Comcast FCC decision: the reactions
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission today ordered the largest U.S. cable TV operator Comcast Corp to change how it manages its broadband network. The regulator concluded that some of Comcast’s tactics unreasonably restrict Internet users who share movies and other material.
The 3 to 2 decision supported by two Democrat commissioners and the Republican chairman, is precedent-setting. It could kick-start a long-simmering ‘net neutrality’ debate between advocates, who believe Internet access should always be open without interference, and some Internet service providers, who believe they should be allowed to manage Internet delivery in order to provide the best service to all users. The FCC seemed to support the former group.
“Subscribers should be able to go where they want, when they want, and generally use the Internet in any legal means,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement.
Here are some reactions:
We are disappointed in the Commission’s divided conclusion 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. We also believe that the Commission’s order raises significant due process concerns and a variety of substantive legal questions. We are considering all our legal options and are disappointed that the commission rejected our attempts to settle this issue without further delays.
Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast senior director, Government Affairs
I believe today’s FCC action sends a strong message to the industry that the Commission intends to take Internet freedom principles seriously and will act to protect the integrity and openness of Internet commerce and communications. Vigilance by regulators and policymakers, coupled with a commitment to act when necessary, is vital to thwart the emergence of new bottlenecks to competition and innovation. I commend Chairman Martin, as well as Commissioners Copps and Adelstein, for their recognition of this fundamental tenet of realistic telecommunications policymaking.
Rep. Edward Markey (Democrat), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.
Today’s order makes it clear that there is nothing reasonable about restricting access to online content or technologies. Moving forward, this bellwether case will send a strong signal to cable and phone companies that such violations will not be tolerated. But the fight is far from over. A duopoly market — where phone and cable companies control nearly 99 percent of high-speed connections — will not discipline itself. We look forward to working with the FCC and Congress to ensure proactive measures keep the Internet open and free of discrimination, and accessible to all Americans.
Josh Silver, executive director of Free Pres (Free Press was one of two parties that brought the complaint against Comcast)
No one has seriously questioned the right of network operators to reasonably manage their networks. They will continue to do so after this Order. But, there is nothing reasonable about the use of techniques that indiscriminately target applications or protocols, regardless of their use. This is something that anyone who cares about the free and open Internet should be concerned about. Equally important, all free markets require transparency in order to be effective.
Gilles BianRosa, Chief Executive Officer Vuze Inc. (Vuze was the other party to bring the complaint against Comcast)
There is no longer any doubt that ISPs have the right to use network management tools to address unlawful activity – including the theft of copyrighted music. We applaud Chairman Martin’s clear affirmation that ISPs may use technology to prevent the theft of copyrighted works. There is a crystallizing consensus among governments around the globe that ISPs should be taking affirmative steps to address piracy on their networks. It is our hope and expectation that ISPs here will accelerate their efforts to work with us to address online piracy.
Mitch Bainwol, Chairman of Recording Industry Association of America.
The FCC should be careful what they wish for. If network operators can’t manage traffic loads one way, they’ll need to do it another. By banning discrimination based on application or content, the FCC - and Net neutrality proponents more broadly - are pushing network operators closer and closer to what is increasingly their only viable alternative option – Usage Based Pricing. UBP might just be the best thing that ever happened to the network operator crowd. And it might be the worst thing that ever happened to applications and content.
Craig Moffett, analyst Sanford Bernstein
(Photo: Reuters / FCC’s Kevin Martin)