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FCC pelts Comcast with rotten veg

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Having put the company in the stocks two weeks ago, the FCC heaped a load of rotten vegetables over US cable giant Comcast yesterday.

The regulator issued its order in a case raised by political activist group Free Press and P2P startup Vuze. The FCC ruled that Comcast's use of RST packets violated FCC policy. The decision split the FCC down the middle - but the language here is more emphatic than ever.

"In short, they were not simply managing their network; they had arbitrarily picked an application and blocked their subscribers’ access to it," the FCC concludes.

The decision set a historic precedent for regulating packet networks, and not surprisingly much of the document (pdf) is devoted to a justification of why the FCC has the authority to intervene.

The FCC cites seven parts of the Communications Act, including the original 1934 declaration of "regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire" from the original 1934 Act which established the regulator in the first place. For example, Comcast has argued that the judgement violates the regulator's disclosure (rule making) obligations. The regulator responded that it has often set policy by issuing a judgement first, then deriving the rules from that judgement.

Freetard hero Professor Lawrence Lessig issued his own judgement welcoming the FCC order. For Lessig, Comcast was a threat to the pirate utopia of the internet - and had introduced a snake into the garden of Eden:

"By secretly adding a layer of secret sauce into the Internet that interferes with legitimate applications and network services, Comcast has injured the value of the Internet to other innovators," wrote Lessig.

So media and entertainment businesses must go broke creating content for the internet - and network businesses must go broke delivering it.

Whatever you say about his logic, you can't fault his consistency. ®

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