Groups Urge FCC to Investigate MetroPCS

The Federal Communications Commission may be about to get its first test of its net neutrality rules even before the rules become official. A group of public interest groups Tuesday (Jan. 11) are calling on the FCC to investigate the pricing scheme of MetroPCS, because the broadband service’s pricing tiers may be discriminatory.

The FCC passed three “net neutrality” rules on Dec. 21, preventing Internet services from blocking or discriminating against lawful content or applications services. The rules will become official when they are published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks.

In a Jan. 10 letter to the FCC, Media Access Project, Free Press, Center for Media Justice, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative and say that MetroPCS’ plan is selectively blocking or capping some Internet content, Web sites and services.

“The service plans announced by MetroPCS create distinctions between different users of the Internet that lack any engineering merit. By permitting YouTube videos and Web sites to be viewed without limit, while simultaneously disallowing or restricting the use of other voice and video Web sites and services, MetroPCS’s actions harm competition, consumer choice and innovation,” the group wrote.

“The lack of clarity is troubling to us,” said Matt Wood, associate director of the Media Access Project. “They’re splitting Web access from data access.”

Dallas-based MetroPCS, the fifth largest mobile wireless provider, announced its new pricing tiers Jan. 3.

“The recent complaints about our new, pro consumer, pro competitive 4G LTE rate plans are erroneous. We continue to offer consumers a full service, unlimited data plan. We increased consumer choice by adding two new rate plans that are less expensive and enable consumers to select the service and content they want at a price point they can afford. These new rate plans comply with the FCC’s new rules on mobile open Internet,” Roger Linquist, president, CEO and chairman of MetroPCS said in a prepared statement.