Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Comcast has filed its appeal of an FCC decision issued last August that censured the cable company for blocking P2P files, arguing that the commission doesn’t have the authority to impose the broadband principles that define network neutrality in the U.S. absent a federal law or a full public hearing to make those principles binding as regulatory policy. Indeed, Comcast’s appeal will test the FCC’s ability to enforce network neutrality without either of those things.

Comcast’s intent to appeal the FCC’s ruling was announced last September, but initial briefs, which it filed July 27, are just now hitting the courts. Comcast initially got into trouble in October 2007, after an Associated Press investigation revealed the company was forging packets that would cause BitTorrent connections of some users to drop and failing to inform them of the practice — a serious net neutrality no-no.

After multiple hearings and the filing of more than 6,500 public comments, the FCC in August of 2008 gave Comcast a stern talking-to and ordered it to change its network management practice, but stopped short of issuing a fine. It also declined to make a formal rule regarding this sort of action, saying instead that it will continue to examine net neutrality issues on a case-by-case basis. So as per the FCC’s order, Comcast implemented a type of network management plan that temporarily slows connections for heavy bandwidth users when the network gets crowded. The management affects uploads and downloads and is protocol-agnostic.

A Comcast spokeswoman said today that regardless of the success of Comcast’s appeal, its network management procedures will stay the same.

I guess we will get to see which side the “new” FCC will take in disputes like this. Though the wheels of government turn as slowly as ever.




  1. Improbus says:

    The FCC is spineless. Comcast will get its way.

  2. Mr. Fusion says:

    #1, Improbus,

    I disagree. The FCC has the authority to regulate all wired communications in the United States. If they can force the telecoms to make the service available to all customers in a respective area, I don’t see why the FCC can’t also regulate what travels along the lines.

    The corollary is “Does a private corporation operating under government regulations have the authority to censor information”. Since most telecoms operate in monopoly or near monopoly situations, I don’t think they can legitimately argue they are outside the bounds of FCC oversight.

  3. Improbus says:

    @Mr. Fusion

    I didn’t say they didn’t have the authority I said they were spineless. It seems the FCC only has a back bone when tits are involved.

  4. Eric says:

    2 – Fusion

    most of those laws were repealed during the Clinton administration, when Al Gore was “inventing the Internet.” And they only pertained to wireline phone service, not data. The cable industry didn’t come under the FCC umbrella until the cable act of 1992, and only for television rates and standards. Everything else was up to the local franchise authorities, usually city councils.

    Internet service has almost no regulation, and seems to be working OK for most.

  5. Breetai says:

    @Fusion
    People have been saying that about the IRS for years, same with “The FED.” The fact that it’s a private corporation is irrelevant.

  6. Mr. Fusion says:

    #4, Eric,

    Once again, there doesn’t seem to be too many smarts here.

    Comcast agrees the FCC has the authority. They complained that the FCC didn’t hold hearings or have laid out specific guidelines.

    Your own post mentions that there is still some regulation.

    The Federal Government has authority over ALL interstate communications. That authority is regulated through the FCC.

    Whether the FCC (or Congress) gives some of that authority to local government or not, does not mean the FCC has no authority over interstate communications which this is. No local municipality is authorized to regulate interstate commerce, even at the local end.

    Claiming “Al Gore” invented the internet demonstrates just how stupid you are. Of course, you will never back up your ad hominem. You are just too busy making up crap.

  7. MikeN says:

    >Does a private corporation operating under government regulations have the authority to censor information”. Since most telec

    So find a crisis that calls for regulation, then because they are regulated, you can control every aspect of the company. Great plan for accumulating power.

    I’d say blocking P2P is beneficial to consumers.

  8. Improbus says:

    @MikeN

    I’d say blocking P2P is beneficial to consumers.

    Could you expand on that? It sounds like bullshit to me.

  9. screen king says:

    Alfred1 is a moron.

  10. Eric says:

    Fusion, you are such a troll.

    I guess you must have missed the quotes around “invented…” in my prior post. Quotes used in that context usually imply sarcasm.

    Cable companies usually are very independent entities at the system level, and the corporate offices are modeled as holding companies. Every contract and lease I had to sign (when I managed a cable system) was between Cable Company X of state Y, DBA Cable Company. The only FCC rules we had to abide by were signal leakage and TVRO liscenses, which were optional, but useful if you had issues with radar interference. But even if a cable system crosses state lines, there isn’t much the FCC regulates.

    The phone companies were very much regulated right up until they figured out how to make money selling TV service. They actually wanted to be regulated to keep competition away. The regulation of the Internet hasn’t really been tested in the courts, as far as I know, but there’s a lot of precident to go by.

  11. Sea Lawyer says:

    #11, “Giving corporations the same rights as actual living persons is a BAD idea.”

    Well, we seem to want to give the government more rights than actual living persons have…

  12. Improbus says:

    There is no me in we.

  13. MrMiGu says:

    #10

    Thats assuming that your isp will allow you to use voip applications. Many isps are also invested heavily in telecommunications and do not want to see lost lost revenues that they can prevent. Do you really want these companies to dictate what information you can access, how you can access it, or who you can access it from?

