Earlier this year, Comcast defended its position on its questionably lawful practice of “diurnal network pattern” (more active in the daytime than nighttime) stoppage, which informed users know as “bandwidth throttling.”
Filing against Comcast, the Free Press and Public Knowledge non-profit organizations prompted the FCC into litigious action. As the battle went on in the courts, it seemed to be going in favor of the consumers. Last Thursday, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin dealt another blow in keeping with that trend.
“The commission has adopted a set of principles that protects consumer’s access to the Internet,” Martin told The Associated Press late Thursday. “We found that Comcast’s actions in this instance violated our principles.”
His word was the tipping point that consumers and organizations supporting ‘net neutrality’ needed.
Comcast has said publicly that the FCC’s policy on broadband standards is not enforceable and that the commission has “never before provided any guidance on what it means by ‘reasonable network management.'” The FCC approved a policy statement in September 2005 that outlined a set of principles as a means to ensure that broadband networks are “widely deployed, open, affordable and accessible to all consumers.” Those standards have been set forth as:
- To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice
- Consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement
- Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network
- Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers
Other Internet Service providers argue that this kind of unclear regulation and enforcement, naturally leads them to come up with network solutions, among them ‘network bandwidth throttling’, and ‘ceasing P2P network patterns’, to manage their billion dollar hardware network traffic as they choose. This activity isn’t central to America. Bell Canada Enterprises and Rogers Communications Inc. have also reacted in much the same way as Comcast has.
FCC chairman Martin (a Republican) had strong support from the two Democrats on the commission, who are proponents of the network neutrality concept. Their two votes were enough for a majority ruling on the five-member commission. Without being dealt a fine, but a stern warning instead, the commission asked that Comcast release any information that pertains to the practices of its current mode of ‘network management’, and to divulge to its consumers on how its implementation of any future network management practices will affect them. Any new network management practices will be in use by the end of the year.
“We want to make sure the Internet stays as it is,” said Ben Scott of Free Press, earlier in the year. “Should we give more control to the network owners, who can then decide which Web sites load quickly?” Scott asked. “Can they become the gatekeepers for Internet content?”