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Comcast Caught, Denies Blocking Traffic

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Comcast has been accused of blocking traffic several times in its history and may have even admitted to more than the straight up P2P blocking we all knew about. But late yesterday, Comcast finally got it’s comeuppance. Sort of. Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and close personal friend to the cable competitors, the telecom industry, could take no more.

So this morning he’s circulating an enforcement order that says that Comcast blocked network traffic and that such traffic blocking needs to stop. The enforcement order was prompted by a complaint from the non-profit group, Free Press, and the Commission will vote on the order at an open meeting on Aug. 1. The order would require Comcast to stop blocking traffic, provide the FCC details on how and how often traffic blocking was used and give consumers detailed information on how Comcast plans to manage its network in the future.

We actually already know how Comcast plans to manage its network because Comcast CTO Tony Werner told Om how bandwdith hogs would experience slowdowns. In an emailed statement, Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice denied the traffic blocking.

“The carefully limited measures that Comcast takes to manage traffic on its broadband network are a reasonable part of Comcast’s strategy to ensure a high-quality, reliable Internet experience for all Comcast High-Speed Internet customers and are used by many other ISPs around the world.”

At issue here is the definition of “reasonable network management,” a phrase the FCC introduced in a 2005 policy statement to ensure broadband networks were kept open and accessible to consumers. ISPs could apply “reasonable network management” to keep traffic flowing, but Fitzmaurice said the the FCC never defined what reasonable network management practices entailed. So perhaps blocking certain forms of traffic counts? My guess is that network traffic blocking is like porn. You know it when you see it, and Martin finally chose to see it.

Update: The Open Internet Coalition and member Public Knowledge are glad Martin is taking a stand, and said in a statement, “We hope the rest of the Commission backs the Chairman’s order. It is critical for the FCC to send a strong signal to other telephone and cable companies that this kind of blocking is unacceptable, and that this behavior will be taken to task when discovered.”

12 Responses to “Comcast Caught, Denies Blocking Traffic”

  1. The interesting thing about the proposed order is that it will not attempt to impose any fines on Comcast. It’s a toothless publicity vehicle that simply directs Comcast down the path on which it’s already heading.

    The video pirates who raised the issue of Comcast throttling their uploads will get no relief from any of this.

    Both sides can now legitimately claim victory, and hopefully we can move on to an actual rule-making notice and comment process to define “reasonable network management.”

  2. Jamalystic

    I believe the FCC should use this case to revamp its dwindling popularity. With many critics questioning the usefulness of the FCC and some even calling for it to be abolish, the FCC should come out very strongly on comcast and in so doing set a precedent once and for all. I hope the punishment will not make a travesty of the situation. Infact as i’m writing this, it’s been reported that the FCC will not fine Comcast!!Abolish the FCC!(

  3. Fantastic news, on a similar note I have the dubious honor of being a Cox user, ComCast’s long lost cousin and heir to their throne.

    Put this writeup together a few days ago:

    Key points – Cox (AZ) – blatantly lies when contacted about their filter. The reality is they have a cap of 30k set for P2P transfers. Excessive transfers that resemble peer to peer (even FTP) result in short term kill commands (eg: Gaming).

    On the entire Cox website there is only one location – most of their employees don’t even seem to know about it – which outlines the 40gb dl and 10gb upload cap their mid tier $45/mo plan has.

    I really hope this starts as wave of accountability for these guys. The level of flat out fraud and consumer abuse is astonishing.

  4. When Comcast bought up large systems to become the largest Cable MSO, it did not buy the Internet. It has no right to change how it works — not one byte of it.

    How the world-wide Internet works is defined by all of us, through our participation and trust in the Internet Society and the Internet Engineering Task Force. To ensure interoperability and access for all, changes must be carefully deliberated and standardized there. The responsibility of operating the Internet in accordance with those standards is entrusted to companies providing access to it. It’s not Comcast’s job to change how the Internet works nor can it decide who or what gets preference upon it.

    I haven’t seen anything other than the press reports about something to be circulated around the FCC. I am hopeful that when the details are released that it serves to preserve and protect the Internet from those who would abuse their power and change it.