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Verizon tells FCC to butt out

At the March 24 technology conference hosted by the New Democrat Network, Verizon executive vice president, Tom Tauke, suggested that the FCC’s claim to have power over the Internet was “at best murky.” He suggested steps that Congress might take to reign in the commission’s power grab in the agency’s National Broadband Plan (NBP).

Tauke urged lawmakers to refocus the FCC back into an regulation and enforcement bureau, rather than let Genachowski implement his current plans for a wide-ranging policy-making body. "In my view, the current statute is badly out of date. Now is the time to focus on updating the law affecting the Internet," Tauke said. "To fulfill broadband's potential, it's time for Congress to take a fresh look at our nation's communications policy framework." In other words, he was telling the FCC to butt out of Internet control.

Tauke isn’t the only person wanting the FCC to back off its expansionistic plans. In a written response, AT&T senior vice president Jim Cicconi said, “If there are any questions about the authority of the FCC in the Internet ecosystem, the proper answer is not for the FCC to get adventurous in interpreting its authority, as some are urging."

Maybe we won’t need that spectrum after all

Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse told those assembled at last month’s CTIA show that mobile data users should soon expect to be charged based on the amount of data they use and not based on a one-size-fits-all plan. During a CTIA panel, Hesse said providers likely will soon move to usage-based billing for data users.

Sprint was an early adopter of billing that let users pay a single rate for unlimited data usage. His comments now indicate that carriers recognize that practice can’t continue. Data hogs could overwhelm carrier networks, potentially denying smaller users access. And, supporting large data capacity carries with it higher costs. Carriers want to control cost and manage profits, so it should be no surprise that mobile data providers will impose usage-based billing.

With consumption-based billing, mobile data usage is measured like other utilities. The more data you consume, the more you pay. Hesse’s comments fly in the face of Sprint and other carriers' current plans that encourage heavy data consumption by smartphone users. While that has been an effective way to seed the market with data-centric phones and build demand, it cannot continue.

Hesse said that customers should expect to see consumption-based billing within two years. One could expect that, just like with electricity, once there is a direct cost to consumption, smartphone owners will be less likely to gorge on Internet access.

Perhaps consumption won’t grow at the logarithmic-like rates as IP folks like Cisco predict. Why then the rush to push broadcasters off the cliff for their spectrum? It may be that the FCC’s oft-mentioned spectrum crisis does not really exist. But then, without a crisis there is no justification to expand the FCC.