Illustration of a water hose with Internet data trickling out of it, represented by 1s and 0s.

In response to Comcast imposing an information cap on Massachusetts residents, state lawmakers have proposed a ban on information caps, new charges, and worth will increase on home-Web providers at some point of the pandemic.

The laws was filed on Tuesday this week by Democratic state representatives Andy Vargas and Dave Rogers. Vargas called the invoice a “response to Comcast Web information cap plans,” whereas Rogers mentioned the goal is “to push again at Comcast and some other service suppliers who attempt to increase costs or charges throughout a pandemic.” Verizon FiOS and RCN additionally present Web service in Massachusetts however don’t impose information caps.

Vargas and Rogers beforehand led a bunch of 71 Massachusetts lawmakers who urged Comcast to halt enforcement of its 1.2TB month-to-month information cap, arguing that the cap hurts low-income individuals and is pointless due to Comcast’s strong community capability. Whereas Comcast already enforced the information cap in 27 states for a number of years, the cable firm introduced the cap to the remainder of its territory—a further 12 states together with Massachusetts and the District of Columbia—this month. Comcast is easing-in enforcement in order that the primary overage prices for newly capped clients will likely be assessed for information utilization within the April 2021 billing interval.

The Massachusetts Home has a 128-30 Democratic majority. In addition to Vargas and Rogers, the invoice to this point has 21 cosponsors, most of whom simply signed on at present. We contacted Comcast in regards to the invoice at present and can replace this text if we get a response.

No caps, worth hikes, or Web shutoffs

The invoice proposes “an emergency legislation, vital for the instant preservation of the general public comfort.” It will stay in impact “for the length” of the COVID-19 state of emergency that was declared by Governor Charlie Baker in March 2020 and for at the very least 60 days after the state of emergency is said to be ended.

If handed, ISPs wouldn’t be allowed to “impose new information caps or allowances onto their subscribers.” The invoice would additionally impose “a moratorium on any pre-existing information caps or allowances” that have been already imposed by ISPs.

Furthermore, ISPs wouldn’t be allowed to “enhance the price” of Web plans, “levy any new charges or prices” associated to broadband service, or “shut off Broadband Web Entry Service or providers for subscribers which might be unable to pay overdue invoice[s] on account of monetary hardship attributable to the COVID-19 emergency.”

The invoice would additionally repeal a Massachusetts legislation that prohibits state or municipal regulation of the “charges, phrases or situations of VoIP Service or IP enabled service.” The invoice does not take any additional motion on VoIP choices such because the cellphone providers supplied by cable firms and different ISPs, although.

The invoice’s prohibitions on information caps, worth will increase, new charges, and shutoffs would have an effect on home-Web providers and mass-market retail plans out there to enterprise clients. The invoice wouldn’t have an effect on mobile or cell Web providers, with one exception: the invoice would apply to “hotspots supplied to college students for academic functions.”

The proposal to ban Web shutoffs is much like a provision within the “Hold Individuals Linked Pledge” introduced in March 2020 by then-Federal Communications Fee Chairman Ajit Pai. However with Pai having deregulated the broadband business earlier in his time period, the pledge was completely voluntary for ISPs and expired on the finish of June. Individually, Democrats in Congress proposed a legislation to ban Web shutoffs till the pandemic is over, but it surely did not go.

Whereas the proposed Massachusetts emergency legislation would robotically expire 60 days after the state of emergency is said to be over, it could additionally give the governor the choice to increase the provisions “for a most of 180 days after the termination of the governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency.”

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