Netflix Petitions FCC To Kill Dreaded And Unreasonable Data Caps
Netflix submitted a filing last week for the FCC’s annual investigation of broadband deployment. This review is required by Congress in Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act and requires the FCC to determine whether all Americans are receiving Internet in a fair and timely manner. The review focuses on availability and speed, however, Netflix has requested that the FCC also consider data caps.
Section 706 does give the FCC some authority over data caps in order to foster broadband deployment. The FCC in the past has raised the minimum speed requirement. Section 706 does not prohibit data caps, however, it does pressure ISP’s to eliminate caps or offer more data.
Netflix remarked that a 2014 federal survey noted that congestion was not an issue for ISP’s and that many ISP’s also have different speed tiers that customers pay for each month. Netflix argued that data caps "are redundant to the speed tiers that consumers are used to".
Netflix also argued that data caps are discriminatory. ISP’s often count video services against data caps, but exempt their own favored services. One FCC commissioner noted that it "cost an average Netflix subscriber... many hundreds of dollars each month to view that same Netflix programming over a wireless provider."
Cable companies naturally do not want the FCC to consider the data proposal. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association stated, “The Section 706 inquiry is not the appropriate context for the Commission to examine factors that go beyond deployment into other areas, such as broadband subscription, performance consistency, and usage allowances.”