Luján, Booker Introduce Legislation Stop Unnecessary Data Caps and Promote Access to High-Speed Broadband
Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced legislation to prohibit predatory data caps that force families to pay high costs and unnecessary fees to access high-speed broadband. As Americans’ need for data is increasing, pricing structures for broadband services must encourage participation in the digital economy, promote competition and innovation, and ensure investment in national broadband infrastructure is used to its highest capacity. The Uncap America Act requires data caps be only used for network management purposes and directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold providers accountable when they impose predatory data caps.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, monthly data usage has increased at a rapid rate. According to a study on American broadband consumption conducted by OpenVault, the average household now exceeds over half a terabyte in bandwidth per month. According to a study by NPD, demand on cellular data was up to 31.4GB on a monthly basis, up 25% from a year prior. Low data caps prevent households from taking advantage of this transition, expanding the digital divide.
“As internet usage continues to be a necessity for work, education, and health care, no family should have to worry about extra fees and costs because of unnecessary limits on their data,” said Luján, Chair of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband. “Today, I’m introducing the Uncap America Act to put a stop to these costly data caps and increase competition and innovation in our growing digital economy. This legislation also empowers the FCC to protect Americans’ access to data while incentivizing additional investments in our national broadband infrastructure.”
“Internet access is a basic necessity and has been increasingly important throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” said Senator Booker. “Unfortunately, many internet providers have imposed predatory data caps, making it difficult for many vulnerable families to access high-speed internet. I am proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Luján that will help ensure that the American people have access to affordable, high-speed broadband services and that providers are not taking advantage of their consumers by imposing predatory data caps.”
“Data caps make life particularly difficult for consumers. If users hit their monthly data limit, they are either forced to pay extra for more data or their broadband provider slows their connection to an unusable crawl until they pay up. Worse, these data caps disproportionately impact low-income people who can’t afford to pay up in the first place. The pandemic has proven that data caps are rarely necessary as an economic matter, often operating as a roundabout way for providers to increase prices. We thank Sens. Luján and Booker for their dedication to eliminating this baseless price gouging,” said Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge.
“Consumers and creators benefit from an open, robust, and innovative internet ecosystem. ISP efforts to cap, limit or control consumers’ online content choices threaten the marketplace for new ideas from new voices. We support Senator Luján’s legislation, as it takes important steps toward protecting consumers’ online rights and will help ensure ISPs do not create artificial scarcity to increase prices on consumers,” said INCOMPAS, the internet and competitive networks association.
“Consumer Reports strongly supports the Uncap America Act authored and introduced by Senator Luján. This bill will ensure that ISPs are not allowed to include frivolous data caps at the expense of consumers. Americans need fast, reliable and affordable internet connections that are free from the burden of data caps that chill internet use and make it more expensive. We encourage Congress to vote yes on this bill so Americans will be able to install new security updates, conduct a job interview, or let their children complete their homework online without the fear of being penalized for exceeding data caps. Broadband can help spur economic growth, innovation, and connect millions. Where caps are legitimate and justified, so be it. But we can’t allow ISPs to maximize profits at the expense of consumers,”said Jonathan Schwantes, Senior Policy Counsel at Consumer Reports.