Cox Might Slow Down a Whole Neighbourhood’s Internet If One Person Is Using Too Much Data

Cox Might Slow Down a Whole Neighbourhood’s Internet If One Person Is Using Too Much Data
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP, Getty Images

If there is anything as quite as infuriating as internet Ars Technica, Cox Communications not only wants certain customers to stop using so much data, it’s also reportedly punishing entire neighbourhoods to get those customers to stop using so much data.

Cox gigabit-internet subscriber Mike from Gainesville, Florida, pays $US150 ($214) a month for unlimited data with 1Gbps download speeds and 35Mbps upload speeds. Mike told Ars he started receiving notices from Cox in May 2020, warning him that his upload data usage was “extraordinarily high,” and if he did not make any reductions, his account would be terminated.

However, Cox’s Acceptable Use Policy doesn’t explicitly specify how much data use it considers to be extraordinarily high, especially for someone who pays an extra $US50 ($71) a month specifically to get rid of their data cap.

According to Ars, Mike said he only uses that much data between the hours of 1 a.m. to 8 a.m., at a time when internet traffic is at its lowest, as part of his job, which requires scheduled device backups and sharing data across various encrypted channels. He also noted that he has used between 8TB and 12TB of data on the same plan for the last four years, but his data traffic during regular hours is in line with what most people would typically use.

“Cox should have been upgrading their infrastructure instead of oversubscribing nodes and pocketing the record revenue,” Mike told Ars.

As Ars points out, a large broadband network like Cox’s should be able to handle that kind of upload traffic, especially in the early morning hours, and at just 35Mbps. But according to one email Mike received from Cox, his broadband usage was “causing a negative impact” on Cox’s network and its other customers in his area.

Cox also reportedly told Mike that the company was dropping its upload speed from 35Mbps to 10Mbps — for his entire neighbourhood — until July 15. Gizmodo reached out to Cox to clarify if this was solely a result of Mike’s internet usage, and if customers would see lower monthly bills as a result, but Cox has not yet responded to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

However, Cox did confirm to Ars that it has been lowering upload speeds — from its usual 35Mbps on the gigabit-download plan to 10Mbps — in certain neighbourhoods where it believed “performance can be improved for all customers in the neighbourhood by temporarily increasing or maintaining download speeds and changing upload speeds for some of our service tiers.” It considers 10Mbps to be “plenty of speed for the vast majority of customers.” (For illustration, if you were trying to upload a 50GB file, it would take just over 83 minutes at 10Mbps.) It also said that users like Mike “are causing congestion problems in a small number of neighbourhoods by utilising over 100-200 times more upstream bandwidth than the average household.”

Some Reddit users are reportedly experiencing the same thing, seeing their traffic throttled traffic or receiving similar requests to lower their internet usage. Cox was one of several companies who pledged not to terminate internet plans until June 30 due to the covid-19 pandemic. It also said it would waive late fees. But the company did not mention anything about waiving data cap overage fees.

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