As the Internet becomes increasingly important to American consumers, businesses and innovators, Internet Service Providers are increasingly imposing caps on the amount of data that consumers may move over the Net.
Data caps are appropriate if they are carefully constructed to manage network congestion but, as the New York Times has editorialized, they "should not just be a way for Internet providers to extract monopoly rents."
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Thursday the imposition of data caps also risks undermining online competition and innovation as the market for digital goods and services expands.
In order to empower consumers to better manage their data usage and promote online innovation, Wyden said he has introduced the Data Measurement Integrity Act to give consumers the tools they need to manage their own data usage, institute industry-wide data measurement accuracy standards for ISPs, and impose disciplines to ensure that ISP data caps are truly designed to manage network congestion.
"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," Wyden said.
"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 Data Cap Integrity Act requires the Federal Communications Commission to establish standards by how ISPs will measure data and empowers it to ensure that data caps are designed to manage network congestion rather than monetize data in ways that undermine online innovation.
Furthermore, it ensures that consumers are provided tools to manage their data consumption and that ISPs cannot, for purposes of measuring data, discriminate against any content.
"Internet use is central to our lives and to our economy," Wyden said. "Future innovation will undoubtedly require consumers to use more and more data -- data caps should not impede this innovation and the jobs it creates. This bill is intended to help consumers manage their data more effectively and ensure that data caps are used only to serve the legitimate purpose of addressing congestion."