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FCC chief wants to throttle Comcast

Enforcement order on agenda

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The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is taking aim at Comcast for violating the agency’s guidelines on providing open internet access by blocking P2P traffic across its network and keeping schtum about the policy.

The agency is investingating Comcast's torrent-busting activities following a complaint from Free Press, a non-profit advocate of "network neutrality".

FCC chairman Kevin Martin told AP yesterday: "We found that Comcast's actions in this instance violated our principles." These require ISPs to provide open access to the network, “subject to reasonable network management”.

Martin has concluded that Comcast arbitrarily blocked filesharing apps, regardless of the amount of traffic they accounted for, and was not open with its customers about what it was doing.

Martin will circulate a recommendation on enforcement action, which the Commission will vote on next month. The order would demand Comcast cease blocking P2P traffic, disclose details of its actions to the commission, and tell customers about its future network management plans.

The FCC is not a bland panel of technocrats - politics and lobbying means Martin is not guaranteed to get his way with fellow commissioners.

Comcast has already gone on the attack, arguing that the agency has never given any indication of what it means by “reasonable network management”.

According to the AP, a company spokesperson denied Comcast blocked content or servives, but took “carefully limited measures” to manage traffic and ensure all customers got a quality service.

The spokesperson denied that it blocks internet content or services and that the "carefully limited measures that Comcast takes to manage traffic on its broadband network are a reasonable part" of the company's strategy to ensure all customers receive quality service.

It is unclear if this applies to previous management techniques, or the throttling techniques it is currently experimenting with in Pennsylvania and Virginia. ®

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