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Posted at 10:46 AM ET, 01/11/2011

Consumer groups urge FCC to investigate Metro PCS for net neutrality violation

By Cecilia Kang

Public interest groups on Tuesday called for the Federal Communications Commission to investigate new data plans by Metro PCS that they say block certain Web sites on cell phones and violate net neutrality rules.

The action comes as carriers race to attract new high-speed mobile Internet customers, who will be confronted with an array of new charges and tiers for certain Internet services.

Free Press, Media Access Project and the Center for Media Justice sent a letter to the agency, saying the wireless carrier's plans offer certain Web services for different tiers and could violate no-blocking rules implemented by the FCC last December.

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment on the letter.

Drew Crowell, a spokesman for Metro PCS, said only that the firm wants to offer more options for customers with different needs.

The FCC's Internet access rules prohibit wireless carriers from blocking Web sites. Public interest groups say Metro PCS allows users to watch streaming YouTube videos in its unlimited $40 plan, but its unclear if YouTube competitors such as Hulu and Netflix may be available only to subscribers of its $50 or $60 data plans. Also, the new plans offer preference for Metro PCS's own video service.

That could make it more difficult for lower-income subscribers to get the best content on the Web over their wireless phones, the groups said. And it shows the weakness of FCC net neutrality rules that could allow carriers to create faster and slower lanes for mobile Internet content.

“MetroPCS's practices are particularly problematic because, as the company itself recognizes, it disproportionately serves lower-income subscribers, the same audience that is increasingly relying on mobile access to the Web," said Chris Riley, counsel at Free Press. "A walled garden in mobile broadband leaves a large number of Internet users on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

Here's how Metro PCS's new plan breaks down:

  • $40 for unlimited talk, text, 4G Web browsing with unlimited YouTube access.
  • $50 for unlimited talk, text, 4G Web services and unlimited YouTube; also >international and premium text messaging, navigation, mobile instant messaging, corporate e-mail and 1 GB of additional data access. With Wi-Fi, customers also get audio capabilities to listen and download music and access to preview and trial video content.
  • $60 for the same premium features as the $50 plan, plus unlimited data access and MetroSTUDIO premium content such as 18 video-on-demand channels and audio downloads.

Related stories:
Faster cell phones bring wave of new services and charges

CES: Net neutrality: headed for more hearings, challenges in court

FCC net neutrality rules represent a compromise

By Cecilia Kang  | January 11, 2011; 10:46 AM ET
Categories:  FCC, Net Neutrality  
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As usual, Cecilia Kang, Google's reporter and lobbyist at The Post, lobbies in print for her advertiser Google by pushing for the regulations it wants. Never mind the fact that bandwidth costs money or that carriers' networks would be overloaded by high volume, high resolution long duration streaming video (as opposed to the short, low resolution video that YouTube serves up). She and her fellow Google lobbyists want to make carriers unprofitable, transferring money from ISPs to content providers, by preventing ISPs from charging more to deliver content that's more costly to deliver! This is the equivalent of prohibiting UPS from charging more to deliver a bigger or heavier package. Such a prohibition would certainly be unreasonable - and might well constitute an unconstitutional taking. But if you have enough lobbying dollars (and Google does)....

Posted by: LBrettGlass | January 11, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Metro finally gives someone who doens't want to spend $100 a month a chance to have a smart phone with unlimited talk,text and data. If Hulu and netflex are that important to someone, then let them get a better plan. Don't ruin it for the rest of us.

Posted by: jules11 | January 12, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

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