Comcast, The FCC and Net Neutrality

Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should control the content they view and the applications they use. Broadband providers don't like this notion much, as they would like to optimize their profit by deciding what what content gets to whom first and fastest.

So far they have suceeded with Congress. The House passed its telecommunications bill, H.R. 5252 , 321 tto 101 on June 8, without adequate net neutrality protections after a motion to recommit garnered 165 votes including Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and two Republicans (Jones of TN and of Wilson of NM). On June 28, the Senate Commerce Committee passed its own telecom bill, S. 2686, after an amendment to add net neutrality safeguards failed 11-11, in Committee.

But at least one broadband company, Comcast, was not content to wait for legislation. Robb Topolski (pictured above, blog, email) who edits the D-Links forum on Broadband Reports posted on that site May 12, 2007 that Comcast secretly was using a program called Sandvine to hamper the peer-to-peer file sharing applications on its broadband service. The AP's Peter Svensons confirmed that Comcast was degrading BitTorrent performance in an investigation published on on October 19. Farhad Manjoo, the technology writer for Salon explained in layman's terms what this meant.

Three groups that advocate net neutrality-- Free Press, Public Knowledge and The Media Access Project--filed a formal complaint with the FCC November 1, 2007. They also filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling asking the FCC to rule service providers, in general, violated the Commission’s policy statement they degraded a targeted application, and that intentionally degrading service without informing Internet users constitutes a deceptive trade practice.

Then, last night at the Consumer Electronics Show in Nevada, FCC Chairman, Kenneth Martin finally promised the commission would investigate, as reported by Svensson.

Sure, we're going to investigate and make sure that no consumer is going to be blocked.

Writing on the Public Knowledge blog, Harold Feld, senior vice president of the Media Access Project expressed his doubts:

We all need to recognize that a lot remains unclear, we need to get more details, and who knows how it will actually play out on release.

More later. The library is closing.