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New FCC director means new future for data caps and net neutrality

(TECH NEWS) Charter Communications has withdrawn their request to impose data bans on customers now that net neutrality foe Ajit Pai is out and net neutrality champion Jessica Rosenworcel is in.

Hands browsing internet on iPad and desktop behind, exercising net neutrality.

Charter Communications had requested the right to impose a data cap on its customers during Ajit Pai’s term as chairman of the FCC, but with the new administration and a new head of the FCC, net neutrality advocate, Jessica Rosenworcel, they have decided to withdraw their request.

While many of us are still working from home and students attending classes virtually, access to the internet remains crucial. Many people are also struggling financially due to the pandemic. Charter’s petition to impose data caps during a pandemic is widely seen as particularly callous and greedy, like they couldn’t wait to get in there and strong-arm their customers.

With a proliferation of virtual students and remote workers, moving to a pay-to-play internet model would restrict many people from access to work, school, and life’s other internet based necessities and niceties. Work and school would become more difficult to sustain online with data caps. Social media platforms and online shopping could be impacted if ISPs decided to slow down the internet to shake down users for more money, thereby further harming entrepreneurs. Even cryptocurrency exchanges would be affected.

Charter had been unable to add data caps and overage fees as part of a seven-year ban starting when they bought Time Warner in 2016. Charter went so far as to claim (bizarrely) that their clients liked data caps.

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Data caps are not anything to love. This means an internet service provider can limit the amount of data customers can use or transfer, and then charge fees for using more than the allotted amount. When customers reach the data cap, their internet service may slow down considerably and costs may go up. Ajit Pai was seen to be sympathetic to Charter’s cause, as he was the chairman of the FCC when it repealed net neutrality.

Pai’s FCC team overturned net neutrality, and still defends his decision. The ousted Pai claimed he would do it again, telling CNBC on January 25, 2021, “I think time has shown that our decision was the right one,” he said.

While ISPs have not yet begun to abuse the repeal of net neutrality as initially feared, in late 2020, Comcast announced its intention to impose data caps on customers without limited plans, which they were criticized for. Charter’s petition to impose data caps, ending their ban on doing so two years early, was another step in that direction.

Jessica Rosenworcel has long fought for net neutrality. FCC observers assume the decision made under Pai to eliminate net neutrality will be reversed sooner rather than later. Now that Ajit Pai, whom Charter believed would be sympathetic to their cause, is out, the company has withdrawn their petition. Perhaps sensing that they missed their window to get rubber stamped to impose data caps, they are going back to the drawing board.

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Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

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