Charter has no plans to add data caps when FCC ban lifts

Charter says it has 'no plans to change' its policies on data caps and paid peering when the FCC's seven-year ban on those conditions expires on May 18, 2023.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

April 4, 2023

3 Min Read
Charter has no plans to add data caps when FCC ban lifts

Charter Communications will retain the status quo when a seven-year ban on its use of data caps and paid peering policies is set to lift on May 18, 2023, the company told Light Reading.

For the past seven years, Charter has been prohibited from employing usage-based home broadband data policies and striking paid peering deals as conditions of its 2016 acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Figure 1: (Source: Kristoffer Tripplaar/Alamy Stock Photo) (Source: Kristoffer Tripplaar/Alamy Stock Photo)

Charter has "[n]o plans to change when the condition sunsets," a company official said via email when asked if Charter intends to alter its data and peering policies when the ban lifts next month.

Meanwhile, Charter has embarked on an ambitious plan to upgrade its hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network to usher in multi-gigabit downstream speeds and initially 1-Gig in the upstream by the end of 2025.

Charter withdrew petition to sunset the ban early

Charter, which markets services under the "Spectrum" brand, did try to sunset those conditions two years early – on May 18, 2021.

In Charter's original petition for the requested change, the operator acknowledged that the ban on usage-based pricing and data caps was put in place over concerns that the cable operator could use such policies to hinder the online video distributor (OVD) market from expanding and competing. But Charter argued then that the OVD market has since "flourished" and become competitive despite the presence of data caps and usage-based policies from other US telcos and cable operators.

Charter also argued then that there was a lack of "compelling evidence" that the original conditions attached to the 2016 acquisitions of TWC and Bright House still served the public interest, and that lifting the ban would help to level the playing field between Charter and other broadband providers that are not subject to such prohibitions.

Notably, Roku urged the FCC to deny Charter's petition. Roku argued that the Commission should ensure that broadband service providers are constrained from implementing "anticompetitive measures" and held that "data caps should become a relic of the past."

In January 2021, Charter withdrew the petition seeking the early sunset, noting in part that the pandemic's impact on broadband connectivity weighed into its decision.

"In light of the ongoing severity of the global pandemic and its effects on our customers, we want to offer them the assurance that they will continue to benefit from unlimited access to broadband and the accompanying financial certainty it provides during these trying times, and therefore have withdrawn our petition," Charter explained.

There was also a shift in the political landscape underway.

With the new Biden administration set to assume power, there were concerns in broadband service provider circles that network neutrality rules could be restored and that usage-based data policies would be thrust into the spotlight. However, any new rules have been pushed to the backburner while the FCC remains deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans. It will remain so for the foreseeable future following Gigi Sohn's troubled nomination and eventual withdrawal.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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