Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commission

On August 1, 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cited Comcast for violating web access policy. The FCC determined that the cable giant was “blocking” internet traffic for certain subscribers. The FCC has ordered Comcast to change the way it manages its networks. In a precedent-setting decision, the FCC voted 3-2 to enforce the policy that guarantees open access to the Internet. The FCC did not fine Comcast, but ordered the company to stop cutting off large data file transfers among those customers who use special types of “file-sharing” software, such as P2P traffic. The Order was proposed by Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who was joined by Democratic Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps in voting in favor of the Order. The action was opposed by members of Martin’s own party, Commissioners Robert McDowell and Deborah Taylor Tate, who both issued lengthy dissents. The FCC press release was particularly critical of Comcast’s failure to disclose the so-called “blocking” to their customers.

This enforcement action is notably the first test of the FCC’s network neutrality principles. The Internet has become an innovative platform for free speech, leading to a heated debate regarding how the Internet can remain open, non-discriminatory, and accessible in the future. Some proponents have argued that Internet neutrality must be regularly monitored and strictly enforced. However, critics have recognized that Congress has not given the FCC explicit authority to monitor or enforce Internet policy. As such, legislation may be necessary to ensure that future FCC rulings are not merely “symbolic” but rather carry more clout. Furthermore, case-by-case adjudication may not be the best way of formulating far-reaching internet policy and the FCC may need to rethink its current course.

Jenny Worthy

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2 Responses to FCC Cites Comcast for 'Blocking' Internet Users

  1. […] new proposal in January to that effect. It will be interesting to see how this proposal affects the sanctions the FCC imposed against Comcast this past […]

  2. […] As our blog reported on August 15, the FCC handed down a narrow 3-2 decision in early August that upheld its policy of guaranteeing open access to the Internet. The decision was significant because it was the first time that the FCC had ever found a company in violation of its “net neutrality” policy, which requires all legal Internet traffic be treated equally. The FCC did not fine Comcast, but ordered it to cease its practice of cutting off large data file transfers among customers who use certain file-sharing networks. It also ordered the company to provide more details about its network management policies. […]

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