Groups concerned about net neutrality have taken the first shots at MetroPCS over its newly unveiled data plans, which they say run afoul of the new Federal Communications Commission rules.
Five organizations signed a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. They are the Free Press, Center for Media Justice, Media Access Project, Open Technology Initiative andPresente.org. The groups say the problem is that in its new data plans, MetroPCS is not specific enough about what access the plans offer, and its terms of service leave the company the option of blocking applications such as Skype.
This is precisely where the FCC drew the line, said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president at the Media Access Project. The net neutrality rules the FCC promulgated specifically state that applications cannot be blocked, especially those that offer voice services that might compete with the telephone carrier. (The rules do say that wireless carriers are not required to carry every internet application, but they have to allow them to run).
As that discriminates according to the content, the letter says, the plans run afoul of the new net neutrality rules promulgated last month.
MetroPCS offers three pricing tiers, at $40, $50 and $60 plans for 4G phones. According to the company's web site, all of the plans offer unlimited web access.
The company has laid out 4G web as a separate item, available on all three 4G plans. For the 4G users it has listed unlimited YouTube. A category called additional data access is listed as 1GB on the $50 plan and unlimited at $60. (The cheaper plan does not offer it at all). Both the 3G and 4G plans for $50 and $60 offer HTML advanced web browsing, while that functionality isn't available on the cheaper version.
Schwartzman says that since none of these terms is clearly defined, they leave the door open to blocking certain applications that might compete with MetroPCS' own services. In addition, the MetroPCS web site says additional data access means additional streaming on the 4G phones. It is capped at 1 gigabyte at the $50 price and unlimited at the $t60 level. But that too, is ambiguous because it doesn't say whether the option without that data access would allow any streaming video at all.
MetroPCS spokesman Drew Crowell said the issue with applictions such as Skype on the 4G phone models MetroPCS offers -- currently the Samsung Craft -- run on the Brew operating system, which isn't compatible with Skype to begin with. As for video, while the phones have a YouTube application, they may or may not work with another streaming site, depending on the content. He said he wasn't able to be specific as it would vary from site to site, however.
In an emailed statement, Roger D. Linquist, president, chief executive officer of MetroPCS, said, 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.