House Bill Would Protect Consumers Against Internet Overcharges

Rep. Massa, Free Press, Stop the Cap! Discuss Broadband Internet Fairness Act
Contact Info: 
Moira Vahey, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x31

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) joined Free Press and Stop the Cap! on a national conference call today to discuss the "Broadband Internet Fairness Act" (H.R. 2902), legislation that would protect consumers from Internet overcharges.

Listen to the national conference call: http://www.freepress.net/node/61544

AT&T and Time Warner Cable are currently testing a new pricing scheme in Beaumont, Texas, where consumers pay large fees for exceeding a low monthly Internet usage limit; AT&T's trial also includes Reno, Nev. Though presented as a means to address a very small number of heavy bandwidth users, these Internet overcharges would impact large numbers of consumers.

The "Broadband Internet Fairness Act" would give the government explicit authority to prevent broadband providers from overcharging for Internet access.

Learn more about the "Broadband Internet Fairness Act" here: http://massa.house.gov/?sectionid=24&sectiontree=23,24&itemid=316

"Access to the Internet has become a critical part of our economy, and we can't let corporate giants limit the public's access to this important tool," said Congressman Massa. "The Broadband Internet Fairness Act is all about protecting consumers from outrageous Internet overcharges and giving the public a voice in this process. I have taken lots of time to work on this bill and have consulted with my constituents and industry experts. Now the hard work of passing this bill begins."

Congressman Massa became a vocal opponent of Internet overcharges after Time Warner Cable announced plans this spring to impose its new pricing scheme on his constituents in Rochester, N.Y. Tens of thousands of Internet users from around the country -- many of them alerted by Free Press and Stop the Cap! -- contacted Congress about the unfair penalties, and Massa pledged to introduce legislation to address the issue.

"Customers should be able to use their Internet service without the fear of getting even higher monthly bills, especially on a product already making a lot of money for providers," said Phil Dampier, the Rochester resident who founded Stop the Cap!, a consumer-driven Web site dedicated to combating Internet overcharges. "At a time when the economy is hurting, we cannot afford to allow a handful of companies to gouge consumers and limit Internet access -- just to increase shareholder value. That's why Congressman Massa's bill is so important."

According to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, even groups that have traditionally lagged behind in Internet adoption -- rural and low-income Americans -- are beginning to subscribe in larger numbers. But more users have not translated into lower prices. In fact, Pew reports that the average monthly price for a broadband connection has jumped by more than 10 percent in the last year alone.

"With monthly Internet bills on the rise, overcharges just add insult to injury," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. "We applaud Congressman Massa and Stop the Cap! for taking a stand for consumers. This is an inspiring example of grassroots activism fighting against a big corporation and a member of Congress siding with the people. We don't see it often enough. This bill sends a message that Congress is watching and can take action to protect consumers."

Read the "Broadband Internet Fairness Act" here: http://massa.house.gov/uploads/BroadbandInternetFairnessAct.pdf

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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