Amazon Cautions Congress About Data Caps, Specialized Services

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Amazon exec Paul Misener plans to tell Congress that while bandwidth pricing is OK, unreasonable caps are not and neither are specialized services that disadvantage competition.

According to a summary of Misener's written testimony obtained by Multichannel News, Misener says that "although subscribers should pay for the bandwidth they use immutable or unrealistically priced data caps could hinder or prevent competitive products and services made possible by online video."

He also warns that so-called specialized services -- ones that do not travel over the public Internet and are not subject to Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality rules -- need to be watched carefully to insure they don't "impede" the growth of online delivery and are not offered on unequal terms. He says that inequality would be more pronounced in rural areas where alternative choices are more limited.

Comcast has been criticized for not applying its usage caps to Xfinity service offered over Xboxes, while the top operators counters that Xfinity delivered via the public internet to computers is subject to the caps, while on-demand content delivered over Xbox is not traveling the public Internet but is akin to an extra set-top fro existing cable service.

"The FCC has pledged to monitor the potential for anticompetitive or otherwise harmful effects from specialized services," he says, according to the summary, "but I ask that your Committee remain vigilant on this and other issues of Internet openness," those other issues including data caps and whether they unduly impair consumer choice.

Amazon put in a plug for reviewing the 1996 Telecommunications Act rewrite, which various legislators have recommended teeing up since it was a phone-centric law in what turned out to be an increasingly broadband-centric world. "[T]he lines between the communications services separately addressed in that legislation continue to blur, and how consumers -- especially young people -- now think of television does not match longstanding legal and regulatory conventions," he says.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association agreed in a blog posting Monday in advance of the hearing. It said the Internet video revolution led to the "inescapable" conclusion that "rules adopted two decades ago to regulate a marketplace of limited options for consumers no longer make sense in an era of abundance."

At one time or another, cable operators have argued those decades-old rules include program access and carriage rules, the must-carry/retrans regime, and cable ownership limits.