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Comcast agrees with Obama on net neutrality, except for the legal bit

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You have to admire the chutzpah: a day after President Obama jolted the telecom industry with a bold announcement on net neutrality, Comcast declared that it agrees with him.

In a winsome blog post titled “Surprise, We Agree with the President’s Principles on Net Neutrality,” Comcast on Tuesday said it agrees with the President on “every point.”

To wit, Comcast says it is totally against “blocking,” “throttling,” “paid prioritization” and the other types of mischief that net neutrality is intended to prevent. In response to Obama’s various policy positions, Comcast stated over and over again “We agree and that is our practice.”

But before you conclude that pigs fly and hell is frozen, there is one important line in Comcast’s post to give everyone pause:

There is one important technical legal difference of opinion between the President and Comcast:  we do not support reclassification of broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II.

In other words, Comcast likes Obama’s ideas just fine in theory, but not in practice. And while the company frames the disagreement as a “technical legal difference,” the distinction between Title II (what Obama wants) and the Section 706 (what Comcast wants) is in fact totally monumental. The former gives the FCC power to ban “fast lanes” that would let ISP’s favor some websites over others, while the latter would not.

Also, why Comcast is quick to say that “no blocking” and “no throttling” is its practice, the company might have added that it is currently under a legal order to abide by net neutrality until 2018 — which was a promise it had to make when it swallowed content giant NBC.

The upshot here, then, is not that the Comcast executives had a road-to-Damascus moment. Rather, the “Surprise” blog post shows how the telecom industry is rattled by the sudden possibility of Title II becoming a reality.

To learn more about the debate, you can read what the web is saying — or just check out the Oatmeal’s funny takedown of net neutrality critic, Sen. Ted Cruz.

9 Responses to “Comcast agrees with Obama on net neutrality, except for the legal bit”

  1. Using the term “reclassify” is proof of ignorance. The Title II wire communications “online” has always been needs to be recognized and especially the wire communications that are wireless for the last mile. “Online” ceases to exist entirely without 47 U.S.C. §153(59) wire communications and is why the FCC was created to replace the radio commission. You cant get around the world’s oceans with radio only and without the 1930’s wires though many are updated with fiber-optics.

    2. Plaintiff/Appellant also prays for immediate injunctive relief such that all violations of 18 U.S.C. 2511* and all violations of Ark Code Ann. 5-41-103* are ordered ceased immediately for Plaintiff/Appellant’s name and seeks orders for the Federal Communications Commission to regulate “online” wire communications as a Title II common carrier and require ratings of all “obscene, indecent, or profane” JPG files communicated in interstate or world-wide commerce before indexed as soon as possible because this is already required by clear wording of U.S. law in 47 U.S.C. §151*.

  2. Great comments on Title 2.
    The more I think about this and what cable companies would do in a title 2 world the more I think about the 1996 deregulation. My guess is cable companies, now being title 2, will start to buy telephone companies that have not put fiber in the ground they will absorb and convert all of the customers to cable, lay off all the phone employees and eliminate compitition. That is the best stratagey to grow profits in a title 2 world. Local states couldn’t stop it because they would just wait for franchise right contracts to renew and then not renew with local government.

  3. This is just a clever ploy by the cable behemoth to ensure the legal wrangling they are willing to bring to bear will be able to tie up the FCC in court and ultimately seek out their capitulation.

    Like last time …

  4. Richard Bennett

    This statement is false: “The former gives the FCC power to ban “fast lanes” that would let ISP’s favor some websites over others, while the latter would not.”

    Title II is perfectly fine with different levels of service for different fees, as long as they’re fairly marketed.

    Ask a lawyer.

  5. John Willkie

    This article comes from the position that Title II regulation will prevent paid prioritization. That, alas, is a false belief. Title II regulation will — at best –provide the mechanism for setting rates and conditions for paid prioritization. And, it will subject the Internet to a regulatory scheme established in 1887 to regulate railroads. The Interstate Commerce Commission isn’t around anymore, and the disincentives it created for investing in railroads made railroads what they are today.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  6. The President, the public and the author need a lesson in Internet traffic engineering. If you can’t explain IP networking principles like IP QoS, Best Effort, latency, jitter, buffering and router hops, or distinguish the different traffic characteristics between Netflix vs. Facebook vs. your neighbor’s blog, you are likely to destroy the performance of the shared Internet for all.

    • “Throttling” when referring to a network, means using QoS, or deep packet inspection tools to identify packets from a specific IP scope or of a certain protocol type. After it is determined to be the type of traffic that is being treated differently, it can be given the lowest priority on the network or even terminate the session.

      Comcast, by contrast, is not in the business of giving free internet to non-ISP’s/internet backbone providers. Netflix is not being given a peering agreement because they do not represent customers trying to reach Comcast customers. The represent themselves, trying to sell a service online. There is a vast difference.

      The slowdown in Netflix traffic lies squarely on netflix’s political tirades and refusal to actually buy more bandwidth to service it’s own customers. Corporate America spends billions on web services and internet connections. Why should Netflix be different?