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.”