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Free Press: Blocking or Metering: A False Choice

August 8, 2008
12:00 PM

CONTACT: Free Press
Jen Howard, Free Press,
202.265.1490 ext. 22

Blocking or Metering: A False Choice
WASHINGTON - August 8 - Today, Free Press released Blocking or Metering: A False Choice, a policy brief that illustrates why the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to prohibit blocking by Internet service providers is unlikely to lead to a radical, industry-wide switch to metering.

“Consumers should not have to choose between secret and arbitrary blocking and the very unreasonable practice of metering,” said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press and author of the policy brief. “That is a false choice, one most providers don't even consider necessary or practical. These scare tactics shouldn't deter anyone from pursuing the policies we need to preserve a free and open Internet.”

Read Blocking or Metering: A False Choice

Among the conclusions of the brief:

  • It is a false choice to suggest that since Internet service providers cannot arbitrarily block online content, they will be forced to meter. There are a whole host of other non-discriminatory options available to providers that are more effective at managing congestion.

  • Talk of metering is not new and has nothing to do with the FCC’s laudable decision to prohibit providers from blocking applications. Cox has had bandwidth caps in place since 2003 but was still caught blocking applications. Time Warner floated plans to meter as early as 2002.

  • Metering is the wrong solution for Internet users. History shows that consumers strongly prefer simple, flat-rate pricing to metering. They do not want to look over their shoulder and face surprise higher monthly bills. This is likely to encourage all subscribers – not just high-bandwidth users -- to curb their Internet use.

  • Metering is bad business for Internet service providers. Not only does it decrease Internet use, it discourages the development of and demand for new and innovative applications that give the Internet its value. ISPs that meter are likely to see a subscription drop that hurts their bottom line.

  • There are strong financial incentives at play that actually make it very unlikely that ISPs will make the drastic switch to metering. Congestion should be treated as a short-term problem, while continued investments are made to keep pace with demand. Offering simplicity and abundance is the best outcome for users, providers and the future of the Internet.

S. Derek Turner can be reached for additional comment at 202-265-1490, x28.


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