Public Knowledge Calls on Government to Regulate Data Capping

Internet advocacy group Public Knowledge is taking aim at data caps and the companies that love them with the release of a new white paper and letters to several companies asking them to release information about their data capping processes. In a white paper released earlier this week the group called for government oversight of mobile and wired broadband providers who use data caps, noting that these companies should disclose detailed information about data caps. Public Knowledge wants U.S. regulators to "vigilantly monitor" companies that use caps and penalize consumers who go over them.

The group also sent letters to four mobile carriers and five broadband service providers asking them to provide detailed information about data caps and to answer questions about how they determine the correct penalties for exceeding a data cap, what problems data caps address, and how they determine proper capping levels. The letters went to AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Cable.

"Data caps threaten innovation on the Internet," wrote Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge's president and CEO. "They turn connectivity into a zero sum game where every new application or activity must come at the cost of an existing one. Caps can freeze innovation in place, discouraging the development of beneficial — even if data intensive — technologies." Public Knowledge, Free Press and other groups also sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Monday, asking lawmakers to examine consumer harms from data caps.

Public Knowledge's white paper calls for service providers to be open and transparent about how they implement their data caps and to be selective about it.

"Data limits and UBP [use-based pricing] that does not take time of day into account are ill suited to address service provider concerns about network congestion," the white paper noted. "Network congestion is not a cumulative phenomenon. Instead, it occurs at specific times of day on specific parts of the network. A UBP scheme that does not recognize that cannot credibly claim to be designed to reduce network congestion."

Jot Carpenter, vice president of government affairs at CTIA, responded to the Public Knowledge by saying that government intervention in data-cap issues could lead to less carrier investment.

"Critics of data caps operate under the flawed view that networks should be free, ignoring that they are actually built and maintained through significant and ongoing investments by wireless and other broadband providers," Carpenter said in an email to Computer World. "They also pay little attention to the need to ensure that the data consumption patterns of a few do not impact the ability for the other users to have a high-quality broadband experience."

Source: Computer World

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