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A Post-Pandemic Thought on Data Caps

COVID19 changed the way we work and gain an education. Instead of rushing to get out the door on time, fighting traffic, and painful small talk around the break room coffeemaker, we each retreat to our own area of the house and login for a day of at-home work. But with the increase in usage on our home networks, many people are finding a new problem that can come from working in the comfort of their own home.

Many households, unless you live with hard-core gamers, will never touch the data cap set by their internet provider under pre-COVID19 instances. However, with the increase in video conferencing and more time on Netflix or the data eating HBO MAX, many consumers are in danger of incurring fees for going over their set data cap.

According to the FCC's 5,722 pages of consumer complaints, data caps have never been popular. In fact, some saw it as a violation of free speech. According to one consumer from Russell PA (page 826), "Data caps on wireless and wired internet are unfair in every way. Every day our world becomes more dependent on data. Every aspect of our lives is driven by more and more data and by putting a cap on data will restrict our lives and slow the progress of our nation just for greed. They are bleeding us dry penny by penny. The USA is already falling way behind compared to other countries as far as speed and yet cost so much more. This is an issue the FCC needs to look at very closely because these caps will affect everyone in just a few years!"

While the complaint was dated October 8, 2016, it hit the nail on the head and gave an eerie prediction into the situation we face today.

With only a handful of internet providers available depending on the area you live in, coverage and pricing can vary. I have lived in areas where I might have fast internet speeds (and an annoying data cap) and in places where dial-up would have been quicker (still with a data cap). So what does this mean for today's consumers opting to work and get an education from the comfort and cleanliness of their own homes?

A family of four could easily eat a terabyte of data while working, learning, and social distancing at home. And while you could still go over your cap, you would wrack up hundreds of dollars in overage fees.

For several months after COVID19 shut down the economy, internet companies suspended data caps, and lo and behold, the internet survived. But now that they are back and people are still working and learning from home, the question of why has been raised once again.

Should consumers (especially those with compromised immune systems) have to choose between facing an outrageous internet bill or their health?

It seems as though internet companies have brought back data caps while not taking into consideration the shift in our educational and work lives. In a post-pandemic world, we have to ask ourselves if data caps are really necessary or if they are just another scam to wring money out of American's pockets.

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