Advocacy Groups Take FCC Chairman to Task for ‘Data Cap Endorsement’

Online advocacy groups Public Knowledge and Free Press are taking Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski to task for comments he made earlier this week that seemed to indicate an "endorsement" of data caps, by calling them a legitimate business practice.

"There was a point of view a couple of years ago that there was only one permissible pricing model for broadband. I didn’t agree," Genachowski said during a question and answer session with National Cable and Telecommunications Association CEO Michael Powell.

Genachowski's comments followed remarks from Powell, who said that service providers want to experiment with different pricing strategies.

But by Tuesday afternoon a spokesperson for the agency said that the chairman's remarks weren't meant to endorse the practice of data caps, or any other business models that service providers might employ.

"The Chairman's remarks today about usage-based pricing emphasized the importance of consumer choice; competition, which includes over-the-top video competition; and lower prices for consumers," the spokesperson said.

Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld said on Tuesday that Genachowski's statement at the event presented a "false picture."

Feld said that the question is not whether there is one pricing model, but "will all the benefits of broadband Chairman Genachowski has articulated in the past ever happen in a world where broadband providers get a free pass on any pricing scheme or restriction if they use the magic words 'bandwidth cap? ' "

"If we really want to see students downloading textbooks or watching Harvard lectures online, it would be nice to know if they will ever have the bandwidth capacity to do so," he added.

Free Press policy director Matt Wood said that the "data caps being pushed by the biggest cable companies are bad for consumers — and the FCC should be investigating these caps, not endorsing them."

"Comcast's recent actions show both the harms of these caps and the lack of any legitimate reason for them," he said, adding that Comcast "started out by exempting its own content from its own caps, while applying them to competitors like Netflix and other online video providers. Then Comcast changed course and suspended caps temporarily in all but a few markets — but promised to start overcharging any users there who exceeded these arbitrary limits."

When Net Neutrality rules were being figured out, one of the things that the FCC left on the table for broadband operators was the ability to employ data caps. It was a concession that many advocacy groups strongly argued against and now customers are paying the price…

Source: The Hill

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