US Senate floor proposal bans internet service data caps calling them "predatory"

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,572   +1,075
Staff member
Editor's take: Internet service providers are notorious for squeezing their customers. Advertising higher speeds than they typically provide in practice, numerous hidden fees not disclosed before signing up, and data caps are enough to have consumers pulling their hair out in frustration. Congress wants to address at least one of those problems, but it could just end up raising overall prices for everyone.

The US Senate proposed a bill called the "Uncap America Act," which looks to ban data caps from broadband providers that appear predatory. However, the Act would allow limits for "reasonable network management or managing network congestion."

Democratic Senators Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and New Jersey's Cory Booker introduced the proposal last week. The legislators say internet service providers should not gouge families with unnecessarily high overage fees for high-speed broadband access.

"As internet usage continues to be a necessity for work, education, and health care, no family should have to worry about extra fees and costs because of unnecessary limits on their data," said Luján in a joint press release.

"Internet access is a basic necessity and has been increasingly important throughout the coronavirus pandemic," added Senator Booker. "Unfortunately, many internet providers have imposed predatory data caps, making it difficult for many vulnerable families to access high-speed internet."

The bill does not explicitly define "predatory data caps" but leaves that to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC will devise regulations and determine what exactly constitutes predatory practices. However, the color of the bill points toward the fees associated with going over a given data limit deemed purely for profit purposes.

Broadband service providers will undoubtedly have lobbyists working overtime to block the bill's passage. However, it might not be necessary since proposals like this tend to struggle in Congress during election years. Although, with the current recession, lawmakers might be more open to passing anything that could ease the economic strain on their constituents.

Several watchdog groups have voiced their support for the proposed law, including Consumer Reports, Public Knowledge, and Incompas.

Senior Policy Counsel Jenna Leventoff, at Public Knowledge, says that providers often use data caps as a backdoor to raising prices for access and disproportionately prey on low-income families.

"The pandemic has proven that data caps are rarely necessary as an economic matter, often operating as a roundabout way for providers to increase prices," said Leventoff. "These data caps disproportionately impact low-income people who can't afford to pay up in the first place."

An Incompas spokesperson claims it supports the measure because overage fees threaten "an open, robust, and innovative internet ecosystem" and create an "artificial scarcity" to justify raising prices.

Consumer Reports agrees, calling most data caps "frivolous" fees that "chill internet" usage. However, it does support meaningful limits when it comes to network-essential reasons such as maintenance.

"This bill will ensure that ISPs are not allowed to include frivolous data caps at the expense of consumers," said Consumer Reports Senior Policy Counsel Jonathan Schwantes. "We encourage Congress to vote yes on this bill so Americans will be able to install new security updates, conduct a job interview, or let their children complete their homework online without the fear of being penalized for exceeding data caps. Where caps are legitimate and justified, so be it. But we can't allow ISPs to maximize profits at the expense of consumers."

Unfortunately, we have seen too many times how broadband providers get around regulatory pressure like this proposed legislation. Without further protections, there is nothing stopping an ISP from lifting data caps, but inflating prices across the board — a lose-lose situation for everybody.

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Neatfeatguy

Posts: 927   +1,607
I don't recall any stories from ISPs during the lockdowns having issues with the datacap removal for the months on end during the lockdown periods.

I don't follow all tech news, but you think at some point one of the news outlets would have had a story about Comcast/Xfinity or Century Link or Verizon or whatever other ISP you want to list being bogged down due to the datacap removal.....I don't recall such a news story.

Luckily, with Comcast/Xfinity - if you are willing to pay for the right tier and/or willing to pay to rent their equipment (more $$$$ in their pocket), they will give you unlimited data....spend more money on renting their equipment so they can milk you for that unlimited data plan!
 

Burty117

Posts: 4,541   +2,801
It's worth noting, most other country's around the world have unlimited data with a fair usage policy that slows your connection down after a huge amount has been downloaded (normally in the terabytes).

I'm sure a friend who studied in China years ago said it's normal to have unlimited data in China as well, They have far more people connected to their networks yet are able to provide unlimited.

The real fix to this issue in America is to allow competition in the ISP space again. From what I hear, the big guys pretty much lockout any new comers or buy them out if they make even the slightest dent. That needs to stop.
 

psycros

Posts: 4,331   +6,320
It's worth noting, most other country's around the world have unlimited data with a fair usage policy that slows your connection down after a huge amount has been downloaded (normally in the terabytes).

I'm sure a friend who studied in China years ago said it's normal to have unlimited data in China as well, They have far more people connected to their networks yet are able to provide unlimited.

The real fix to this issue in America is to allow competition in the ISP space again. From what I hear, the big guys pretty much lockout any new comers or buy them out if they make even the slightest dent. That needs to stop.

