If you’re currently using internet via an ISP, chances are that your internet has a data cap. This means that you’re only allowed to use a certain amount of data each month before your internet speeds are slowed down or you’re charged an extra fee.
Data caps are becoming increasingly common, as ISPs look for ways to manage their networks and reduce costs. However, they’re also a growing problem for consumers. In today’s world, internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.
With this is mind, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has asked her fellow commissioners to support a Notice of Inquiry into the impact of data caps on consumers.
We’re living in a time where internet is accessible to everyone, but not everyone can use it in a same way. See, with rising demands, it is important to regulate the limits on internet, but many believe that it’s a way for a lot of internet service providers to squeeze off money from the people.
While a lot of people probably wouldn’t notice this, but a big percentage of the population lives in poverty and relies on the internet for financial support. Rosenworcel said that she
[wants to] better understand why the use of data caps continues to persist despite increased broadband needs of consumers and providers’ demonstrated technical ability to offer unlimited data plans.”
When it’s possible in COVID, why not now?
While most ISPs argue that these limits are necessary, the FCC’s inquiry will still examine the reasons why broadband providers impose data caps, even though they could technically offer unlimited data plans. We have seen numerous cases where the pricing was reconsidered in a region, simply due to competition.
This means that the argument for limiting data plans, saying that it is necessary to prevent network congestion and overuse, simply doesn’t hold any water.
With the inquiry, Rosenworcel also wants to know if the FCC has the right to do anything about these restrictions, and regulating data caps. She mentioned noticing how many ISPs temporarily or permanently lifted data caps during the COVID-19 pandemic, when more people were relying on the internet to keep their work going.
FCC wants YOUR input on data caps
It’s not just the commission that would investigate into the issue, but the FCC directly wants to hear from the public, and if you’re someone who would like to comment on this, you do do so here, by filling out the Data Caps Experience Form.
At the moment, it isn’t clear what degree of power the FCC holds, but the inquiry could lead to the agency banning data caps altogether. In 2015, the FCC adopted rules that prohibited broadband providers from imposing data caps. However, those rules were overturned by a federal appeals court in 2017.
If the FCC decides to ban data caps, it would be a major victory for consumer advocates. However, it is also possible that the FCC will decide to leave the issue of data caps up to the states.
Advocacy groups praise FCC’s inquiry
Advocates for broadband access praised the FCC’s decision to investigate data caps.
Service provider limits on how data can be used can cause already disadvantaged consumers to refrain from a range of essential online activities, such as telehealth appointments or educational programs, for fear of exceeding monthly subscription limits,”Next Century Cities
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, another advocacy group, said that the FCC’s inquiry is “long overdue.”
Data caps are particularly problematic for low-income individuals who may find themselves facing unexpectedly large fees at the end of the month as a result of surpassing a data cap.
In general, data caps are not popular with consumers, nor are they an effective means of managing network congestion.”Adrianne Furniss, executive director of the Benton Institute
The inquiry is likely to take several months. The agency will hold public hearings and hear from consumers and stakeholders before issuing a report with its findings. At the moment, this is al we know, but rest assured that we will keep you updated as new information becomes available.