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Amazon Cautions Congress About Data Caps, Specialized Services

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 B&C,
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 FCC 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 Comcast 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

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.