Genachowski Debuts Net Neutrality Proposal with a Twist: Usage-based Pricing

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Julius Genachowski, FCC; Photo: Paul Smith, fcc.gov

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, the nation’s top telecom regulator, voiced support yesterday for a new set of regulations on net neutrality, which would require Internet service providers to treat all Internet traffic equally, known as net neutrality.

Genachowski called the proposed regulations part of “the road to preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet.” But, his plan also includes a provision opening the door for broadband providers to charge for Internet based on use.

The proposal is up for a vote at FCC’s Dec. 21 meeting.

Genachowski said his proposal relies on four key pillars:

1)      Transparency – Consumers have the right to know how broadband networks are managed.  “Consumers and innovators [should] have the information they need to make smart choices about subscribing to or using a broadband network, or how to develop the next killer app,” Genachowski said.

2)      Free Expression – Consumers have the right to send and receive lawful material, “to go where they want and say what they want online, and to use the devices of their choice.”

3)      Level Playing Field – “No central authority, public or private, should have the power to pick which ideas or companies win or lose on the Internet; that’s the role of the market and the marketplace of ideas.”

4)      Network Management – Broadband providers “must have the ability and investment incentives to build out and run their networks,” including usage-based pricing.

Experts noted usage-based pricing, which is a positive sign for Internet providers, which has not been popular with consumers in the past or with many of the ardent net neutrality advocates who saw Genachowski as an ally, The Wall Street Journal reports.

But a top FCC official told WSJ metered-price said the proposed pricing structure and net neutrality were not inconsistent.

“The standard that the chairman talked about in the speech was the right of consumers and innovators to a level playing field, and usage-based pricing is consistent with that level playing field,” the official said.

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