Broadband data caps have long been the enemy of net neutrality advocates who see the blatant cash-grab disguised as “network management” as a hinderance. Now, Netflix is joining the fray—for obvious reasons—as it stands the most to lose if Americans increasingly find themselves lashed to restrictive data caps.
In a comment to the FCC, Netflix called data caps, such as those imposed by Comcast and other ISPs, as “an unnecessary constraint on advanced telecommunications capability.” The comment also takes swipes at a few other pieces of ISP trickery, including zero rating, which privileges services by offering their content free of data charges. Earlier this year, dozens of internet companies wrote a letter to the FCC damning the practice.
But Netflix mostly focuses its argument on the growing trend of broadband data caps. In the comment, Netflix lays out plainly why data caps are a bad idea:
A data cap or allotment of 300 GB of data per month or higher is required just to meet the Internet television needs of an average American. This does not account for the other things that consumers typically do with their broadband connections, such as web-browsing or downloading games or apps from the Internet. An above average television watcher, a multi-occupant household, or a consumer wishing to watch in 4K requires a much higher cap or allotment. In this way, today’s ‘above-average’ Internet consumer is tomorrow’s average Internet consumer.
Internet television—whether through Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, or apps like Netflix—will only continue to nom away data. With the increasingly ubiquitous 4K standard on its way, that number will only grow more and more. Netflix says that streaming 3.4 hours of HD content costs 10GB, whereas Ultra HD ups that 140 percent to 24GB. Extrapolate that across several devices and binge sessions, and data caps start to become a real problem.
Strangely, when Comcast announced it was upping its previous data caps from 300GB to 1TB, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings applauded the move.
But clearly, Netflix isn’t happy.
The FCC has had a good record for protecting net neutrality over the past year, though the commission rarely gets involved with pricing issues and is currently “reviewing” zero-rating as its not specifically covered by FCC’s rules.
The decision gains even more importance now that FCC has effectively lost the fight for municipal broadband. So like it or not, your money hungry ISP is here to stay and, for now, data caps are as well.