07 January 2011

MetroPCS and Net Neutrality

From Ryan Singel at Wired.com's Epicenter blog:
MetroPCS, the nation’s fifth largest mobile carrier, announced earlier this week it was offering new pay-as-you-go mobile data plans for its 4G network that would block online video streaming — except for YouTube — for its lowest level plan, and for all plans, block the use of internet phone calling apps.

While the company says the plans are intended to give customers the choice of levels of service, the plans look to be in conflict with the FCC’s new net neutrality rules. Those controversial rules, passed just before Christmas, prohibit mobile carriers from blocking access to websites or “blocking applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services, subject to reasonable network management.”
It is unclear whether or not this is a violation, but it's certainly a bold move if MetroPCS is basing their decision on reasonable network management. This is especially so in light of the FCC's focus on technology in determining what is and isn't reasonable. The evolution to 4G, as the FCC notes (PDF, paragraph 95), "puts greater pressure on the concept of 'reasonable network management' for mobile providers..."

It seems to me that providers (especially mobile providers, who have a bigger loophole in the FCC's net neutrality rules) are going the route of being intentionally aggressive in order to push the limits of reasonable network management, to force the issue into the courts. As I said previously, much of this litigation will be centered around what is reasonable, which is "perhaps the most litigated word in American history."
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