FCC chief says Comcast violated Internet rules

An AP article reports that Kevin Martin, head of the Federal Communications Commission, will recommend that Comcast be punished for violating agency principles that guarantee customers open access to the Internet.

Martin will circulate an order recommending enforcement action against the company on Friday among his fellow commissioners, who will vote on the measure at an open meeting on Aug. 1.

From the article:

The action was in response to a complaint filed by Free Press,
a nonprofit group that advocates for “network neutrality,” the
idea that all Internet content should be treated equally.

Martin’s order would require Comcast to stop its practice of
blocking; provide details to the commission on the extent and
manner in which the practice was been used; and to disclose to
consumers details on future plans for managing its network
going forward.

The FCC approved a policy statement in September 2005 that
outlined a set of principles means to ensure that broadband
networks are “widely deployed, open, affordable and accessible
to all consumers.”

The principles, however, are “subject to reasonable network
management.”

Comcast argues that the agency’s policy statement is not
enforceable and that the commission has “never before provided
any guidance on what it means by ‘reasonable network
management.'”

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3 thoughts on “FCC chief says Comcast violated Internet rules

  1. From AP on Friday:

    Comcast denies it blocks content, but says it uses “carefully
    limited measures” to manage traffic on its broadband network to
    ensure all customers receive quality service.

    Martin wants Comcast to stop using its current practice, to
    tell commissioners where it has used it in the past, and to
    disclose to the agency and consumers what limitations will be
    placed on customers under its new traffic management plan,
    which it hopes to have in place by the end of the year.

    Martin said he is not recommending a fine against Comcast
    because he wants to use the case as a means of laying out
    agency policy.

    “It doesn't make the enforcement action less important,” he
    said. “Oftentimes (what is) most important is to try to clarify
    what is allowed and what isn't.”

    On Friday, Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said the
    company has not seen Martin's order and would not speculate on
    whether the company will challenge it if it is approved by a
    majority of the commissioners.

    She did say, however, that Comcast has “consistently said that
    we don't feel the policy statement is enforceable as rules.”

  2. PC Mag notes that a West Coast consumer's suit against Comcast for blocking access
    was denied after Comcast argued successfully that the FCC alone had jurisdiction.

    The article continues:

    Public Knowledge, another D.C-based think tank that has been
    critical of Comcast's network management practices, suggested
    in a Monday blog post that Comcast's position in the California
    case is inconsistent with its position in the Free Press case.

    “In the future, look for Comcast to argue that their filings in
    a California lawsuit can't be used against them in an FCC
    proceeding,” wrote Jef Pearlman, a staff attorney for Public
    Knowledge. “Also watch for them to say that the two are
    consistent anyway, because the commission has jurisdiction, but
    not the authority to act. Huh?”

    In a March 7 FCC filing, David L. Cohen, Comcast executive vice
    president, said that the FCC “cannot lawfully issue an
    injunction against Comcast with regard to the provision of
    Internet services.”

    The commission's principles are not laws, so even if the FCC
    were to rule that Comcast violated those principles, the FCC
    does not have the power to do anything about it, according to
    Cohen.

    Comcast said Tuesday that it would respond in the comments
    section of Pearlman's blog and argue that the two cases deal
    with two separate issues.

    “The FCC has said it has jurisdiction over matters involving
    Internet transmissions, including how broadband networks are
    managed – Congress gave it that jurisdiction,” wrote Joe Waz,
    senior vice president of external affairs for Comcast. “In the
    case in California, we told the court exactly that – that the
    subject matter of Internet transmissions is a federal concern.”

    “We did not say that Congress gave the FCC the power to
    regulate the Internet in the way Free Press wants,” Waz
    continued. “And even if you assume that Congress did give the
    FCC that power, the FCC has not taken the legal steps necessary
    to regulate the Internet the way Free Press wants.”

    Waz suggested that Free Press wants to punish Comcast for
    engaging in network management Free Press believes violates the
    FCC's Internet policy statement.

    “FCC commissioners have said on several occasions that the
    Internet Policy Statement is not enforceable, and the law is
    very clear on that basic point,” he wrote. “The policy
    statement is not a set of rules. It doesn't have any binding
    effect. And the FCC has never adopted rules in this area.”

  3. Waz's response, in the form of an FCC filing, is here.

    He suggests that Free Press has abandoned the original premise of its complaint –
    that Comcast had violated the FCC's Internet Policy Statement – as a result of the
    efficacy of Comcast's argument that the Statement is unenforceable,. and that
    Free Press's current invocation of the 1936 & 1996 Communications Acts is an
    egregious bait and switch.

    Regardless, Comcast argues, neither Act nor Statement empowers
    the FCC to make regulations on network management.

    Furthermore, it is NOT A GOOD IDEA, etc etc

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