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The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Comcast filed suit Thursday against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The cable giant is seeking to block the FCC’s decision to sanction it for “blocking” internet traffic for certain subscribers.
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.
Comcast defended its practice of occasionally slowing Internet traffic on file-sharing networks as a reasonable and necessary means of preventing a small numberof users from slowing down other customers’ Internet services.
A confrontation such as this was probably bound to occur sooner or later, as companies like Comcast struggle to maintain high-speed Internet service despite theever increasing demand for features like file-sharing networks that eat up bandwidth. However, while online congestion does exist, many experts believe that technology will ultimately solve theproblem, and that talk of an “Internet shortage” is a myth.
As the Journal reported, the filing contains few details as to Comcast’s complaint, but in the past the company has argued that the FCC has authority only to enforce rules, not policies. Indeed, Democrats in Congress, anticipating such arguments, have long attempted to pass net neutrality legislation that would give the FCC more explicit authority to regulate Internet providers.
“We filed this appeal in order to protect our legal rights and to challenge the basis on which the [FCC] found that Comcast violated federal policy in the absence of pre-existing legally enforceable standards or rules,” asserted Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen in a written statement. However, Cohen alsosaid that in the mean time, Comcast intended to fully comply with the FCC’s order.
Comcast filed its lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; however, last Friday, public interest groups filed their own lawsuits regarding the FCC’s decision in other appeals courts, so a lottery will be held to decide which court hears the case.
– Chad Burchard
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