Culture

The FCC wants your opinion on Charter seeking data caps

Speak now or forever hold your peace, people.

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has surprisingly sided with the people due to the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to internet service providers throttling bandwidth, is giving the public the opportunity to weigh in on Charter's petition for placing data caps on its consumers. Charter, which operates as Spectrum, has been attempting to wiggle out of the FCC's conditions on data caps for broadband users for a while now. It even tried to convince the commission that people want data caps. Like filling out the census, your feedback could help change millions of people's lives.

What you should know — As part of Charter's merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, the FCC required the company (referred to as New Charter) to stop imposing fees on customers or otherwise penalizing them for using online video subscriptions like Hulu and Netflix. In 2016, the commission even said, "New Charter’s increased broadband footprint and desire to protect its video profits will increase incentives to impose data caps and usage-based prices in order to make watching online video more expensive, and in particular more expensive than subscribing to a traditional pay-TV bundle." Which turned out to be prescient.

"For seven years, we prohibit New Charter from imposing data caps or charging usage-based pricing for its residential broadband service," it added. "This condition ensures that New Charter will continue Charter’s past pricing practices and protects subscribers from paying fees designed to make online video consumption more expensive leading subscribers to stick with a traditional pay-TV bundle."

Clearly unhappy with the FCC's stipulations, (New) Charter attempted to break the promise in July.

How to send your two cents — You have until September 2 to send your input. You can do so either by paper or you can file a comment using the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System. Given the current state of the post office, we suggest going the electronic route.

While writing to the commission, make sure that you address it to the secretary as well as the office of the secretary. Boring as they may sound, these bureaucratic details matter in the end. If you're planning to send your opinion by paper, make sure you file an original as well as a copy of every filing.

  • If you're using regular overnight mail, send your comment to:

9050 Junction Drive, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701

  • Alternatively, if you're using the United States Postal Service (bless them) through first-class, express, and priority mail, send it over to:

445 12th Street, SW, Washington DC 20554.

At the current count there are at least 1,500 filings, with the majority against data caps. This isn't shocking considering that data caps are financially burdensome for the average consumer, and companies don't tend to give discounts if you stay beneath your cap.

Especially during a pandemic, individuals who are struggling economically shouldn't have to wonder whether the internet is a public utility for everyone — regardless of their socioeconomic status. If Ajit Pai — the man who views the internet as a "service" — is willing to listen to the public, Charter should reevaluate its position too. Of course, it's not incentivized to. So like all big companies, we're going to have to forgo the carrot for the stick.