who exceed data allowances. But if Verizon (NYSE: VZ), AT&T (NYSE: T) and other Cox rivals implement similar data caps, its risk of losing subscribers from data caps would decrease.
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