Markey pledges vigilance on AT&T data caps

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is concerned that AT&T's decision to cap data usage for fixed Internet connections could do damage to broadband adoption levels and hurt U.S. competitiveness. 

"I am concerned that charging more for increased usage would raise prices for some consumers and potentially lead to lower broadband adoption levels," he said. "This would undermine our broadband goals as outlined in the National Broadband Plan while undercutting our global competitiveness, and I will be closely monitoring this decision."

AT&T is planning to cap the amount of data consumers can use beginning in May. It will charge overage fees for those who exceed the cap, while providing alerts to help consumers monitor their usage levels.  

The company says the new limits will only affect 2 percent of consumers. It already caps usage for wireless customers. 

Still, consumer groups are worried about how the policy can affect the spread of broadband. Public Knowledge sees the decision as "disheartening," said spokesman Art Brodsky.

"There's no way we can transition to a broadband-based economy if companies like AT&T don't keep their networks current not only with today's demands, but with future demands for data-intensive uses like video or even using storage lockers," he said. 

Markey said that consumers' freedom to use the Internet as they wish has helped it thrive. 

"The Internet has always been an all-you-can-eat electronic marketplace for consumers, innovators and companies large and small. Such freedom has made the Internet the most successful commercial and communications medium in history, helping to fuel our economy, spur investment and create jobs," he said.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has explicitly approved the creation of usage-based pricing plans.