Groups Ask FCC to End Comcast’s Net Filtering


A coalition of consumers-rights advocates and law professors filed a petition Thursday with the Federal Communications Commission, requesting that the agency declare Comcast’s techniques for inhibiting peer-to-peer traffic on its own network to be in violation of FCC policies.

“The FCC must act now to clarify that intentionally degrading an application or class of applications is not ‘reasonable network management’” under the agency’s 2005 Internet Policy Statement, the groups said in their filing.

If the FCC “does not immediately condemn such actions,” the petition said, other Internet service providers “may be emboldened to engage in such activity.”

Two of the watchdog groups -- Free Press and Public Knowledge -- filed a second petition asking the FCC to impose a $195,000 fine for each subscriber affected by Comcast’s practice of curtailing network connectivity made available to BitTorrent. BitTorrent is a popular peer-to-peer application predominantly used to download illegally copied music and movie files.

Comcast has defended using bandwidth-management techniques that limit the amount of traffic individual applications use, in order to maintain adequate quality of service.

“Comcast does not, has not and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services, and no one has demonstrated otherwise,” Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen said in a statement. “We engage in reasonable network management to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience, and we do so consistently with FCC policy.” 

The filings came after an Oct. 19 AP story that claimed Comcast “blocks” certain BitTorrent transmissions. An updated AP story last week said Comcast only “delayed” BitTorrent connections after blocking some initial connection attempts.

The groups, in announcing their FCC filings, also repeated calls for “Net Neutrality” legislation that would make it illegal for Internet service providers to provide preferential treatment to certain customers or applications.

“Comcast’s blatant and deceptive BitTorrent blocking is exactly the type of problem advocates warned would occur without Net Neutrality laws,” Free Press policy director Ben Scott said, in a statement. “Our message to both the FCC and Congress is simple: We told you so, now do something about it.”

The groups that filed the petition asking the FCC to direct Comcast to stop blocking BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer applications were Free Press, Public Knowledge, Media Access Project, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, and professors at Yale University, Harvard University and Stanford University law schools.