MetroPCS Puts New Net Neutrality Laws To The Test

Welcome to 2011, the year in which principles of Net Neutrality, especially on mobile networks, will be put to the test in practice and in court. 

MetroPCS announced its new 4G pricing plans yesterday, broken down into three seperate tiers at $40, $50 and $60 apiece. 

The catch is that different parts of the web are available depending on how much you pay. At $40, for example, users get access to Youtube and basic internet, but cannot access other video streaming services or use VOIP applications like Skype. 

Instead of simply charging customers by the amount of data they use, MetroPCS is dictating what services and sites are available to its users, violating net neutrality

The advocacy group Free Press has called for the FCC to investigate MetroPCS and what it calls a “walled garden for the mobile web.”

What’s really frightening about this kind of restricted Internet access is that most people will not be aware of what is happening. When certain sites fail to load in the $40 tier, users will just take the path of least resistance, meaning sites and apps MetroPCS privileges will have an unfair advantage. 

No one is saying ISPs can’t charge users for the amount of data they consume. But when MetroPCS allows people to use Youtube, but not Vimeo, based on an arbitrary price point, it violates the principles of net neutrality laid out in the FCC’s recent rules, which allows for reasonable network management, but bans ISPs from privileging one service over another. 

bpopper at observer dot com – @benpopper

MetroPCS Puts New Net Neutrality Laws To The Test