Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin will recommend to the full agency that Comcast be punished for “violating” the FCC’s open Internet access policy by throttling back bandwidth consumed by peer-to-peer file sharing software, according to an Associated Press report.
“The commission has adopted a set of principles that protects consumers' access to the Internet,” Martin told the AP late Thursday. “We found that Comcast's actions in this instance violated our principles.”
The AP report did not indicate what specific penalties Martin is expected to propose but said his order would require Comcast to: stop its practice of blocking; provide details to the commission on the extent and manner in which the practice was used; and to disclose to consumers details on future plans for managing its network going forward.
Martin's office has scheduled a press conference for Friday at 11 a.m.
According to the AP, Martin will circulate an order recommending enforcement action against the company on Friday to the other four FCC commissioners, who will vote on the measure at an open meeting on Aug. 1.
The cable company’s practice of throttling back BitTorrent file transfers, highlighted in an AP story last fall, has drawn fire from so-called “network neutrality” advocates who want to prohibit Internet service providers from hindering the amount of bandwidth used by individual applications or Web sites.
The BitTorrent episode led Comcast to announce in March that it would move to a “protocol-agnostic” network management approach by the end of 2008, and the MSO has embarked on three technical trials on this front.
According to the AP, Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice on Thursday denied—as the MSO has consistently claimed—that it blocks Internet content or services and reiterated that its bandwidth-management practices are “a reasonable part" of the company's strategy to ensure all customers receive quality service.
In a press release issued late Thursday night, consumer activist group Free Press—one of the organizations that filed a complaint with the FCC that led to the agency’s investigation—predicted a “victory” over the MSO.
“The FCC now appears ready to take action on behalf of consumers. This is an historic test for whether the law will protect the open Internet,” Free Press general counsel Marvin Ammori said in a statement. “If the commission decisively rules against Comcast, it will be a remarkable victory for organized people over organized money.”