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Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) found itself on the defensive again this week after a pressure group, the SavetheInternet.com Coalition, filed a petition (PDF) with the FCC, complaining that the MSO allegedly blocks some Internet applications and violates so-called "Net Neutrality" conditions.

"Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services, and no one has demonstrated otherwise," said Comcast executive vice president David Cohen, in a statement responding to those allegations.

He acknowledged that Comcast engages "in reasonable network management" to ensure that all customers obtain a good experience, and does so within FCC boundaries.

"As the FCC noted in its policy statement in 2005, all of the principles to encourage broadband deployment and preserve the nature of the Internet are 'subject to reasonable network management'. The Commission clearly recognized that network management is necessary by ISPs for the good of all customers," Cohen added.

"Comcast's defense is bogus," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, in a statement. "The FCC needs to take immediate action to put an end to this harmful practice."

In its complaint (PDF) against the MSO, a group that includes Free Press, the Media Access Project , the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) , and the Consumers Union, suggests the MSO should be subject to a $195,000 fine for each Comcast sub affected by "degraded" Internet service.

The debate over Comcast's Internet policies, particularly when it comes to P2P apps, heated up last month, when TorrentFreak claimed that some Comcast subs were unable to load files using the BitTorrent Inc. file-sharing application. TorrentFreak specifically linked those claims to Comcast's use of the Sandvine Inc. traffic management platform, claiming the system "breaks every (seed) connection with new peers after a few seconds if it's not a Comcast user." (See Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak.)

At the time, Comcast did not explicitly deny using deep packet inspection gear, but said it was not blocking access to applications or throttling Internet traffic.

The debate erupted again on Oct. 19 when an Associated Press report cited tests showing the MSO actively interferes with some P2P traffic. Again, Comcast said it did not block access to traffic. But managing some Internet traffic and giving some applications priority over others are a common practice by Internet service providers.

In a subsequent story, filed on Oct. 23, the MSO acknowledged "delaying" some Internet traffic but denied outright blocking.

"During period of heavy peer-to-peer congestion, which can degrade the experience for all customers, we use several network management technologies that, when necessary, enable us to delay – not block – some peer-to-peer traffic. However, the peer-to-peer transaction will eventually be completed as requested," Mitch Bowling, SVP of Comcast Online Services, told the AP, which noted that the MSO's explanation was consistent with the tests conducted by the news service.

It's not the first time Comcast has come under fire for not completely spelling out its Internet usage policies. It has also been criticized for capping bandwidth consumption, but not disclosing the limit. The MSO has said a small fraction, about 0.01 percent, of its cable modem customers use more than their fair share of network resources. (See A Tip of the Broadband Cap.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 2:59:32 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality thanks for clarifying that...misread on my part.
xpangler 12/5/2012 | 2:59:32 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality Hey Jeff - AP's follow-up story said, using the double negative for some reason, that Comcast's "explanation is not inconsistent with the AP's tests."
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 2:59:31 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality And for the GUI users, try using a VNC over an encrypted tunnel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V...
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 2:59:31 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality I think people are confusing things. A comcast access network isn't really a connection to the internet.

If you want the real stuff, get a virtual machine at a colo. They're pretty cheap, much less expensive than buying a physical computer. Than download away over an ssh tunnel.

Or you could stop stealing and take some pride in behaving with some ethics!
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 2:59:30 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality Copyright infringement is not stealing.

I used to wonder if the human race was evolving but it looks like each generation starts from point zero all over again. We have a generation of Skillings growing up rationalizing their behavior as ethical and the RIAA as the bad guys. Sad.

http://dilbertblog.typepad.com...

Being a misanthrope has its advantages sometimes as it can make the intolerable tolerable.
SammyKrieg 12/5/2012 | 2:59:30 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality If Comcast has to fork over severla million $$$ for cheating their customers out of bandwidth then maybe they will think twice before they do this type of shameful activities again...!! I pay for an Unlimited Internet connection and thats what I expect to get, no filtering or blocking or censorship.
xpangler 12/5/2012 | 2:59:30 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality The confusion is attributable to AP.
trzwuip 12/5/2012 | 2:59:30 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality Copyright infringement is not stealing.
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 2:59:29 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality Austin et al,

ok, no name calling, but am interested in your perspective of:

a) what laws are unfair and why?
b) how redistributing property that has only been released in the last few years is a protest against the length of copyright periods?
c) what length you believe the copyright period should be?
d) what you believe are the barriers to artists cutting out the record companies and distributing directily via the Internet themselves?
e) would you respect an artists copyright if they distributed directly via the Internet?

fyi, i view these issues as being somewhat orthogonal to what Comcast's policies should be, that is a different set of issues, but interested in the above.

thanks...
austin.thomas 12/5/2012 | 2:59:29 PM
re: Group Questions Comcast's Net Neutrality crashandburn - good post. I agree completely. Scott Adams did not really address the issue.
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