FCC commissioners debate usage-based pricing models

Usage-based pricing for mobile data may help ease congestion on wireless networks at a time when carriers are clamoring for more spectrum, FCC commissioners indicated. Though most wireless carriers have been pushing "unlimited" data plans on their 3G networks, Verizon Wireless recently indicated it likely would pursue a usage-based pricing scheme for its forthcoming LTE network.

"Pricing freedom has to be essential," FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said during a weekend panel at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, adding that carriers should be allowed to experiment with different models as they build out next-generation networks. "I think it's time to let that happen," he said. "Net neutrality proponents say it should be an all-you-can-eat price. But that will lead to gridlock."

Fellow Republican commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker outlined additional steps carriers could take to reduce strain on their networks. "Maybe we move back to a world where people pay for roaming," she said.

Last week, Verizon Communications CTO Dick Lynch said the carrier could meter LTE traffic on its planned network, and raise prices for heavy users.

"The problem we have today with flat-based usage is that you are trying to encourage customers to be efficient in use and applications, but you are getting some people who are bandwidth hogs using gigabytes a month and they are paying something like megabytes a month," Lynch said in an interview with the Washington Post. "That isn't long-term sustainable. Why should customers using an average amount of bandwidth be subsidizing bandwidth hogs?"

For more:
- see this The Hill article

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