Oregon senator Ron Wyden is calling for regulations on how carriers can implement data caps, bringing them in line with net neutrality rules.
His Data Cap Integrity Act would force operators to make their rules transparent to users and make sure caps were designed to limit network congestion rather than fleece customers.
It would also force carriers to introduce data meters – as some have already done – allowing customers to monitor their data usage.
The Federal Communications Commission would be asked to establish standards by which ISPs will measure data, and make sure data caps aren’t used to raise money in ways that undermine online innovation.
ISPs would be prohibited from discriminating against any type of content – something Comcast, for example, currently does by excluding its own streaming service from caps.
“Americans are increasingly tethered to the internet and connecting more devices to it, but they don’t really have the tools to effectively manage data consumption across their networks,” says Wyden.
“Data caps create challenges for consumers and run the risk of undermining innovation in the digital economy if they are imposed bluntly and not designed to truly manage network congestion.”
The move has been welcomed by campaign group Public Knowledge.
“Data caps can create an artificial scarcity in the broadband market that limits consumer choice and hinders the creation of new competitive content online,” says vice president of government affairs Christopher Lewis.
“Public Knowledge supports Sen. Wyden’s effort to provide consumers with transparency on their data usage and to ensure that these caps do not limit innovative products and uses on the internet. We look forward to a larger dialogue around this topic in the 113th Congress.”