A U.S. senator has introduced a bill designed to ensure that data caps are imposed only as network management tools, earning a swift, emphatic response from the cable industry.
The Data Cap Integrity Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), aims to give consumers the tools they need to manage their own data usage. It would institute industry-wide data measurement accuracy standards for ISPs and impose disciplines to ensure that ISP data caps are truly designed to manage network congestion, as opposed to being used as a business tool used as a means to increase revenue through the collection of overage charges.
The act would require the Federal Communications Commission to establish standards for how ISPs will measure data; it gives the FCC the authority to ensure that data caps are designed to manage network congestion rather than monetize data in ways that undermine online innovation, according to the senator’s office. Furthermore, it ensures that consumers are provided tools to manage their data consumption and that ISPs cannot, for purposes of measuring data, discriminate against any content.
The full text of the bill could not be reviewed; it had not been received by the Library of Congress at press time.
With very few business days left for the current lame duck Congress, the likelihood the bill will be brought to a vote is slim. Wyden might have been simply testing the reaction to the subject.
The NCTA obliged. The organization’s statement reads: “Regrettably, this ill-conceived legislation ignores the substantial pro-consumer benefits of usage-based pricing. While congestion management may be one effect of tiered pricing, the primary benefits are consumer choice and fairness. Usage tiers give consumers more choices to better fit their bandwidth needs, and they rightly distinguish between low-volume users and high-volume users, as is true for many products and services.
“Tiered pricing is common throughout our economy; consumers both understand and appreciate it, and the FTC and FCC have said it is sensible and fair. Some consumers are light users that check email and Facebook, while others prefer to stream music and movies for hours each day.”