The FCC is preparing to take a 'fresh look' at internet data caps

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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel wants to open a formal Notice of Inquiry into the impact of internet data caps on consumers, according to an FCC document spotted by Ars Technica. The regulator will also consider “taking action” to ensure that data caps don’t harm competition or impact access to broadband services, according to the letter. 

“Internet access is no longer nice-to-have, but need-to-have for everyone, everywhere,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “When we need access to the internet, we aren’t thinking about how much data it takes to complete a task, we just know it needs to get done. It’s time the FCC take a fresh look at how data caps impact consumers and competition.”

With the Notice of Inquiry, the FCC would “seek comment 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,” according to the letter. 

Rosenworcel would be unable to take any action on data caps at the moment, though. The FCC currently has just four members (two Democrats and two Republicans), as the Senate refused to confirm President Biden’s first nominee, Gigi Sohn, and she subsequently withdrew her name for consideration. The White House has since nominated telecom attorney Anna Gomez, who appears to have the support of the telecom industry. A nomination hearing for Gomez is scheduled for this Thursday, June 22nd. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband provider Comcast temporarily removed data caps, but it continues to impose a 1.2TB data cap on certain contracts in some US regions. Charter’s deal with the FCC to not impose data caps on its Spectrum service (struck when it acquired Time Warner) ended this year, but the company recently said it has “no plans to [restart data caps] when the condition sunsets.” 

Along with the proposed Notice of Inquiry, the FCC has opened a new portal to allow consumers to share how data caps have affected them (on fixed or wireless broadband networks) at fcc.gov/datacapstories. That will help the FCC determine how data caps impact access for everyone “including those with disabilities, low-income consumers, and historically disadvantaged communities, and access to online education, telehealth and remote work,” the Commission wrote.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-fcc-is-preparing-to-take-a-fresh-look-at-internet-data-caps-084245899.html?src=rss

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