Julius Genachowski (pictured), chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has proposed usage-based pricing for broadband providers in the US, both mobile and fixed, in a speech ahead of a major vote by the FCC on net neutrality later in December. Genachowski also outlined how consumers have a right to know how networks are being managed and his proposals would bar the blocking of content, as long as it’s lawful, by operators. Operators would face a bar on unreasonable discrimination in the choice of content transmitted over their networks. But Genachowski acknowledged that operators need “meaningful flexibility” in managing their networks so that they can deal with congestion, as well as traffic that is potentially harmful to their networks. “Reasonable network management is an important part of the proposal, recognising that what is reasonable will take account of the network technology and architecture involved,” said Genachowski.
Generally the proposals are viewed as more favourable for operators than anticipated – and are lighter on mobile operators than fixed-based players. “The record in our proceeding reflects both the importance of openness principles to mobile broadband, and the appropriateness of recognizing differences between fixed and mobile broadband,” said Genachowski. Mobile broadband is “at an earlier stage of development than fixed broadband,” he said. The FCC “would closely monitor the development of the mobile broadband market and be prepared to step in to further address anti-competitive or anti-consumer conduct as appropriate.” The proposals will be debated within the FCC ahead of a vote by the commission on 21 December, so might be subject to change. Leading mobile operators such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless have argued that mobile operators cannot be grouped with fixed counterparts when it comes to net neutrality.