FCC Hearing Addresses Net Neutrality

Feb 25, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission is hearing new warnings that Internet service providers are unfairly degrading some online TV channels without telling their customers.
At a hearing today in Cambridge, Mass., a congressman, consumer groups and executives of video peer-to-peer downloading services charged that Internet service providers were using the excuse of “network management” to make it more difficult for consumers to see video from certain sites.
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s telecom panel, said ISPs have no right to decide what gets to consumers. He urged the FCC to be “wary” of broad actions taken in the name of managing network traffic.
Gilles BianRosa, CEO of Vuze, which offers videos from major TV and cable networks including PBS, A&E and Showtime, said his customers already are seeing some downloads slowed and are likely to blame his company, when it is in fact the ISP slowing the signal.
“We are not against network management. We are against network management without boundaries,” he said, pointing to Comcast. “In this race, Comcast not only owns the racetrack, they own a horse in the race,”
The FCC hearing revisited some of the “net neutrality” concerns it and Congress heard about three years ago. At the time, consumer groups had urged Washington to act to prevent ISPs from giving favored content providers a superior path to consumers. However, Washington didn’t act at that time, apparently accepting the providers’ argument that the problems were potential rather than actual.
Vuze and Free Press, a consumer group concerned about media issues, have petitioned the FCC to act; at the hearing, they argued the evidence has now surfaced.
“Comcast is deliberately targeting and interfering with companies like BitTorrent, Vuze and Muse because they threaten Comcast’s own business,” said Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press.
Comcast Executive VP David L. Cohen denied Comcast was blocking traffic. He said Comcast is trying to provide the best possible Internet experience to all its customers.
“We do not block any Web sites, and we believe we have chosen the least intrusive method” to manage traffic, he said. One of the network tools Comcast uses limits peer-to-peer uploads at high traffic times, he said, but with minimal impact on a small number of consumers. No downloads are limited, while uploads still go through but can be delayed.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said he was concerned that consumers aren’t fully aware of the network management procedures, but they should be.
“While networks can take reasonable steps, it occurs to me that they must be transparent,” he said.
Some witnesses at the hearing, however, suggested more disclosure wouldn’t be enough.
“Disclosure is an important first step, but it’s only important when consumers can look and make choices,” said Yochai Benkler, a Harvard University law professor.


  1. Honestly, business is all a game, and if Comcast is playing it swiftly as it has been the FCC has no right to interfere. However, I am a big fan of regulation and if Comcast is bcoming a coorporate big shot maybe it should be restricted. yet, why is everything up to the FCC? Why are they always those who save the entertainment industry. Should that responsibility of regulating business be up to another group who has nothing to loose. Because, let’s face it, if a certain network,has explicit material and is supported by a certain company the FCC will probably ensure their downfall. Something about putting this power into the hands of the FCC just doesn’t seem right. Yet, right now, it seems the FCC isn’t particularly fovring anyone so, all in all, this regulation could be good for those who provide entertainment through cable, internet, etc.

  2. I really don’t think there’s a whole lot of long-term support for Net Neutrality, but it sure does make for some interesting dialog. As the Internet forms and transforms, so many people have so many views on what should be and what will be. These often conflicting and usually opposing views seem to miss the reality of what the Internet and Neutrality is all about.
    The premise of neutrality is objectivity, or freedom from bias.
    The premise of Net Neutrality is the absence of restrictions by those providing access on those for whom the access is provided.
    If this sounds like the western expansion in the United States (and other countries before it), or if someone has burdened you with the metaphor of Internet expansion as space exploration, that’s because we, as humans, have the need to relate new things to old paradigms. If we are looking for something to really relate this to, it’s pretty simple . . . the Internet is like Utopia!

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