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Senator Wyden Introduces Broadband Cap Bill
Would Include Systems to Ensure Meters Are Accurate
by Karl Bode 08:49AM Friday Dec 21 2012
Senator Ron Wyden has introduced a new bill taking taking aim at broadband usage caps. According to a description of the bill on Wyden's website, the The Data Cap Integrity Act would attempt to impose industry wide standards not only ensuring that usage meters are accurate, but that caps and overages are actually being used to manage network congestion, not, as a recent NY Times editorial proclaimed, as just "a way for Internet providers to extract monopoly rents."

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"Internet use is central to our lives and to our economy," said Wyden in a statement. "Future innovation will undoubtedly require consumers to use more and more data -- data caps should not impede this innovation and the jobs it creates. This bill is intended to help consumers manage their data more effectively and ensure that data caps are used only to serve the legitimate purpose of addressing congestion."

Bill passage is incredibly unlikely, as carriers have so far convinced regulators that they're just experimenting with "creative" pricing, even if the reality is that they're using the lack of competition to simply raise rates on a captive audience. While congestion is usually proclaimed as the reason caps are being imposed, the reality is you'll never see an ISP providing hard data proving that claim, because that data doesn't exist.

Worse perhaps is the fact that most ISPs fail to meter broadband usage accurately, something regulators like the FCC have shown they simply couldn't care less about.

The promise of usaged-base pricing is that such pricing lets light users pay less and heavy users pay more, though the tiers we've seen implemented so far simply impose overage penalties on top of flate rate pricing, resulting in higher rates for everyone. The best approach for regulators to take is to improve competition, though as we've noted time and time again, that's not something the FCC's interested in seriously addressing either.

Wyden's bill comes on the heel of a recent study proclaiming what most of our regular readers have known for years: broadband usage caps on fixed line networks aren't about congestion at all, they're about protecting TV revenues from Internet video. They're also designed to simply and raise rates on consumers who already pay some of the highest broadband prices across developed nations according to OECD data.


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