Data Caps Are The Devil For Residents Of Rural Alaskan Towns; Are They In Our Future?

GCIWhat if you weren’t able to binge watch House of Cards on Netflix earlier this week? It would be agony, right? For residents in some rural areas of Alaska the ability to binge watch their favorite shows, or enjoy that viral video online, quickly drain their pocketbooks thanks to data caps.

The idea of managing your data usage so closely seems foreign to most of us. Although, with the recent possible marriage announcement of Time Warner Cable and Comcast data caps could be in our future. But for now, we have to look at the way data caps, and their overage fees, play out in rural Alaska.

One woman said she pays $100 a month for 25 GB of data. When she went over by 2 GB after watching a movie on Netflix her monthly bill doubled, Business Insider reports.

“Now, I don’t even consider Netflix until near the very end of the month, and I have to be sure that I’m no more than three-fourths of the way into my total data, at the absolute most,” the woman tells Business Insider. “So it’s a very serious business – I have to poll people to figure out what that one very special movie should be.”

In another instance, two roommates racked up a $3,500 overcharge in two weeks after allowing Dropbox to continuously sync their computers.

Why don’t they just switch broadband providers, you ask? Well, they can’t. GCI, a communications company, has a monopoly and costs aren’t likely to change anytime soon.

And for those of you thinking you’ll never have to worry about a data cap in sprawling cities, you might want to think again.

While we have to wait to see what the new potential marriage of Time Warner Cable and Comcast brings in terms of data caps, it’s not hard to imagine the issue coming up in the future. Several broadband providers including Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner have all experimented with data caps in the past.

Why People In Alaska Can’t Watch Netflix Without Fearing A $100 Surcharge [Business Insider]

Read Comments4

Edit Your Comment

  1. theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

    crossing my fingers and toes that the merger doesn’t end in me losing my unlimited, uncapped TWC internet.

    • TheyLive says:

      The day consumers are convinced to accept data caps as “standard operating procedure” will be a sad day indeed.
      I don’t know the details of GCI’s network, but I have industry experience.
      I think the lack of general knowledge about how the internet works is allowing Data Providers to take advantage of the consumer, while telling them it is “normal” “necessary” or even “TurboCharged”.

      Quality varies from network to network. Accessibility and transmission costs play a big part in the price of connectivity. When bandwidth is paid for in bulk (this is what GCI buys), it can cost between $0.50 and $5.00 per Megabit/month.
      If GCI is using microwave transmission, they could be saving thousands of dollars in leased line connections.

      A conservative number for 1mbps X 30days = 150-200 Gigabytes per month.
      This Alaskan above, is given 25Gb per moth.

      “The MATHEMATICAL maximum transfer of 1Mbps full duplex (megabit per second, or Mb/s) is roughly 320 gigabytes per month in each direction (320GB in and 320GB out). This is calculated from the number of seconds in a 30-day month multiplied by the number of bits in a megabit.”

  2. tingeyga316 says:

    I think it is a very big stretch to look at the examples of how data caps impact rural Alaska and extrapolate that to data caps in large metro areas of the Lower 48. Bethel is about 550 miles from Anchorage, isn’t accessible by roads and if memory serves only received cellular coverage less than 5 years ago. Suffice it to say that there isn’t a lot of infrastructure in the region and thus anything and everything is expensive their. The referenced article seemed aghast at the cost of internet service in Atka without mentioning that Atka is towards the western end of the Aleutians and has a population of 61 people – to me that they have any sort of Internet is a minor miracle.

    Looking at how data caps impact Anchorage residents would have been far more reasonable of a basis to look at how it might play out in other markets. For instance I was in a GCI store 2 weeks ago getting my modem replaced after the old one stopped working, while I was waiting for my new modem, I overheard the customer in the line next to me arguing with her customer service person about their bill which was much higher than normal. The customer service agent explained her account had used almost twice the monthly limit and that GCI had spent 2 emails to her warning her of her coming close to her cap. The customer still wasn’t too pleased with the extra $100 on her bill (even calling them the devil), but what else was there for the company to do? They sent two warnings that the customer disregarded and they have tools on their website to monitor your usage.

  3. FusioptimaSX says:

    If data caps become a thing, I’d be happy to buy some rabbit ears for local channels and just pay Verizon for more data and use my phone as a hot spot instead (with Netflix and Hulu Plus). The only reason I’m not already doing that is because it’s still cheaper to go with Comcast for Internet+TV for now.