FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release last Thursday that she has launched a formal investigation to learn more about broadband providers and their use of consumer data caps.
Rosenworcel says the notice of the inquiry comes as Americans face higher internet demands, especially when COVID has forced many people to work and study from home. It also asks the public to provide their own accounts of how the data limits affect them via a consumer complaint form.
“By sharing stories of their data caps on their fixed or wireless broadband networks, consumers will help the FCC understand if and how data caps affect broadband access for all individuals,” the press release says.
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Many ISPs continue to impose data caps, even when smaller competing ISPs say such caps aren’t necessary. US lawmakers have even proposed legislation banning data caps. It has forced people to change their online behaviors and manage their home internet plans. But with Zoom calling, video game download volumes ballooning and 4K streaming, the demand for data has only increased.
During the pandemic, 90% of American adults say the internet is important to them, while 29% also say they’ve upgraded their service, according to Pew Research. According to a 2020 New America report, the risk of overcharges falls heavier on lower-income families.
Comcast Xfinity, Cox, AT&T, and others continue to impose data caps with additional fees for exceeding the set limits. Other providers such as Google Fiber, CenturyLink, and Spectrum do not have data caps. Interestingly, AT&T Fiber is unlimited.
The FCC, Comcast, AT&T, Cox and Google Fiber did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
If you’re looking for a better broadband service, here’s CNET’s list of the best high-speed internet providers for 2023 and how to switch broadband providers with as much hassle as possible.