Genachowski: Consumers Need Sufficient 'Monthly' Broadband Capacity

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FCC chairman Julius Genachowski sent a clear signal on Tuesday to the industry that the commission has its eye on usage-based pricing and its impact on broadband use.

Genachowski reiterated that usage-based pricing can be a useful tool -- the FCC's network neutrality rule order cited that upside -- and was consistent with "driving efficiency, investment, and faster and more robust network infrastructure." But he also suggested those tools could be misused.

In a speech, "Winning the Global Broadband Race," at VOX Media headquarters in Washington, the chairman made a point of saying that consumers need sufficient "monthly" broadband capacity so that families don't have to fight over who gets to do homework or have a remote health checkup or stream video, and "monthly" capacity to make sure that the e-commerce goods flow freely.

He said he understood the challenge to ISPs of managing the growing demands on their networks while earning enough to invest in upgrades and expansion, both FCC goals. But he also said he expects monthly usage limits to rise and the cost-per-bit of those usage-based plans to decrease as technology improves. He also said he continued to have concerns about: "practices that harm competition, including from over-the-top providers [he did not name any names]; unnecessarily depress broadband usage; or reduce incentives to increase broadband speeds and capacity."

In the speech, the chairman laid out his vision of fast, ubiquitous broadband, available when and wherever people needed it, a goal that could be reached by investing in infrastructure, promoting competition and protecting the open Internet.

Meanwhile, last Friday, Genachowski visited Discovery Communications headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., to discuss the future of education, in recognition of Discovery's efforts in digital education and commitment to transforming teaching and learning, the company said.

Highlighting Discovery's partnerships with school districts across the country, Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Discovery Education chief Bill Goodwyn shared with Genachowski the ways in which Discovery transforms classrooms, empowers teachers and inspires students with dynamic digital content, the company said. The meeting was highlighted by a conversation which brought together five leading schools superintendents to share their initiatives that leverage digital tools to positively impact student achievement and prepare students to compete in the global economy.

Genachowski said afterward the insights shared during the meeting were critical to help overcome the challenges, seize the opportunities and meet the goal of digital learning for all students, according to Discovery.

Earlier this year, Genachowski and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan jointly unveiled a five-year challenge and the "Digital Textbook Playbook" to help transform American classrooms into effective digital learning environments.