The questions Genachowski should be asking about data caps

FCC Chairman Julis Genachowski

FCC Chairman Julis Genachowski

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated his acceptance of broadband data caps and tiered pricing, at The Cable Show held today in Boston. In an interview with the National Cable and Telecommunications Association Chair (and a former FCC chairman himself) Michael Powell, Genachowski said he was in favor of business model innovation.

This is not a new stance for Genachowski, who back in 2010, specifically called out approval for usage-based broadband pricing as part of the network neutrality regulations. At the time he said:

“Our work has also demonstrated the importance of business innovation to promote network investment and efficient use of networks, including measures to match price to cost such as usage-based pricing.”

That’s remarkably close to what he said today when quizzed by Michael Powell. Cecilia Kang at The Washington Post quotes Genachowski as saying:

“Business model innovation is very important,” Genachowski said. “There was a point of view a couple of years ago that there was only one permissible pricing model for broadband. I didn’t agree.”

A bigger question is whether or not he agrees to practices that would exempt an ISP’s traffic from their own broadband cap, as Comcast is doing with its Xfinity service over the Xbox. And from a consumer point of view, a cap isn’t terrible in and of itself, but it can be a tool used to protect an ISP’s pay TV business or their profits absent robust competition in the market.

So even though Genachowski is in favor of new pricing models for broadband, it would be awesome if he started asking questions about how those caps are set and what impact they have on consumer behavior. Because it’s not like consumers have that much choice in their broadband provider.

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