FCC commissioner Pai defends usage-based broadband

Washington -- Prohibiting usage-based broadband billing would be as unfair as the federal government requiring all restaurants to offer consumers all-you-can-eat menus, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai said here Monday at the American Cable Association Summit. "If you said every restaurant had to be all-you-can-eat, that would be good for some people," Pai said. But that approach would see many consumers "cross-subsidize those who eat more," he added.

Ajit Pai, FCC

Pai (Image source: FCC)

Several cable MSOs are beginning to implement broadband caps and usage-based billing options, including Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Suddenlink Communications. ACA President Matt Polka told FierceCable last week that some ACA members are also beginning to introduce usage caps.

Pai also addressed the debate on retransmission-consent in a Q&A he conducted with Polka at the opening of ACA's 20th annual summit, which draws mostly executives from small and mid-sized cable systems. Pai said he was sympathetic to some of the complaints he has received from cable operators such as Mediacom Communications about the increased fees that local TV stations are demanding from cable operators that include their channels in basic cable programming packages, but that the FCC does not have the power to change retransmission-consent rules on its own. "I get it. Rest assured it is on our radar," Pai said. "We are a creature of Congress--our authority is relatively circumscribed," he added.

Pai, a Republican, told ACA attendees that he supports the idea of fewer regulations, and that he wouldn't want to regulate over-the-top video providers such as Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX). "I favor a light touch regulatory approach. Instead of regulating over-the-top video providers, we should focus more on deregulation of traditional providers," Pai said.

Special Report: 2012 Year In Review: Usage-based broadband launched by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Suddenlink

On the Hot Seat: ACA's Polka: Small cable operators may exit pay TV business

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