Listening to the FCC hearing today, which was called in response to Comcast throttling BitTorrent traffic on its network, it seemed like Chairman Kevin Martin may be rethinking his laissez-faire stance on Network Neutrality. Martin said that network management practices should be “open and transparent” to the end user and that the FCC would be “willing and able” to intercede in cases of abuse.
CEO Executive VP David Cohen, who argued that the company wasn’t blocking anyone’s content, but was merely trying to manage its network during times of peak traffic, didn’t come off too well. In the wake of the event, it seems that some form of Net Neutrality legislation or regulation to halt discrimination (to use the terms bandied about during the hearing) would be in the future for ISPs. Whether it goes as far as an Internet Bill of Rights that gives users the “unalienable right to liberty on the Internet,” as proposed by Democratic Commissioner Jay Alderstein, or some form of case-by-case adjudication of discrimination claims, as offered by Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps, is uncertain.
Given the anticompetitive nature of Comcast throttling traffic from a potential video competitor, Martin — who in the past has been loathe to go beyond the FCC’s current policy pushing open networks — and other Republican lawmakers seemed galvanized to act. Indeed, an attack on the free markets might be too much for the FCC to ignore.