100% accurate. Most ISPs within a single market even share the same cables, which makes the whole "network congestion" argument even more ludicrous. Nearly all congestion these days is due to spam and hacking, which makes up 80% of all Internet traffic. Competition in any industry is vital. ISPs have sued hundreds of municipalities across the US to keep them from building out their own affordable Internet services, often when the ISP itself didn't offer service there and had no plans to do so.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,193   +872
Now son - you perhaps won't believe this - but in the way distance past we had to ration our internet use - what could be download this month
We learnt not to trust the ISP metre -as often a day out - so that 10gb you thought you had - never really existed and you ended up with a $20 excess charge at $2 a Gb.
Wow that's amazing Dad .
Yeah Son - but in the greatest country in the world - where freedom crosses the land like the highways & interstates - people must ration like we did in our distance past . That 300Gb Call of Duty is major planning event - Texans check the State power usage to avoid blackouts .
That 50Gb update just to update the Serbia language has been the breaking of many a good gamer
 

toooooot

Posts: 1,620   +824
I am telling you. You decide to upgrade a pc.
You dont know/dont want to move games from an old hard drive.
So you simply download them again.
Done, cap reached.
When it is not a cellphone data, capping it is
so completely greedy.
 

BuckarooBonzai

Posts: 137   +97
Not sure if this pertains but I cancelled my Spectrum cable and phone and kept the internet.
The rep on the phone then said because you're a long time customer I can knock off $30 from your present bill if you keep your cable, plus...then I thought why am I not getting this discount already? I said no thank you and said just cancel what I wanted. A bunch of greedy Bastardos.
 

nodfor

Posts: 288   +493
I didn't even know this was still a thing ... in most of europe we don't have any data cap since at least 20 years ...
Probably one of the reasons the EU is far behind in broadband availability, especially in higher speeds.
Not enough money to be made offering high speeds if you can't charge data caps. And it is too hard implementing data caps on fixed lines now, because of the negative publicity / subscriber loss that this would cause.
 

ypsylon

Posts: 525   +544
I'm sure Rest of the World look at USA and ask one thing: How is this even legal?

Yes. USA is a big country, but so is China, Canada or India. There is only 1 argument for capping data on internet connection - ISP greed. OK there is short period when network is brand new and it takes time to connect everybody so in those instances when infrastructure is being built - yeah sure its normal for like 2 weeks-a month when you dig hole somewhere in Nevada desert.

On mobile networks in extreme cases I can understand. When user gobbles literally TBs of data every week via phone that may - stress 'may' - compromise the network stability. On (A)DSL/fiber any kind of caps are just scumbaggery by company providing the service. Last time I had to deal with data caps was probably 2003 when we got first batch of ADSL services. After short period (50 GB was monthly cap) everybody dumped caps because that was what market demanded. You had a capped service - nobody bought it. Now I'm 8 years on FTTH and last year guys raised speed on my connection to 300/300M because they no longer offered old asynchronous 200/50M I had for 7 years - and felt 0 need to upgrade BTW. Price increase in USD equivalent was .20 cents so even right now I pay total 17.32$ on complete 300M package. 0 caps and interference.

Looking on US prices with capped to hell services and ISP obstructions at every turn of the cable I have no idea how people can function in modern World over there.
 

Biostud

Posts: 95   +63
Probably one of the reasons the EU is far behind in broadband availability, especially in higher speeds.
Not enough money to be made offering high speeds if you can't charge data caps. And it is too hard implementing data caps on fixed lines now, because of the negative publicity / subscriber loss that this would cause.

We are?

500/500 mbps, no data cap, $48/month, rural Denmark.
 

TheRealSCDC

Posts: 305   +422
I remember when excellent games use to fit on a CD, not DVD or Bluray. CD. 650 Meg. Even a new game I purchased and think is outstanding with Visuals, STRAY is under 8 Gig. These 50Gig games are just piss poor, sloppy programming.

It's like these phones that are competing for the most megapixels. My old 6MP DSLR still has what I consider superior image quality, and the images are just a few meg each. No problem backing up my 15 years of photo's on a DVD. Now try doing that with your 25 megapixel phone.
 

Kam7r

Posts: 76   +149
Probably one of the reasons the EU is far behind in broadband availability, especially in higher speeds.
Not enough money to be made offering high speeds if you can't charge data caps. And it is too hard implementing data caps on fixed lines now, because of the negative publicity / subscriber loss that this would cause.
I don't know for the whole EU but me and everybody in my city have 1gb fiber for 35€ so ...
 

eforce

Posts: 1,025   +1,477
The lack of competition in the US market is largely down to the way money is created via the Fed which provides cheap credit to big companies which can then use the money to donate to local politician's campaign finances who will make life very difficult for new entrants (regarding getting permits etc).

Tl;dr: Big government to blame as usual.
 

PEnnn

Posts: 856   +1,027
Probably one of the reasons the EU is far behind in broadband availability, especially in higher speeds.
Not enough money to be made offering high speeds if you can't charge data caps. And it is too hard implementing data caps on fixed lines now, because of the negative publicity / subscriber loss that this would cause.

Where do you get this ludicrous assumption?? Your ISP??

The US is a Fifth-world country when it comes to broadband speed AND pricing!!
 

GoldenGoat

Posts: 73   +74
Internet has become a necessity like water and electricity. It should be regulated like such. Water and electricity caps are not allowed and neither should internet access caps be allowed.
 

p51d007

Posts: 3,292   +2,883
When cellular phones came along...they charged you for the minutes used. Then texting came along and they charged you for each text. Once data came along, they "give away" talk/text and charge you out the rear for the data.
The ISP's think the data is like gasoline, water, electricty. The more you use, the more you pay.
They are raking in a ton of money doing it that way and it needs to stop.
Granted, if you are downloading 500 gig every couple hours/days, they should throttle you a bit, but most people don't go over their caps.