As details emerge about the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial proposal for regulating Internet providers, a provision that would allow companies to bill customers for how much they surf the Web is drawing special scrutiny.
Analysts say pay-as-you-go Internet access could put the brakes on the burgeoning online video industry, handing a victory to cable and satellite TV providers.
The practice is legal, but had been discouraged by the FCC and by protests from consumers and public interest groups. But wireless companies are moving rapidly in that direction – all major cellphone providers offer subscribers tiered data plans for Internet service. AT&T doesn’t offer flat-rate wireless plans for new customers.
And although FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said last week that his so-called net-neutrality proposal would generally prohibit broadband service providers from tampering with Internet traffic, he added that he is open to new billing models that charge by how much data a user consumes.