Today, the Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel circulated a Notice of Inquiry to examine the impact of data caps imposed by internet service providers on consumers. Broadband providers impose limits on the amount of data subscribers can download a month – even subscribers to supposedly “unlimited plans.” Subscribers who exceed their data cap may incur significant charges, have their speeds throttled, or even lose access entirely until the new billing cycle begins.
The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:
“Data caps are one of the most confusing and pernicious aspects of subscribing to broadband. How on earth can a wireless carrier offer multiple “unlimited” plans, each with different consequences for exceeding a different “soft” limit? How can subscribers measure their data consumption with any accuracy? This isn’t like minutes or number of texts. And what about subscribers with no choice but a cable or satellite plan that imposes a data cap? How many subscribers have to put off a remote doctor’s appointment rather than risk overcharges, or pay overcharges for the privilege of using a streaming or gaming app? How does anyone even know how much bandwidth their smart house uses?
“In addition to burdening subscribers, these data caps potentially burden the economy as a whole. By limiting the online activity of consumers, they severely limit the capacity for innovation. How can we expect virtual reality to evolve if consumers can’t use it without going over their data caps?
“The inquiry announced by Chairwoman Rosenworcel would be the first step in understanding how data caps impact broadband users and online innovation. We hope the other commissioners will move swiftly to approve this item.”
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