WASHINGTON, June 18, 2009 – Time Warner Cable found itself clashing with a member of Congress from its home state on Wednesday as Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., introduced the Broadband Internet Fairness Act, H.R. 2902. If passed, the bill would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to review the fairness of broadband subscription plans based on cost.
Massa doesn’t have a problem with Time Warner specifically, he said during a Wednesday media conference call. “I have malice towards no one,” he said.
But Massa is “very, very committed” to the reality that access to broadband internet today is equivalent to infrastructure improvements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, including electricity and telephone service.
Earlier this year, Time Warner backed down from plans to cap and meter users’ bandwidth after Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested such behavior might attract the attention of his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Time Warner has since dabbled in experiments with metered and tiered pricing in other markets, but not in New York.
The FTC is the proper agency to delegate authority to because of its successful track record of pro-consumer action, Massa said. And while the bill only had two co-sponsors at deadline, Massa was confident that constituents’ demand for better internet access will drive more colleagues to his side.
The bill is “all about protecting consumers from outrageous Internet overcharges and giving the public a voice in this process,” he said.
Industry representatives were not enthusiastic about the prospect of more regulation in pricing. In a statement, American Cable Association CEO Matt Polka said the bill would have a “chilling effect” on broadband operators’ ability to provide “consumer-friendly” plans.
“Consumption-based billing plans will give consumers the ultimate control over how much they spend each month for their internet access,” he said.