Net neutrality: What about data caps?

The net neutrality debate is about access. But the discussion has evolved, because a few years ago — when all-you-can-eat data was still in — it included talk about data caps. Today, the talk mostly is about Internet fast lanes.

But a new study by the Government Accountability Office — which shows that consumers are resigned to data caps and tiered pricing when it comes to wireless, but are more concerned with limits on their broadband access at home — is bringing up data caps again, after the data buffets have largely closed their doors.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, requested the study, according to the Wall Street Journal. Eshoo is submitting the GAO’s findings to the FCC, which is in the midst of going through public comments about its Open Internet plan. The FCC plan is being criticized as a step away from net neutrality — the principle that all network traffic should be treated equally — because it would officially make Internet fast lanes OK.

But fast lanes aren’t the only concern. Eshoo says in a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler: “In the midst of the net neutrality debate, there is a new threat to the free and open Internet and that is usage-based pricing which may include the throttling or slowing down of data speeds, overage fees and the exemption of some online services or applications from data caps.” Also: “The GAO study sheds light on the effects of data caps, including the potential impact on ‘cord-cutters’ and suggests that consumers may not be fully benefiting from lower-cost options under usage-based pricing.”


Photo of Rep. Anna Eshoo from her House website


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