Comcast has delayed the rollout of its data caps in the northeast U.S. until sometime in 2022, an announcement that many advocates for digital equity count as a win of a battle, and not the war.
Last year, Comcast announced that it would cap internet data usage at 1.2 Terabytes of data a month for residents in the northeast United States, and charge an extra $10 per 50GB for overages, up to $100. Earlier this year, the company delayed the originally-planned March 2021 rollout until July. Now, an announcement states it is giving customers “more time to become familiar with the new plan.”
Coming amid the pandemic, advocates from the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition and Zeke Cohen, District 1 representative on Baltimore’s city council, felt the move to introduce data caps was akin to price gouging and let Comcast and the public know about it.
“These changes are the product of hard work by customers, students, and grassroots organizations who have long argued that Comcast practices digital redlining, i.e. the systemic exclusion of people of color from technology,” said Adam Echelman, executive director of Libraries Without Borders and a member of the coalition.
Echelman was referencing how when it comes to the disparities between the haves and have nots in access to internet, computers and technology, Black people tend to be in the have nots. In Maryland, 40% of all disconnected households are African American.
In the wake of protests by organizations like SOMOS, the org led by students at Baltimore City College high school, Comcast has also doubled the speeds of its low-cost Internet Essentials package to 50 Mbps downloads and 5mbps uploads, at no charge to the consumer. During the pandemic, the company has also established “Lift Zones” to provide free Wi-Fi at 15 Baltimore community centers.