Public Knowledge Applauds FCC Inquiry Into Concerning Data Cap Practices of Comcast, Mobile Carriers

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Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the Wireline Competition Bureau had asked Comcast to explain its policy of applying data caps and overage fees to its broadband subscribers, while exempting its own streaming video service from the data caps. The Wireless Bureau sent letters to AT&T and T-Mobile asking them to explain the details of their respective data cap policies and address concerns raised by third parties.

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“In 2012, Public Knowledge filed a petition with the FCC to investigate the anti-competitive impact of Comcast exempting its video content from its own data cap while counting streaming video from rival services. Since then, Comcast has been charging customers overage fees for exceeding its 300 GB/month cap, while exempting its own StreamTV service. The FCC has received over 13,000 consumer complaints alleging Comcast has used its caps to “punish” cord-cutters and falsely claim overages for customers that stream rival services.

“Given Comcast’s lengthy history of anti-competitive conduct, and the recent flood of consumer complaints, the FCC’s letter to Comcast is not only long-overdue, but mild to the extreme.

“The equally mild letters sent to mobile carriers are similarly long overdue. Public Knowledge has called on carriers to be more transparent about their bandwidth cap policies since 2012, but carriers have refused to disclose meaningful details. In 2013, the FCC’s Advisory Committee on the Open Internet stressed the FCC’s utter ignorance on carrier data cap policies, and the need for the FCC to educate itself. In 2014, the Government Accountability Office issued a report highlighting the FCC’s complete ignorance on data caps and the critical need for the FCC to understand the potential impact of data caps on the nation’s economy and for consumers facing overcharges and restricted access.

“It is therefore hard to take seriously allegations that the FCC is ‘intimidating’ big broadband by following the recommendation of the GAO and its own expert advisory committee. It seems that some would rather the FCC maintain a policy of stubborn, willful ignorance rather than take its responsibilities seriously.”

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