FCC Slams Comcast Over Web Access


The FCC last week concluded that Comcast had violated its Internet open-access guidelines, stating the company had unreasonably interfered with BitTorrent peer-to-peer traffic on its network. In the decision, the FCC was driving its first stake in the ground on enforcing open access to the Internet, claiming it had the legal authority to do so, in a point of continuing debate.

The 3-2 decision came from a divided commission in which Chairman Kevin Martin had to team with the two Democrats to get it approved. Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps called it a landmark decision balancing the need for network management with preserving an open Internet. Commissioner Robert McDowell, who opposed the decision, called it an action that disserves the public, and substitutes the judgment of unelected bureaucrats for those of network engineers.

The commission majority concluded that Comcast was overbroad in its network-management practices, that it selectively targeted and blocked some customers' access to content and applications, and that it compounded the problem by not sufficiently warning customers.

Comcast will have to provide the FCC with information on how it currently manages its network, commit to ending the network practices it has been using by the end of the year, and fully inform customers of how it does manage the network.

Comcast already pledged to move to a "protocol-agnostic" method of managing network traffic, a point Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice made in reaction to the decision.

But she added that Comcast still felt its management techniques were reasonable, reiterating that the company believed it did not block access to Websites or applications, and said the decision raised legal issues.