Commentary

MetroPCS Defends Giving Preference To YouTube

Earlier this year MetroPCS rolled out controversial new pricing plans: a $60-a-month plan that allows consumers unlimited Web access, as well as $40- and $50-a-month plans that allow users unlimited access to YouTube, but not to other Web sites.

MetroPCS billed the move as pro-consumer, but net neutrality advocates like Free Press saw it differently and requested a Federal Communications Commission investigation. The new plans, the advocates argued, violated neutrality rules by treating YouTube differently than other Web sites.

This week MetroPCS fired back, arguing that its discount plans benefit consumers. "Consumers would not be benefited if MetroPCS offered only a $60 plan. Nor will the wireless market be more robustly competitive if MetroPCS is prohibited from offering its customers unlimited YouTube access or investigated for trying to differentiate its services by meeting consumer demand," the company argues in a 20-page letter to the FCC.

Neutrality advocates, however, rightly point out that MetroPCS has options other than a service plan that only allows users unlimited access to YouTube.

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"The company could just as easily have chosen to offer low-cost service through the use of other non-discriminatory network management techniques," Free Press policy counsel M. Chris Riley says in a statement. "Instead, it's creating a new digital divide by building a walled garden around its users."

MetroPCS did, however, address another concern of advocates. When the company initially announced the plans, observers thought that MetroPCS intended to prohibit subscribers to the $40 service from using Skype or other VoIP applications. But the company said in its letter to the FCC that it will allow all subscribers to use VoIP apps on its network.

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