US broadband providers will be able to offer usage-based and tiered pricing under proposed new rules from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In the commission’s latest attempt to preserve “net neutrality”, FCC chair Julius Genachowski said it will ban ISPs from blocking or degrading traffic and will require them to be transparent about how they manage network traffic.
But the non-discrimination rules will not apply to wireless operators, and the guidelines make important concessions to ISPs in allowing them to offer “fast-lanes” with higher prices and to move from unlimited to capped bandwidth.
The rules, which commissioners will vote on at a meeting on December 21, drew praise from telcos but won few supporters among consumer advocates.
Cisco chief John Chambers said the rules “preserves incentives” for network investment, while venture capitalist John Doerr said the FCC had proposed a “pragmatic balance of innovation, economic growth and crucial investment.”
But cyber law professor Marvin Ammori, slammed the exemptions for mobile operators and the green light for tiered pricing. “Without a ban on paid priority, we can expect basic access to deteriorate so companies have to pay for priority,” he wrote on The Huffington Post.
The neutrality issue has vexed the US industry for most of the past decade, largely because of the limited competition between broadband providers, critics say.
The FCC’s previous attempt to set neutrality rules were opposed by Comcast, the largest broadband ISP, and were struck down in court on the grounds that it did not have the right to regulate the internet sector.