By John GrosnickThe Economist/ReutersIt was a big question mark in 2015 when a report commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimated that the cost of providing broadband internet to the U.S. population was about $30 billion a year.
That figure was based on a scenario in which every household subscribed to a high-speed internet plan and then paid $30 per month for it.
The report, however, had to be revised to include other types of broadband, and to include an estimate of the cost per subscriber.
Now the FCC is trying to find out whether its plan would be worth it to provide a similar service to the US population.
The latest draft of the telecommunications code was leaked to the news media last week.
It calls for a range of fees, including data caps and tolls, to be imposed on wireless carriers and other businesses to fund a network of high-capacity broadband lines.
It also proposes an obligation to pay for the “premium” service, a rate that would include the costs of installing the high-end equipment that makes up the service.
The draft also includes a “broadband neutrality” requirement that would require internet service providers to treat all data traffic equally.
The FCC’s proposal is far from the only effort to boost the nation’s broadband network.
In recent years, Congress has been working to raise billions of dollars in federal funds to fund the construction of new and improved broadband networks.
But the draft plan, and the subsequent public comments, could prove far more divisive than the $30-billion figure.
The FCC has already made it clear that it will not consider a proposal to require a data cap on internet service.
The FCC has said it will take a neutral view on all internet service and that it is not “at war with the internet.”
The draft plan calls for the commission to require internet providers to provide “reasonable access” to high-bandwidth data in order to maintain the viability of the network.
This would require companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable to pay higher rates for access to internet traffic, which would likely be seen as unfair.
The draft proposal would also require ISPs to offer a “minimum tier” for internet users that would prevent them from getting “behind the curve” in terms of their usage.
The proposal would require broadband providers to charge extra fees for access when their customers are on high-frequency, high-cost data services.
This would create a new regulatory framework in which internet service would be “paid for by higher prices of the lowest tier, which means lower prices for other users of the same speed.”
The draft proposal also calls for “reasonable network management,” which is to say, ISPs should not be allowed to discriminate against users based on data caps or other network management techniques.
The new draft proposal calls for requiring internet service companies to pay a minimum fee for “network management” that will cover the costs for installing high-grade equipment that can handle the traffic, but not for the costs to manage the traffic.
In addition, it proposes imposing a requirement that ISPs charge a “data cap” on their networks.
These fees would be paid by internet service, not by internet users.
The draft would also impose “unfair” data caps, meaning that internet service service providers would be allowed, under certain circumstances, to throttle or slow down the speed of internet traffic to a particular user.
This proposal would create two separate tiers of data caps for different users.
One would be set at the end of the month and the other would be at the beginning of the following month.
Under the draft proposal, a broadband service provider that uses the data cap “could pay for its own network maintenance, but could not pay for any upgrades that would make its network faster or more resilient to the growth of other users.”
The FCC also plans to impose a “network neutrality” regulation that would prohibit internet service firms from blocking or throttling traffic.
The proposal calls on ISPs to provide internet users with “fair and timely access to all content on their Internet service provider networks, including lawful websites, websites owned by other businesses, and websites of third parties.”
Internet service providers are not required to pay internet users for the service they provide, but the draft proposals would require them to provide this service at no extra charge.
The Federal Communications Commissions draft proposal is a departure from the Obama administration’s proposed net neutrality regulations, which sought to create a framework for ensuring that all content is treated equally, and which would also prevent internet service provider providers from blocking websites that they believe are harming the competitive advantage of other sites.