Groups Ask Senate to Make Data Caps Part of Online Video Hearing

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Opponents of broadband data caps are urging the Senate Commerce Committee to make that issue part of the agenda for their April 24 hearing on the migration of video to broadband delivery.

In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the committee, Free Press, Consumers Union, New America Foundation and Public Knowledge argue that streaming by Netflix, Slingbox and Barry Diller's Aereo are threatened by "economically unjustified limitations and restrictions on data usage imposed by certain broadband Internet access providers," which it goes on to identify as AT&T and Comcast, for example.

While cable and phone company ISPs argue that caps help reduce congestion, the groups say that wired broadband net congestion is "virtually nonexistent," and when it does exist it is rare, only in specific locations, and temporary.

At the April 24 hearing, a top Nielsen executive plans to tell legislators that online video consumption is still a fraction (nine hours vs. 146) of viewing to traditional TV. The groups in their letter suggest a possible reason. "Data caps dampen the use of broadband generally and discourage high-bandwidth applications, like online video, specifically," they write.

Public Knowledge Monday also said it had sent letters to the heads of top wired and wireless broadband providers AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, and to landline companies Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Cable seeking info about "how caps are set, how they are evaluated, and how they may evolve over time."

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