F.C.C. Chief Would Bar Comcast From Imposing Web Restrictions

By | July 12, 2008

FCC Chief Would Bar Comcast From Imposing Web Restrictions

Federal regulators are prepared to take action against sellers of Internet access that want to restrict what their customers can do online.

Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said Friday that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, should be sanctioned because it had interfered with the Internet connections of users who were exchanging files with other people.

Mr. Martin’s recommendation is a strong push for network neutrality, the idea that Internet access providers like Comcast should not be allowed to favor some uses of their networks over others. Internet companies like Google and free speech advocates have backed this approach. … The cable and phone companies that provide most of the nation’s Internet service have argued that such rules were not needed. They have said that they should be free to run their networks as they see fit, and that there had been no cases of problems with such discrimination. Comcast’s practice of slowing the use of BitTorrent, a method of trading video, music and software files, provides such a case. The practice was intended to prevent frequent file-swappers from clogging up the company’s network. … Mr. Martin wants to set a standard that will make it difficult for an Internet provider to discriminate against users based on what they want to do online.

“The Internet is based upon the idea that consumers can go anywhere they want and access any content they want,” Mr. Martin said in an interview. “When they show they are blocking access to some sort of content, they have the burden to show that what they are doing is reasonable.”

Mr. Martin also said Comcast did not explain to its customers what it was doing. “If they are going to put limits on individual customers if you use a certain amount of bandwidth per month or per hour, they have to be willing to tell their customers more about how it works,” he said. – nytimes

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