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February 27, 2008

Comcast Appeared Before the FCC on Monday

The Comcast hearing yesterday at the Harvard Law School over Comcast's network management practices proved interesting, if for no other reason Chairman Kevin Martin's aggressive questions to Comcast executives.  The Commission has stayed away from overt statements of network neutrality, allowing for reasonable management practices coupled with transparency to the fee-paying customer as to what those practices are.  So far, so good.  But when Comcast apparently blocked or throttled P2P transmissions the question remains as to what is exactly reasonable network management and do customers have any knowledge as to what those practices may be.

The context is a bit murky here given Comcast is in the video and video on demand business as well as the Internet business.  Reasonable network practices may be a cover to block competition who rely on P2P methods to deliver legitimate licensed content to Comcast Internet customers.  That specter was raised by Commissioner Robert McDowell who said "I think if Comcast did not also provide video services, we would not be here having this debate." 

Comcast claimed that their traffic management was reasonable, only implemented in a high traffic condition, and only in the geographic area where the condition occurred.  Sounds reasonable, but for the AP's tests that indicated that P2P traffic was blocked, not slowed.  Not so, essentially said Comcast.  The problem with all of these statements and representations is that we still don't really know what's going on with Comcast network practices beyond statements of principle.  This may be cleared up as the Attorney General of New York has issued a subpoena asking for more detailed information.  Comcast says it is cooperating with New York authorities. 

The FCC will ultimately rule on Comcast, and then look for the expected Court challenge on the Commission's authority to do so.  There is a link from the FCC main page to the hearing, provided one has the execrable Real Player viewer installed.  It lasts around six hours for your viewing entertainment.  I suggest as a test that as many Comcast customers view it simultaneously and see if it shows up on your screen.

February 27, 2008 | Permalink

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