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Senate bill seeks to keep ISPs from price gouging you with data caps

Sen Ron Wyden DCIA

A new bill introduced on Thursday by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) seeks to put an end to price gouging through the use of data caps by Internet service providers.

Dubbed the Data Cap Integrity Act (DCIA), the bill would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish standards for how ISPs measure network traffic, and give the Commission the power to ensure that data caps are not put in place for the sole purpose of generating income. Instead, data caps would only be allowed for managing network congestion.

In addition, the DCIA would require ISPs to provide tools to customers that allow them to monitor and manage their own data consumption in real time. It also mandates that ISPs must explain how customer data usage information applies to “the terms of the data cap” instituted by a consumer’s ISP.

“Internet use is central to our lives and to our economy. Future innovation will undoubtedly require consumers to use more and more data – data caps should not impede this innovation and the jobs it creates,” said Wyden in a statement. “This bill is intended to help consumers manage their data more effectively and ensure that data caps are used only to serve the legitimate purpose of addressing congestion.”

To regulate data caps, DCIA would further enhance the FCC’s Net neutrality rules, stating that ISPs may not “provide preferential treatment of data that is based on the source or the content of the data.” This would, for example, prohibit ISPs like Comcast from placing caps on the streaming of videos from Netflix, while instituting no such caps for videos played through its own Xfinity app.

Sen. Wyden’s introduction of DCIA follows the release of a study by the New America Foundation, which found that data caps, especially those on home Internet connections, “are hardly necessary.” Instead, wrote NAF, these data caps “are motivated by a desire to further increase revenues from existing subscribers and protect legacy services such as cable television from competing Internet services.”

The DCIA is sure to meet intense opposition from the ISP industry, which has repeatedly argued that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate the Internet because the global network has not been officially classified as a “telecommunications” service. Libertarian “open Internet” advocates who believe the FCC should not regulate Internet companies have already come out against Wyden’s bill, saying that data caps help keep the price down for light Internet users, while rightfully placing more financial burdens on those with high data consumption.

Some ISPs have taken the fight against Net neutrality even further. Verizon, for example, filed a brief in federal court earlier this year arguing that the FCC’s Net neutrality principles violated the U.S. Constitution because “broadband networks are the modern-day microphone by which their owners engage in First Amendment speech.”

Republicans in Congress have also come out against the FCC’s Net neutrality rules. Last year, House Speak John Boehner (R-OH) vowed to put an end to the rules.

What do you think of Sen. Wyden’s bill? Are data caps for the sole purpose of generating income fair to consumers? Let us know what you think.

View the full text of the DCIA below:

Data Cap Integrity Act Bill Text

Image via Sen. Ron Wyden