FCC urged to probe AT&T data caps

Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate broadband data caps in a letter Friday.

The groups want the FCC to collect data from AT&T, which instituted data caps for wireline consumers this month, on the impact of the policy. 

They want AT&T to report, among other information, how often the cap is enforced, the average penalty incurred by customers, and steps taken to warn customers when they are about to exceed the limits of their plans. 

"In addition to concerns raised by broadband caps generally, such a practice produces a perverse incentive for AT&T to avoid raising its cap even as its own capacity expands," the groups said.

AT&T has said its caps will only impact 2 percent of consumers. The company says it provides alerts to consumers to monitor their usage levels. 

The FCC has explicitly said that data caps are not out of bounds, but consumer groups, Internet companies and some Democrats on Capitol Hill worry that limiting data use could stifle the growth of the Internet.

An AT&T spokesman responded: “Our usage-based pricing plan is about offering a high-quality, fair and affordable broadband service for all of our customers. It is designed to protect the low-volume consumer and provide the high-volume consumer with the necessary information (at least six notifications) prior to being billed for overages.  It is narrowly tailored to ensure that only those who use the most bandwidth pay for it.”