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Mobile Communications

Consumers actually like ISPs to play favorites on mobile data caps

Most mobile phone customers actually like when providers exempt selected video, music, and other online services from their monthly data caps, despite complaints that the practice violates net neutrality rules.

Eighty-four percent of U.S. adults, and 94 percent of so-called millennials, are extremely or somewhat likely to try a new online service if it is exempted from their monthly data cap, according to a new survey commissioned by mobile carrier trade group CTIA.

Eight-five percent of adults, and 94 percent of young adults, were likely to use more data if it was what CTIA calls "free data," according to the survey. Sixty-five percent of adults were likely to sign up with a new mobile carrier that offers data cap exemptions, the survey said.

It is "no surprise" that many U.S. residents like free data plans, CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement. The data cap exemptions give consumers "the freedom to choose what works for their mobile life," she added.

But other groups say the selective data cap exemptions limit consumer choice. Many consumer and digital rights groups have complained that mobile carriers are violating net neutrality rules by selecting a limited number of online services to be exempt from monthly data caps.

Last month, more than 50 advocacy groups, including Access Now, Consumers Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future and Free Press, called on the Federal Communications Commission to rule against zero-rating plans.

Zero-rating plans "present a serious threat" to the open Internet, the groups said in a letter to the FCC. "They distort competition, thwart innovation, threaten free speech, and restrict consumer choice."

The CTIA survey was conducted by Harris Poll in late February. More than 2,000 U.S. adults were surveyed.

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