BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Baltimore City residents and students have had to rely on good Internet service to work and learn.
However, three Baltimore City councilmembers now want Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh to investigate Comcast for alleged price gouging.READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott To Hold COVID-19 News Conference
In a letter to Frosh, city councilmembers Ryan Dorsey, Zeke Cohen, Kris Burnett and the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition say Comcast established a 1.2 TB data cap on service plans for new and existing customers starting on Jan. 1, 2021.
“Unless the excessive fees generated by companies like Comcast are addressed, such companies will continue to exclude low-income, Black and Latinx communities from connectivity, a process known as digital redlining,” the letter said. “Additionally, residents of Maryland are increasingly working and learning online throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Children in Baltimore, and other jurisdictions, already face a steep “digital divide,” which has harmed their education over the past year.”
They asked Frosh to investigate the data caps as a predatory form of “price gouging” for Maryland consumers.
After a three-month grace period beginning on Jan. 1, they said customers without unlimited plans will be charged $10 for every 50 gigabytes they use over the 1.2 terabyte limit up to $100 a month.
“We strongly urge the Attorney General to hold Comcast accountable to discontinue this plan and to reconsider future attempts at imposing data caps or other predatory attacks on net neutrality in Baltimore City,” the letter states. “Comcast asserts that only 5% of customers exceed the 1.2 terabyte limit.”READ MORE: Teens Shot In Baltimore Thursday Still In Hospital, One In Grave Condition; Police Following Leads
Baltimore City residents do have some options when it comes to their Internet service, but Comcast is the biggest provider. Verizon Fios is not yet available in the city.
The city councilmembers said some 52,000 city residents lack broadband of any type.
“We cannot allow digital redlining to continue in our communities. We are committed to ensuring that internet service providers practice the equitable distribution of services and maintain a free and open internet,” the letter concludes.
Comcast responded to the city council request with this statement to WJZ:
“1.2 terabytes is a massive amount of data that enables consumers to video conference for 3,500 hours, watch 1,200 hours of distance learning videos, stream 500 hours of high-definition video content a month, or play more than 34,000 hours of online games. Our data plan is structured in a way that the very small percentage of our customers who use more than 1.2 terabytes of monthly data and generate the greatest demand for network development and capacity pay more for their increased usage. For those superusers, we have unlimited data options available.”
A spokeswoman for Comcast also added that customers will be given six months to decide if they need unlimited data. Also customers won’t see any change in their bill until August.
Customers will also be receiving notifications from Comcast the closer they get to the 1.2 terabyte threshold.MORE NEWS: President Joe Biden To Visit Emergent BioSolutions' Baltimore Lab Making Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 Vaccine Next Week, White House Confirms