Federal Communications Commission Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel has announced a proposal broadband internet data caps and their effect on consumers. To aid in its investigation, the FCC has issued a portal are asking for public comment on how they’ve been impacted by data caps — that is, limits on how much internet data a customer can use before being charged more money or having their service slowed down.
In particular, the FCC wants to hear about the effects of data caps on “people with disabilities, low-income consumers, and historically disadvantaged communities,” as well as their impact on education, the ability to access public safety services, and more.
Many ISPs have suspended data caps during the covid pandemic, with companies like Comcast noting that Americans need to stay connected to the internet for work, education and personal reasons. As the pandemic continued, companies began to limit their plans again, but pushback by the public and government has delayed a full return to pre-pandemic data caps.
Rosenworcel is asking the board to support her proposal, calling internet access a “need-to-have for everyone, everywhere.” But before the FCC can begin regulating data caps, it needs to find out if it has the authority to do so.
In the meantime, the FCC’s deadlock could hamper any dealings with data limits — the partisan split has already prevented it from fining wireless companies for, say, illegally selling their customers’ location data. Right now, the largest companies that impose limits do so on a monthly basis and usually start charging extra after about a terabyte of monthly usage.
In the case of AT&T, prices can start for $55 a month for a 25 Gbps plan before going up to $65 a month or more after a year, and the company charges $10 for each additional 50 GB you use (unless you upgrade to unlimited for $30 per month or have a subscription that is already unlimited). Kox internet is similar, with plans starting at $50 per month for a 100 Gbps or 200 Gbps plan, with a tiny upload speed of 5 Gbps and a monthly limit of 1.25 TB, again charging $10 per 50 GB if you go over it.
If that makes your head spin, I don’t blame you. And none of them take into account the extra fees that ISPs often put on the end of your bill. Exceeding a terabyte-plus data limit isn’t that hard either, especially if you stream a lot or use high-end gaming consoles, where new games are clocking in at over 100GB all the time. Once you’ve done that, you can quickly make another $100 in just a few days, especially if you have a few kids and a Disney Plus subscription.