Last updated: August 4, 2011 - 8:55am
As broadband providers scrap unlimited data plans in favor of pricing based on consumption, the Federal Communications Commission is under growing pressure to decipher whether Internet service providers are reasonably managing their networks — or snuffing out competitors like Netflix.
It’s a problem partly of the FCC’s own making — and one lawmakers could soon hear about. When the FCC adopted network neutrality rules in December, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski publicly embraced metered pricing. He was signaling his sincerity that ISPs should be allowed to manage their networks in a reasonable way, even as the commission moved to impose net neutrality rules that would force providers to treat all traffic equally. But the rush by Internet providers in recent months to end all-you-can-eat data is producing a dangerous side effect, critics say: potentially crippling the booming market for so-called over-the-top video and other data-rich services from Netflix and other providers. Now consumer groups are calling on the FCC to investigate the practice of metered pricing, arguing that there isn't any justification for it.
Rationing capacity on the Internet this way is “a means for Internet service providers to charge more for less,” said Harold Feld, legal director of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. He claimed that no one knows the effect of data usage on networks. “It is all one big black box,” Feld said.
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