FCC To Vote Tomorrow On Network Management Violation

July 31, 2008

The FCC is scheduled to vote Friday on whether Comcast violated federal rules when it slowed down the transmission of files for those using the video sharing application BitTorrent.

Comcast attempted to defend its actions saying P2P file sharing uses lots of bandwidth and slowing traffic was a network management practice needed to prevent congestion for other users. However, the Computer & Communication Industry Association and others do not think the evidence indicates there was any connection between the timing and place of Comcast’s actions and actual network congestion or peak usage periods.

Free Press, a public interest group, and Vuze, a video vendor which relies on Bit Torrent and whose customers were affected, filed complaints at the FCC saying Comcast’s surreptitious actions turned it into a secret online gatekeeper. Friday, FCC Chairman Martin and two other Commissioners are expected to approve an order that will rule that Comcast violated its 2005 Internet Policy Statement by blocking the normal functioning of legal applications to which end users were entitled.

The FCC is expected to explain that certain types of interference by network operators cannot be justified by “reasonable network management”, even if these practices are disclosed up front, which Comcast’s were not.

“With new technology like deep packet inspection and new business models being developed by major network operators, it is important that the FCC monitor critical issues that impact user privacy, the freedom of consumers to access the content and applications of their choice and the ability of new online businesses to launch without network owner approval. Since dynamic market forces are not available to restrain inappropriate behavior by dominant ISPs, a focused role by the FCC is increasingly necessary. We are pleased the FCC has investigated this matter and plans to issue an order Friday,” said CCIA President & CEO Ed Black. “We hope the order promotes clarity on what network management practices are acceptable and which are not. An open innovative Internet ecosystem is vitally important to our society and economy.”

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