March 16, 2011
A Bit More on Data Caps
Quite coincidentally (or not), the subject of data caps came up briefly at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday. Daniel Castro, Senior Analyst for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) spoke in favor of a stronger legislative response to online piracy. Much of it focused on legislation that would give law enforcement the tools to combat illegal file sharing such as allowing the editing of DNS servers to eliminate references to know pirate sites, among others. One of his suggestions concerned the use of data caps to discourage illegal downloading. I assume he means that consumers would be discouraged from using the Internet to download content if they had to pay more for their data.
I do not believe ISP data caps would have any significant effect on piracy. AT&T's has stated that the company would charge $10 for an additional 50 GB after three occurrences of exceeding the monthly limit of 150 GB. 50 GB represents about 10 or more films, in compressed format, and a huge number of songs whether in lossless or mp3 format. $10 for 50 GB of media sounds like a bargain. AT&T is essentially taxing pirated content where the "tax" goes to itself rather than the RIAA, the MPAA, or the content creators. AT&T is not discouraging piracy, merely taking advantage of it to earn a buck or two (billion). It would take significantly stronger data limits and costs associated with other controls to discourage illegal file sharing, and that's not commercially viable. Imagine telling middle eastern protesters they have to pay extra to coordinate their revolutions through Facebook. This is hardly affected by caps in the United States, but the concept is there. Or telling domestic political operatives that distributing their campaign videos are subject to a possible surcharge on some consumers. Free but illegal movies and music or Sarah Palin. What a choice. Nice try, though.
Ars Technica has a story on the testimony, and the hearing materials are here. The Ars story is a bit over the top, but the point is well taken. While we're on the subject on intellectual property controls, see this Ars Technica article on what amounts to the Son of the ACTA treaty. The U.S. government didn't get the global intellectual property controls it wanted through ACTA. Now comes Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which has its own secret history, apparently, for the last four years. [MG]