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With 56% of American Internet connections now capped, advocates ask FCC for probe

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The practice of capping Internet bandwidth and selling it as a metered commodity has fully taken hold, to the point where 56 percent of U.S. internet connections are now on plans that restrict how much information users can access before triggering additional fees.

For an Internet landscape that’s been accustomed to unlimited access to information the world over, this represents a sea-change for many broadband subscribers. And to at least two prominent Washington, D.C. advocacy groups, it’s cause for immense concern.

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That’s why the directors of Public Knowledge and New America’s Open Technology Initiative — two Washington tech policy groups — have written to the Federal Communications Commission to request they investigate the potential for these practices encouraging anti-competitive activities.

“These caps, which are now a fact of life for 56% of all broadband users, can perniciously undermine each of the goals set out by the Commission in the National Broadband Plan while at the same time stifling the competition and innovation that has established itself as the sine qua non of the internet economy,” they wrote.

AT&T’s bandwidth cap for DSL users, which went into effect on May 2, limit users to just 150 gigabytes per month before the fees start piling up. While they claim the limitations are intended to ensure every user has adequate bandwidth at all times, critics say their intent is to force businesses into an artificially restricted business model that commoditizes bandwidth.

“In the world of broadband data caps, the caps recently implemented by AT&T are particularly aggressive,” the groups explained. “Unlike competitors whose caps appear to be at least nominally linked to congestions during peak-use periods, AT&T seeks to convert caps into a profit center by charging additional fees to customers who exceed the cap. In addition to concerns raised by broadband caps generally, such a practice produces a perverse incentive for AT&T to avoid raising its cap even as its own capacity expands.”

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Others have suggested the move by AT&T, which followed a bandwidth capping scheme by Comcast, is also an affront to online movies provider Netflix, which has far and away trumped other video services owned by the network providers. The vast majority of mobile broadband plans are similarly limited, although those caps are typically far more restrictive than home-based broadband.

“The lower cap for DSL customers is especially worrying because one of the traditional selling points of DSL networks is that their dedicated circuit design helps to mitigate the impacts of heavy users on the rest of the network,” they continued. “Together, these caps suggest either that AT&T’s current network compares poorly to that of a major competitor circa 2008 or that there are non-network-management motivations behind their creation.”

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“Our usage-based pricing plan is about offering a high-quality, fair and affordable broadband service for all of our customers,” an AT&T spokesman told Raw Story. “It is designed to protect the low-volume consumer and provide the high-volume consumer with the necessary information (at least six notifications) prior to being billed for overages. It is narrowly tailored to ensure that only those who use the most bandwidth pay for it. In fact, 98% of our customers will not be impacted by our approach.”

Bandwidth capping was explicitly permitted by the FCC’s recently-passed “net neutrality” regulations, which mandate that Internet providers treat all traffic equally on wired networks. Critics of the regulations suggest they are really a giveaway to big business and essentially toothless to enforce the rules in cases where the principles of neutrality are violated.

Read the full letter here (PDF).

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Dick Cheney raising money for Trump’s re-election — with White House staffers Ivanka and Jared: report

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney is raising money for President Donald Trump's re-election at a fundraiser in a ritzy western resort town.

"Former vice president Richard B. Cheney and his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), are to appear at a lunch fundraiser Monday in support of President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to an invitation to the event," The Washington Post reported Saturday. "The luncheon fundraiser in Jackson, Wyo., will feature White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, along with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as 'special guests,' according to the invitation, which was obtained by The Washington Post."

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‘Go back to Harlem!’: Florida woman has n-word laced meltdown after bumping black woman’s shopping cart

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On Saturday, the Atlanta Black Star reported an incident in Florida, in which a white woman screamed racial slurs at a black woman at a Publix supermarket in Miami after their shopping carts jostled each other.

After the woman allegedly banged into Nicki Johnson's cart, she refused to apologize, saying, "I didn't hit you with my cart, and f**k you,  you f**king n****r."

Johnson whipped out her cell phone camera, and began recording the incident, saying "You, why don't you call me a n****r again?"

"You thinking I'm sorry?" snapped the woman. "Let me tell you something, I don't have to call you anything. Get away from me, I will call security and there are surveillance videos. Get away from me!"

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‘I’m a nurse, what are you?’: Tennessee lawmaker humiliates anti-choice activists in brutal public grilling

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Anti-choice activists in Tennessee were unprepared for the grilling they got from a Democratic Party lawmaker when making the case for a bill that would outlaw abortion before many women knew they were pregnant.

One of the speakers in favor of the fetal heartbeat bill was Baptist Pastor Randy Davis, who was questioned by state Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis).

"How many women executive pastors do you have in your convention?" Robinson asked Davis. "Or senior pastors."

"None," Davis replied.

"So is it the same ideology that restricts access to women being able to lead a congregation that leads you all to support women not being able to make a medical decision about their body?" Robinson asked.

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