An investigation into broadband providers and their use of data caps has been proposed by Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the agency said in a press release Thursday.
The FCC is asking the public to come forward with their accounts of how data caps have affected them, via a consumer complaint form.
“By sharing their data cap stories on their fixed or wireless broadband networks, consumers will help the FCC understand whether and how data caps impact access to broadband for all individuals,” the press release said.
“Internet access is no longer nice-to-have, but need-to-have for everyone, everywhere,” Rosenworcel said. “As we emerge from the pandemic, there are many lessons to learn about what worked and what didn’t work, especially around what it takes to keep us all connected.”
Multiple internet service providers continue to impose data caps, even when smaller competing providers say such caps aren’t necessary. US lawmakers have even proposed legislation banning data caps. It’s forced people to change their online behaviors and manage their home internet plans. But with Zoom calls, swelling video game download sizes and 4K streaming, the demand for data has only increased.
During the pandemic, 90% of adults in the US said the internet was important to them, with 29% also saying they increased their level of service, according to Pew Research. The risk of overage fees falls heaviest on low-income households, according to a 2020 New America report.
Comcast Xfinity, Cox, AT&T and others continue to impose data caps with added charges for exceeding set limits. Other providers like Google Fiber, CenturyLink and Spectrum don’t have data caps. Interestingly, AT&T Fiber is unlimited.
The FCC, Comcast, AT&T and Google Fiber didn’t respond to requests for comment. Neither did The Internet & Television Association (NCTA). Cox declined to comment.
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