Streaming giant Netflix has submitted a filing to the Federal Communications Commission to try and crack down on data caps from internet service providers.
Data caps, or data thresholds, limit the speed of transfer for a set amount of data. For instance, a provider in the US may offer high-speed internet for a monthly subscription, but once a user goes over a certain amount of data transferred in a given month (the ‘cap’,) the provider will lower the priority of this user, causing their internet connection to become slower. These caps are in place with many service providers across the country, even though higher data caps wouldn’t result in significantly higher costs to said providers. Obviously, data caps are bad for consumers, and in many cases, rather than data thresholds serving any real purpose from a technical perspective for service providers, these caps are only in place to stifle competition faced by cable companies, who also offer wireless internet connections, that various streaming services have created over the past few years. An increase in the amount of video and data a user can consume can only lead to better experiences for the average American.
In the filing, Netflix calls data caps ‘unreasonable’ and go on to claim that restrictions like these serve ‘no legitimate purpose.’ The filing asks for either the complete dissolution of these restrictions across the US, or at least an increase of the minimum monthly data caps to 300 GB. Given the size of Netflix and their considerable resources, and the backing they’ve received from the public on Facebook and other social media, there’s a very reasonable chance that the FCC could agree with the filing a begin pressuring service providers to eliminate data caps.
In the past there have been plenty of calls for data caps to be wiped out, with public outcry earlier this year causing Comcast to raise their limits on bandwidth from 300 gigabytes to 1 terabyte of data every month. While Netflix has a large business stake in the matter given that the elimination of data thresholds would result in plenty of new subscribers for them, it’s still great to see them fighting against service providers who throttle their own paying users with caps.
The disappearance of data caps would be a huge win for cord cutters, both by allowing some to stream more often, and by lowering the barrier to entry for new cutters. It’s just one more barrier lifted. The ramifications of the FCC filing succeeding include a very likely increase in the amount of people switching from cable to streaming. This is a good thing for cord cutters, as more streamers mean more money for streaming companies, which would hopefully result in higher quality productions and an increase in the amount of programming provided.