Netflix Urges FCC to End All Data Caps

John Lister's picture

Netflix has called upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to examine whether data caps are harming the expansion of broadband data. The company, which also has close interest on the subject, says the FCC might have a legal duty to take action on the matter.

The company complained in particular about monthly data limits on home broadband such as those imposed by Comcast, which recently enforced a 300GB a month cap on some customers - along with steep overage fees ($10 per 50GB). However, Comcast now says the cap has been bumped to 1TB, with unlimited data available in some areas, but only if the customer pays an additional $50 each month on top of the regular $30 to $35 price point.

Netflix argues that these data caps are no longer sufficient, given that watching TV over the Internet is now a normal activity for many customers. It says today's online viewers expect the quality of video they watch through such services to be at least as good as they get from cable TV and in some cases even better with experimental 4K broadcasts. (Source:

Law Might Force FCC's Hand

While it's hardly a surprise that Netflix wants its customers to be able to stream as much video as they like, the company argues there may be a legal issue at stake, rather than it just being a commercial matter to be left up to Internet providers.

It cites section 607 of the Telecommunications Act, which says that the FCC must regularly check whether broadband and other "advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion."

According to Netflix, having data caps makes it more expensive to watch online TV; therefore, data caps are an unreasonable restriction to all would-be customers being able to make the most of the Internet. It says that data caps of any kind on fixed-line broadband are unreasonable, while caps on mobile broadband shouldn't be too low.

Legal Battle May Ensue

If the FCC buys Netflix's argument, it could theoretically be forced to tackle data caps. The law says that if it finds deployment isn't proceeding in a reasonable manner, it must "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment, and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market." (Source:

That would be a hugely complicated and controversial step, however. Recent FCC attempts to regulate broadband provider behavior, for example over the principle of "net neutrality", have prompted legal and political arguments over its powers to make and enforce rules.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you agree with Netflix that data caps should not be allowed? Does its own self-interest undermine its argument? Should the FCC get involved in the issue or leave it to the market to decide?

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kernbj_7821's picture

We all act in our own best interest. Netflix is looking ahead to its future bottom line, as are the telcos. Must side with Netflix on this one. The court battle will be ugly, as Netflix provides content we want, and are willing to pay for, while the providers are charging for band
with usage. Caps make total sense (dollars) to them. Think the public would mostly like to get out from under usage caps.

steve1's picture

It costs the cable companies somewhere between nothing to almost nothing to provide unlimited data through their systems. Data caps are simply a monopoly abuse of the consumer. They pay the overages because they have little choice.

In my community I have a choice from Comcast and Verizon FIOS. Neither has a data cap. My FIOS connection is rated at 100Mbps up and down and I often see that speed. (Just ran Speedtest and got 82Mbps down at 5:30 PM).

I have family with no competitive options and they are lucky to see 25Mbps, and they all have a data cap.

Chief's picture

Data caps are a necessary evil in areas without sufficient bandwidth. However, in metropolitan areas where bandwidth is plentiful they are nothing but money makers which is why they are going to die just like roaming fees and limited texting. If it weren't for government sponsored monopolies they might be dead already.

matt_2058's picture

One thing I see less and less of is a good foundation for rules for the policies, whether it is a rule or code or other expectation. Without that, they need constant fiddling with and that just creates more confusion as to what the consumer can expect.

I do think the caps should be lifted. Mine just went from 350gb to 600gb with ATT Uverse. That's not alot for someone that watches Netflix regularly, and very inadequate if you have children that watch videos or stream music. Add gaming to that bandwidth, too.

So what if Netflix has an interest in this....everyone does whether it's the content provider, ISP, the consumer, or the competitor (cable). What I would like to see more of is the communities owning the infrastructure or some kind of service agreement. That way they can use that leverage to keep prices from getting out of hand.

David's picture

My cable company, Armstrong Cable, has what it calls a 'fair use' policy. They don't manage the data speed based on content, but 'to be fair' and not have people hogging too much data there are caps in place. As an internet-only customer my cap is 200GB per month; cable-tv customers have a higher cap. I have my Netflix account set to medium/standard video quality (instead of the full hd) so we don't go through the cap and have to pay $10 per 50GB overage.

Unfortunately, if I want a high speed connection for streaming, I have to go with my cable company. There are no other suppliers available.