Summer may be in full swing but that didn’t stop the Federal Communications Commissions from raining on Comcast’s parade. This morning the FCC ruled , by a vote of 3-2, that Comcast’s management of its broadband network violated Net neutrality rules by hindering peer-to-peer filing sharing. Comcast says they did nothing wrong but the FCC found that Comcast had been monitoring the content of user internet traffic and illegally blocking peer-to-peer connections that are used by programs such as Bit Torrent and Lime Wire.
No matter how you dice it Comcast abused their power and the trust of Internet users. “Would you be OK with the post office opening your mail, deciding they didn’t want to bother delivering it, and hiding that fact by sending it back to you stamped “address unknown – return to sender,”? said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in a statment. “Or if they opened letters mailed to you, decided that because the mail truck is full sometimes, letters to you could wait, and then hid both that they read your letters and delayed them? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Comcast with their subscribers’ Internet traffic.” The FCC chairman went on to say , ” Comcast has an anticompetitive motive to interfere with customers’ use of peer-to-peer applications…Such applications, including those relying on BitTorrent, provide Internet users with the opportunity to view high-quality video that they might otherwise watch (and pay for) on cable television. Such video distribution poses a potential competitive threat to Comcast’s video-on-demand (“VOD”) service. Indeed, Comcast may have interfered with up to three-quarters of all peer-to-peer connections in certain communities.” The plot thickens – Not only was Comcast illegally blocking P2P traffic but they were doing it to lure users into using their video-on-demand service.
Unfortunately, the FCC did not impose any fines against Comcast. Instead, Comcast will have untill the end of the year to present a compliance plan that will describe how they plan to stop the discriminatory network management practices. Either way the ruling sets a new precedent in the battle over net neutrality.