Two US Senators Look To Stop Predatory Data Caps

Two U.S. Democrat senators are advocating for internet providers to stop imposing "predatory data caps" on their customers. If the bill comes to pass, the general public could certainly benefit, seeing as data caps can be a real menace — especially in bigger households where internet usage is higher. At a time when children and adults alike need to use the internet to work and study, data caps can force families to pay extra fees for their internet connection. Without buying extra data, the family is forced to rely on an internet connection that's so slow that it can barely support the family's needs.

The initiative was named the "Uncap America Act" and it comes from senators Cory Booker and Ben Ray Luján. As can be seen on the official website of senator Luján, it's a topic that both senators seem to feel passionate about. When introducing the legislation, Luján noted that internet usage is necessary for work, health care, and education, and thus, it shouldn't be capped. This very common precedent affects many families throughout the country, but the ones that are hit the hardest are low-income families who cannot afford to pay for the extra data caps. This only expands the digital divide, when the goal should be the exact opposite.

The announcement of the Uncap America Act mentions that the monthly data usage has rapidly increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The average American household now exceeds over half a terabyte (500GB) of data per month, and the demand for cellular data has risen by 25% compared to the time before the pandemic. Even with various restrictions now lifted, this increased demand is likely to persist in some capacity.

The pandemic has proven that data caps are not necessary

The two Democrat senators received early support from various sources, including the Internet and Competitive Networks Association, Public Knowledge, and Consumer Reports. Luján and Booker are calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to be able to "hold providers accountable when they impose predatory data caps." The bill would therefore prohibit internet providers, including both broadband and mobile carriers, from establishing data caps that are too strict and unnecessary. Many of those data caps may be avoided, as proven by carriers voluntarily removing data caps temporarily at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the bill passes, internet service providers (ISPs) will only be able to introduce data caps if it will be necessary for the purpose of network management. In addition, even if such a data cap is in place, ISPs will be unable to lower the internet speed of users who choose not to pay for extra data. Assuming a provider fails to meet the requirements, the company would be punished under the Communications Act of 1934, resulting in a fine or prison time as well as forfeiture if the ISP is found to repeatedly violate the bill.

For the consumers, this legislation would almost certainly be a good thing, but it's hard to say what kind of losses ISPs might experience as a result of it. Before the Uncap America Act can become reality, it has to gather enough support in the Senate. If you'd like to read the full bill for yourself, check it out in its entirety on the official website.