The final ruling from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the Comcast bandwidth throttling case has been issued and the company has escaped without a fine.
The FCC found that Comcast had been throttling specific peer-to-peer applications without telling customers and had denied it was even doing so. The company then claimed that it was only carrying out throttling at peak periods and only to those who were generating large amounts of data, statements which the FCC rejected as untrue.
In a strongly worded statement FCC chairman Kevin Martin rebuked the company for its poor practices.
"Would you be OK with the post office opening your mail, deciding they didn't want to bother delivering it and hiding that fact by sending it back to you stamped 'address unknown – return to sender'?" he asked.
"Or if they opened letters mailed to you, decided that because the mail truck is sometimes full, letters to you could wait and then hid both that they read your letters and delayed them? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Comcast was doing with their subscribers’ internet traffic."
Martin continued that the FCC's actions showed there was no need for specific legislation on net neutrality, since the FCC had both the powers and the capability to handle any complaints.
"We are gratified that the Commission did not find any conduct by Comcast that justified a fine and that the deadline established in the order is the same self-imposed deadline that we announced four months ago," said Sena Fitzmaurice, senior director of corporate communications at Comcast.
"On the other hand, we are disappointed in the Commission's divided c onclusion because we believe that our network management choices were reasonable, wholly consistent with industry practices and that we did not block access to web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services."
Comcast will now have 30 days to supply details of its deep packet inspection and RST injection network throttling equipment, prepare a plan for removing it by the end of the year and tell customers exactly how it is managing their connection.
The decision has been decried by others in the field as unnecessary interference.
"One need look no further than today's FCC decision for proof that engineering challenges on the internet should be solved by engineers, not government officials," said Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
"In second-guessing reasonable network management techniques (with no notice or guidelines in place) that benefit the overwhelming number of broadband subscribers in America, the FCC has inexplicably elevated the interests of a few bandwidth hogs over everyone else."
However, others are overjoyed at what they see as a restatement of the open access principles of the internet.
"Today, FCC Chairman Martin and Commissioners Adelstein and Copps took an important step to preserve the ability of hundreds of millions of users of the internet to access the applications and content of their choice without interference by their broadband providers," said Markham Erickson, Open Internet Coalition executive director.
"The FCC Order will send a message to entrepreneurs and innovators that their inventions will be able to work on any broadband connection, without first seeking permission of a cable or telephone company. It sets a baseline for unacceptable network management practices by broadband operators, and will help ensure that the broadband internet can remain as an open platform for continued technology innovation and growth."
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