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Internet data caps are monthly limits on the amount of data you can use over your Internet connection. When an Internet user hits that limit, different network operators engage in different actions, including slowing down data speeds, charging overage fees, and even disconnecting a subscriber. These caps come into play when a user either uploads or downloads data. Caps are most restrictive for wireless Internet access, but wired Internet access providers are also imposing these caps.
Whatever the variation of data cap, they all have the same effect—they discourage the use of the Internet and the innovative applications it spawns.
Think of the effect data caps have on visual artists, for example. Films, photographs, images of paintings, and other works of art are often data-rich, requiring significant bandwidth. These artists rely on the ability of new audiences to easily discover their work, but in a world with data caps, people may be less inclined to explore new things because of concerns about exceeding their cap.
Data caps also make it impossible to do all the important things 4G LTE supposedly lets you do. Recently, T-Mobile released evidence that showed that users with capped or throttled broadband use 20x-30x less broadband than users with uncapped broadband. and 37% of subscribers don't use streaming media because they fear going over their data caps. This hurts not only the ability of consumers to use broadband to its fullest potential, but it has serious implications for net neutrality.
PK is working to increase oversight for the implementation of data caps.
To learn more check out the following:
In January 2014, Public Knowledge sent a letter to the Chairman of the FCC to call for an investigation of data caps and AT&T's sponsored data agreement.
In June 2014, PK's Michael Weinberg wrote a blog post about data caps and net neutrality.
In July 2014, PK's Harold Feld wrote a blog post about the T-Mobile Data Roaming Petition and how data caps are used for market power. Public Knowledge filed comments with the FCC in support of this petition.
We also produced the below video about the problem with data caps.
Here are the PK experts on this issue: