FCC's Genachowski backs usage-based pricing in newly proposed net neutrality rules

In a move called "a victory for cable and telecommunications companies," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski included language supporting usage-based pricing by broadband providers and backed away from reclassifying broadband under Title II legislation in his latest proposal of rules regarding net neutrality, the Wall Street Journal reports. The FCC meets Dec. 21 and may put the rules to a vote.

Net neutrality regulation ostensibly would stop Internet service providers from deliberately slowing or tampering with legal Web traffic, but the sheer quantity of data, particularly streaming video, moving across the Internet has operators concerned about their ability to continue to meet capacity demands and still meet their bottom line.

Earlier this week, Level 3 Communications protested fees that Comcast is levying to allow Netflix content to stream across its network.

Major broadband players, including Tier 1 carrier AT&T and cable operator Comcast, among others, have lobbied the FCC like mad since Genachowski first proposed legislating net neutrality a year ago, hoping to retain control over data on their networks, while a Verizon-Google compromise hammered out in late summer had legislators, activist groups and companies alternately applauding or howling in protest.

"Importantly, the plan does not call for the reclassification of broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act as a common-carrier service," writes Phil Goldstein of FierceWireless.

The latest wording has seen cautious approval from various sides. AT&T said it was "appreciative" of the FCC for clarifying its view of broadband and usage-based, or pay-as-you-go pricing, while other groups simply breathed a sigh of relief.

 "This middle-ground approach seems to have taken into consideration many of the concerns HTTP has voiced over the past year, on the issue of broadband access and adoption," said Jason Llorenz, Esq., Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) in a prepared statement.

But pay-as-you-go pricing isn't without its problems. A metered billing test last year by Time Warner Cable in Beaumont, Texas, and subsequent plans to expand the program, were slammed by consumers and lawmakers and ultimately shelved. A big part of the problem was the rigid data cap structure, which imposed fees for every GB over a subscribers limit.

For more:
- see this story
- the HTTP's statement

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