  14. chris says:

    Formation of regulatory law doesn’t require an act of Congress, federal regulatory law IS law. Congress can specify things which regulators must or must not do, but without those restrictions regulators are free to operate as they choose in their area.

    I’m not sure why the Comcast didn’t just ban p2p after determining if the content was infringing. If most of the country is using torrents to trade music and 10 guys are using it to download linux distros just ban the pirates.

    Big network providers have sophisticated blacklisting procedures for spam and malware. Doing the same for torrents would be technically easier, I think, than geting into the bt protocol and causing it to break. Traffic analysis is just about always easier than content analysis.

  15. dusanmal says:

    Not even a regulation is really needed. Crucial words: “forging packets”. Comcast should simply be sued for forging, particularly company heads who ordered it and engineers who designed and implemented it. Every single one of those should get lifetime in jail serving consecutive sentences for each instance of forging other people’s communication messages.
    This particularly needs to be done in order to prevent future generations of engineers of even thinking in such direction, never mind designing forgery methods.

  16. tcc3 says:

    Actually Gore was “inventing the internet” when he was a senator.

  17. Mr. Fusion says:

    #12, Eric,

    I guess you must have missed the quotes around “invented…” in my prior post. Quotes used in that context usually imply sarcasm.

    Sarcasm, yes. That is the way I took it. Only sarcasm can go either way in this regard. Was the sarcasm directed at Gore for the temerity of his remark or the ignorance of the people that iterate the misquote.

    *

    The Federal Communications Commission first established rules in 1965 for cable systems which received signals by microwave antennas. In March 1966, the Commission established rules for all cable systems (whether or not served by microwave). The Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s jurisdiction over cable in United States v. Southwestern Cable Co., 392 U.S. 157 (1968). The Court ruled that “the Commission has reasonably concluded that regulatory authority over CATV is imperative if it is to perform with appropriate effectiveness certain of its responsibilities.” The Court found the Commission needed authority over cable systems to assure the preservation of local broadcast service and to effect an equitable distribution of broadcast services among the various regions of the country.

    I don’t think it a stretch to imagine the Supreme Court would also back the FCC regulating ISPs as to what may or may not be censored. I also don’t see any Court allowing a federally regulated activity to discriminate based upon legal content under the guise some of it may be illegal. However, the current Supreme Court is always open to surprises.

  18. deowll says:

    I would say that it depends on how much Comcast is willing to pay to bribe the people in power but that might put me on the enemies list.

  19. Uncle Patso says:

    # 9 screen king said:

    “Alfred1 is a moron.”

    No argument, but – – – did his post get “moderated” or is this a misdirect from another thread?

  20. ArianeB says:

    It seems to me that ISP’s should be in favor of Net Neutrality as much as everyone else. Without a net neutrality law, ISPs could be held responsible for content that goes through their network.

  21. Glenn E. says:

    The FCC does have the right to regulate the internet traffic, because they’re suppose to represent the people’s interests. Not the telecoms. It shouldn’t be any different than how they regulate the radio and Tv airwaves, and Cable and satellite transmissions. The service providers shouldn’t be allowed to cook up their own transmission protocols, to suit their bottom lines. All internet traffic should adhere to a limited standard, approved by a committee of engineers. Not by telecom board members.

    And what about the damn DMCA? Shouldn’t that apply to packets as well? Comcast has violated the originating packet’s integrity, by changing them into their own packets in their servers. Or substituting bogus ones to the packet stream. Maybe its customers should pay them with bogus dollars. Bet they’ll run to the government to stop that!! This DMCA seems to only be applied to the media owned by the wealthiest copyright license holders. And not to the most numerous, the taxpayers. Telecoms should be forbidden from meddling with internet transmission protocols, just to suit their profits. Or what the hell use is the FCC, if no standards are enforced?!! We need another “for the richest bastards” department of US Government, like we need a hole in the head. And we don’t need that!

  22. Glenn E. says:

    Something else the FCC should do, is force the Telecoms to offer 6 month plans that don’t stick customers with higher rates, just because it’s a shorter period. And then we could drop a provider like Comcast, the moment we hear they’re doing nasty stuff like this. And move to another provider that isn’t (as far as we know). That way, Comcast would get more of an incentive NOT to screw its customers. But as long as it can lock everyone into these one and two year plans. They won’t have any incentive to act decent.

  23. skillsss says:

    Comcast Censoring Conservative Voices?

    The American Public and the FCC need to keep an eye on ISPs. Comcast has been censoring conservative message board posters in my opinion. Because dominant ISP Comcast is a gateway to the internet, they control many eyeballs. Comcast’s systematic censoring of conservative opinions on their News & Current Events message boards needs to cease and desist. If Comcast gets tax breaks from local government, then they have a civic, ethical, moral and perhaps legal obligation to provide fair and balanced moderation of their message boards. This type of social engineering is an outrage. Please get involved. Silence is consent. Post a conservative response to a News or Current Events thread here and see for yourself.

    http://community.comcast.net/comcastportal/board?board.id=news

    This is America…Not CHINA