updated 03:50 pm EDT, Mon July 28, 2008
FCC to Bar Comcast Filters
The US Federal Communications Commission is said today to be preparing a ruling that would find Comcast violating rules for filtering traffic on its cable Internet service. While the regulatory body's chairman Kevin Martin has already said the ruling won't involve fines, the decision will reportedly ban Comcast from its current practices, which specifically throttle all BitTorrent traffic and certain peer-to-peer services in an attempt to minimize the price to Comcast for supporting the data.
The telecoms company has already said it would move to a format-independent filter and publicly share information regarding how it filters traffic, but is still believed to be preparing a court case opposing the FCC's ruling as it believes it maintains the right to manage its network as it sees fit. The company claims that its format-specific filtering has been "reasonable" despite repeatedly denying the existence of the tactic until it was revealed by media investigations. It also argues that the filtering doesn't block access, although the particular method involves severing connections between Comcast subscribers and other hosts on the affected services.
A formal unveiling of the ruling is due this Friday and should set a precedent for other providers. Cox Communications is also believed to be using the same filtering method and would be forced to halt its operations, while Time Warner Cable has remained neutral but instituted a metered service trial in a small area that would discourage frequent use by charging overage fees past a certain cap.
Critics have charged that the methods used by Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner are damaging innovation and freedom of choice on the Internet. The Comcast and Cox methods are described as unfairly punishing companies that try to deliver legitimate material, while Time Warner's method discourages the use of Internet video services such as iTunes or YouTube by charging these users extra for downloading or streaming bandwidth-heavy videos.