Charter Withdraws Request For Permission To Impose Data Caps

Charter Communications has withdrawn a request to be allowed to impose data caps on broadband subscribers.

The company didn't give a reason in the withdrawal notice, which was submitted to the Federal Communications Commission late last week.

On Tuesday, a Charter spokesperson stated: “In light of the ongoing severity of the global pandemic and its effects on our customers, we want to offer them the assurance that they will continue to benefit from unlimited access to broadband and the accompanying financial certainty it provides during these trying times, and therefore have withdrawn our petition."

The move means that the company will continue to be subject to rules that prohibit it from either capping subscribers' broadband data or shifting to usage-based billing. Those rules, which the FCC imposed as a condition of Charter's merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, are currently set to expire in 2023.

When the FCC approved that merger, regulators also required Charter to refrain from charging companies like Netflix fees to interconnect directly with Charter's servers.



Last year, Charter asked the FCC to terminate both of those conditions early, arguing they were “outdated and counterproductive,” due to the growth of changes in the market since the 2016 merger. In August, a federal appeals court vacated the prohibition on interconnection fees, but left the ban on data caps in place.

Consumer advocacy groups, New York utilities regulator and Roku, among others, opposed Charter's request to the FCC to be allowed to impose data caps.

Opponents argued that caps are unnecessary, and that Charter could deploy data caps and usage-based billing in a way that encourages consumers to purchase cable video subscriptions, instead of services like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Charter told regulators last August it “currently has no plans to change its business strategy,” but also contended that usage-based billing could benefit consumers.

“There is also evidence that some consumers -- either those who do not consume a lot of data and/or those who are looking for a lower-cost plan -- may want a service where prices are based on the amount of data used,” Charter wrote. “Other consumers may prefer a prepaid plan that can be renewed.”

Some advocates cheered news that Charter had dropped its request to the FCC.

“Charter just withdrew its despicable petition to start implementing data caps in the middle of a pandemic!” Free Press policy manager Dana Floberg tweeted Tuesday. “That right there is what we call a VICTORY.”

Incompas, a trade group which counts Google, Netflix and Amazon among its members, added that Charter's move was “good news for consumers and open internet advocates.”

But Incompas CEO Chip Pickering added that Charter's original attempt to terminate the prohibition shows a need for “strong interconnection and open internet policy on the books.”

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