Advocates of Net neutrality are preparing to chalk up their first victory following press reports that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin has recommended prohibiting cable giant Comcast from blocking Web traffic between peer-to-peer networks.
The recommendation, which still requires action from the full commission, could be precedent-setting; all Internet service providers would be prohibited from prioritizing certain Web traffic in their efforts to manage the flow of Internet data.
Late last year, Comcast admitted that it experimented with network management techniques to keep its systems running smoothly.
The consumer communications advocacy groupFree Press subsequently filed a complaint with the FCC, claiming the ISP broke the law by violating established FCC principles governing user access to legal Internet content.
However, Comcast maintains that it does not block any Internet content, application or service. Its own peer-to-peer transmission data shows that a small percentage of file-sharing traffic is affected by slight delays — not blocks — on typical days.
Comcast’s network management techniques are necessary and reasonable measures to ensure high quality and reliability for all of its high-speed customers, the company argues, and many other ISPs around the world use similar techniques.
Furthermore, the FCC has not issued guidance on what it means by “reasonable network management,” says Comcast.
‘A Historic Precedent’
Martin’s recommendation will send a powerful message to all ISPs, Craig Aaron, Free Press’ communications director, told the E-Commerce Times.
“Time and again we were told that everyday people, average citizens, couldn’t have an impact on this process,” Aaron said.
“We’re seeing in this action today that it’s simply not the case. Comcast should not be the gatekeeper who decides which Web sites load quickly and which ones don’t load at all,” he contended. “If Comcast is held accountable, it would be a major victory for consumers and the open Internet.”
That accountability process could have included fines, as well as prohibitions from blocking traffic and an order requiring that Comcast divulge more information on how it manages its traffic.
However, Martin reportedly said Friday that he would not recommend any financial penalties against Comcast.