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Republican FCC Commissioners Love Internet Overcharging: “Pricing Freedom Essential”

Robert F. McDowell

Two Republicans serving on the Federal Communications Commission told attendees at Saturday’s Tech Policy Summit that “usage-based pricing” for wireless broadband could be a solution to congested cell phone data networks.

“Pricing freedom has to be essential, because a small number of users take up the majority of bandwidth. So charging some of the heavy users for that bandwidth makes sense,” Commissioner Robert McDowell said during a panel discussion at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show.

“I think it’s time to let that happen,” he added. “Net neutrality proponents say it should be an all-you-can-eat price. But that will lead to gridlock.”

The discussion, Inside the FCC’s Communications Agenda, focused on the FCC’s agenda in light of the Obama Administration’s new policy initiatives and the current the impact technology has on regulatory policy.

McDowell was responding to industry reports that Verizon was prepared to abandon all-you-can-eat pricing for wireless data on its forthcoming 4G LTE wireless network, even though it doesn’t actually have such a plan in place at the time the panel discussion was held.

McDowell believes that since private money is constructing the networks capable of delivering LTE service, the company has a right to charge what it pleases for service, reducing demand with a correspondingly higher price for those who use the network more than others.

Meredith Atwell Baker

Consumer advocates argue that current profits in the wireless industry provide ample resources to build and upgrade networks without overcharging consumers with expensive usage based pricing designed to make customers think twice before using the service they pay good money to receive.  Unlimited use pricing is favored by consumers as well.  Most providers abandoned “all you can eat” plans at least a year ago.  Every wireless broadband plan carries some limitations somewhere in the fine print, particularly for plans that are designed for mobile netbooks or laptops.  Virtually all of them either limit usage to 5GB per month or throttle the user who exceeds that amount down to dial-up speeds for the rest of the month.

Meredith Attwell Baker, the newest Republican FCC Commissioner, seemed slightly out of her element in discussing the issue of consumption billing.

As panel moderator Kim Hart reported for The Hill newspaper, Baker has some novel ideas for easing congestion on wireless broadband networks.

“Maybe we move back to a world where people pay for roaming,” she said.

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14 years ago

They see us as parasites

Ian L
14 years ago

Re: roaming, the cut-rate unlimited plans you’re seeing on prepaid these days are network-limited. No roaming charges because there’s no roaming! Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sprint has to start charging for roaming a few years down the road when their reciprocal roaming agreement with Alltel expires. Yuck. As far as data goes, the FCC made a mistake when selling AWS and 700MHz spectrum. They should have specified that mobile data usage using those airwaves be provided in unlimited capacity at a reasonable cost. Problem, solved. Unfortunately, they’d get their pants sued off if they tried to retroactively accomplish… Read more »

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