Thursday, July 31, 2008

FCC Rules Against Comcast in Net Neutrality Case

The FCC ruled that Comcast's management of its broadband Internet networks contravenes federal policies that protect the vibrant and open nature of the Internet. Specifically, the FCC concluded that by monitoring the content of its customers' traffic and selectively blocking certain peer-to-peer connections, Comcast unduly interfered with Internet users' right to access the lawful Internet content and to use the applications of their choice.


The issue was first brought to light by Comcast subscribers who noticed that they had problems using peer-to-
peer applications, such as BitTorrent, over their Comcast broadband connections. The FCC noted that when challenged on the issue Comcast recast its public position several times. Furthermore, evidence suggests that Comcast's practice of blocking traffic has been widespread and that it interferes with peer-to-peer traffic regardless of the level of overall network congestion at the time and regardless of the time of day.


The FCC also noted that Comcast has an anticompetitive motive to interfere with customers' use of peer-to-peer applications. Such applications, including those relying on BitTorrent, provide Internet users with the opportunity to view high quality video that they might otherwise watch (and pay for) on cable television. Such video distribution poses a potential competitive threat to Comcast's video-on-demand ("VOD") service.


The FCC said it intends to exercise its authority to oversee federal Internet policy in adjudicating this and other disputes regarding discriminatory network management practices with dispatch, and its commitment in retaining jurisdiction over this
matter to ensure compliance with a proscribed plan to bring Comcast's discriminatory conduct to an end. Under the plan, within 30 days of release of the Order Comcast must:

  • Disclose the details of its discriminatory network management practices to the
    Commission


  • Submit a compliance plan describing how it intends to stop these discriminatory
    management practices by the end of the year


  • Disclose to customers and the Commission the network management practices that
    will replace current practices


To the extent that Comcast fails to comply with the steps set forth in the Order, interim injunctive relief automatically will take effect requiring Comcast to suspend its discriminatory network management practices and the matter will be set for hearing.


FCC Chairman Kevin Martin stated: "The specific practice Comcast was engaging in has been roundly criticized and not defended by a single other broadband provider. If we aren't going to stop a company that is looking inside its subscribers' communications (reading the "packets" they send), blocking that communication when it uses a particular application regardless of whether there is congestion on the network, hiding what it is doing by making consumers think the problem is their own, and lying about it to the public, what would we stop? Failure to act here would have reasonably led to the
conclusion that new legislation and rules are necessary."


In response, Comcast issued the following statement:

"We are gratified that the Commission did not find any conduct by Comcast that justified a fine and that the deadline established in the order is the same self-imposed deadline that we announced four months ago. On the other hand, we are disappointed in the Commission's divided conclusion because we believe that our network management choices were reasonable, wholly consistent with industry practices and that we did not block access to Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services. We also believe that the Commission's order raises significant due process concerns and a variety of substantive legal questions. We are considering all our legal options and are disappointed that the commission rejected our attempts to settle this issue without further delays."http://www.comcast.com

0 comments:

Post a Comment

See also