When the Federal Communications Commission passed new net neutrality rules, the agency declined to prohibit broadband providers from imposing data caps, or billing on a pay-per-byte basis.
Instead, the agency said it would examine data caps on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they were hindering consumers' ability to use the Web.
Now, consumers are answering that question with a resounding yes.
In the four weeks since the FCC began accepting complaints about net neutrality, the agency reportedly has heard from more than 2,000 consumers who say their Internet service providers are violating the rules. Many of those grievances center on the imposition of data caps, according to the National Journal, which obtained 50 of the first complaints.
"My family is seeking alternative options to cable television and this cap and fee system inhibits our options," wrote one Charleston, S.C. would-be cord-cutter who objects to Comcast's data cap of 300GB a month with overages of $10 per 50 GB. "This practice does not spur innovation nor does it offer a cheaper alternative to content."
A Nashville resident, also a Comcast subscriber, voiced concerns about the "unjust" 300 GB data cap, while a Comcast customer in Memphis asked the FCC to investigate the company's "arbitrary data cap," which is "neither fair nor just."
Wireless customers also had plenty to say about AT&T's practice of throttling some users who subscribe to "unlimited" data plans. For the last several years, AT&T has slowed the broadband speeds of those users after they hit a cap of either 3GB or 5 GB a month, depending on their phones' features. In some cases, AT&T allegedly cut consumers' speeds down to 512 Kbps -- too slow for features like video streaming, mapping applications and video chat apps. (Earlier this year, the company stopped automatically throttling people who exceed the cap; now, the company only slows down those users' broadband connections when the network is congested.)
The FCC recently proposed fining AT&T $100 million for allegedly failing to disclose its throttling policies. AT&T is contesting the allegations.
"AT&T has continued to throttle my 'unlimited' data even following the FCC's large fine for that practice," wrote a Jackson, Miss. resident. "Is this going to continue in light of the FCC's decision or should I expect this practice by AT&T to cease?"
"AT&T notified my wife that they would reduce our data speeds if we used over a certain amount of data," a Midland, Texas resident added. "We pay for unlimited data and shouldn't have it reduced."
"Undisclosed data throttling without proper cause was not in the contract," chimed in a subscriber from Bushland, Texas.
In addition to a potential fine, AT&T also is facing a potential class-action lawsuit and an enforcement action by the Federal Trade Commission.