FCC’s Comcast Order Praised

Free Press, Public Knowledge, Media Access Project weigh in on FCC's network-management order to cable operator.

The Federal Communications Commission was getting plenty of warm fuzzies from Comcast critics and network-neutrality fans Wednesday in reaction to the release of its order finding Comcast in violation of the FCC's Internet open-access guidelines.

Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, whose complaint helped to spur the FCC's action, said the day marked a "milestone" in Internet policy.

"For years, the FCC declared that it would take action against any Internet-service provider caught violating the online rights guaranteed by the agency," he said in a statement. "Today, the commission has delivered on that promise."

In its order, the FCC said it wanted the public and groups like Free Press to continue to monitor Comcast, saying it had not yet closed the book on the complaint. Scott echoed that sentiment. "Standing on the solid legal foundation established today by the FCC, Internet users must remain vigilant in defending an open Internet," he said.

Gigi Sohn, president of net-neutrality fan Public Knowledge, praised the order, as well, saying, “With today’s order, the FCC acted to protect the rights of Internet users and set the precedent that unreasonable, discriminatory behavior like Comcast’s will not be tolerated." But she added that the FCC needed to go further.

“We reiterate our call for a fifth FCC Internet principle: preserving non-discrimination,” Sohn said. “While the commission’s order sets a strong precedent, Internet-service providers still interfere with customers’ traffic."

She added that the public needs to remain wary, saying, "The commission and the public must keep a watchful eye on ISPs to ensure that these practices cease and that other discriminatory practices do not take their place.”

Harold Feld, senior vice president of Media Access Project, liked what he saw in the order, save for one problem.

"Only one flaw mars this otherwise exceptionally strong pro-consumer order," he said in a statement. "Having correctly found Comcast's arguments unpersuasive and its practices unreasonable, the FCC then gives Comcast one month to develop a 'compliance plan' and until the end of the year to stop blocking its own customers from doing what they have every legal right to do -- use P2P [peer-to-peer] applications to upload or download legal content. While we should certainly celebrate today's order, no one should declare 'mission accomplished' until Comcast's BitTorrent blocking stops for good."

For its part, Comcast would only say that it was reviewing the order and considering its options.