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Cable Technology Feature Article

January 08, 2010

Comcast Disputing FCC's Attempted Net Neutrality Regulations

By Kelly McGuire, TMCnet Editor

After recently settling a lawsuit where Comcast (News - Alert), the nation’s largest cable TV and Internet provider, had to delegate $16 million to disgruntled Philadelphia subscribers, it wouldn’t surprise me that the provider, that’s had quite controversial news, is trying to stay on top of its game and bounce back from the slightly damaged reputation.
So, when the Federal Communications Commission, or “FCC (News - Alert),” announced that – as another repercussion of the lawsuit – it hopes to establish its legal authority to adopt “network neutrality” regulations, Comcast must have initially hung its head and sighed.
But not for long. Despite a settled lawsuit, reports are surfacing that Comcast is appealing the FCC’s order against this new regulation, questioning whether or not the commission has legal authority to mandate network neutrality. A ruling is expected sometime this spring.
“Comcast and others have challenged the FCC's authority to take action to protect consumers and ensure their access to a free and open Internet,” said Austin Schlick of the FCC General Counsel. “This case provides the court of appeals an opportunity to reject those arguments and confirm that the commission has the power it needs to accomplish those goals.”
The FCC staked out ground three months ago when it initiated plans to require Internet providers to give equal treatment to all data flowing over their networks. Rules and regulations would stop the habitual abuse of phone and cable companies in their attempts to control the high-speed Internet access market.
The action by the FCC stems directly from the Comcast lawsuit, which started back in 2007, when the company reportedly blocked its broadband subscribers from using BitTorrent (News - Alert), an online file-sharing technology.
In lieu of Comcast fighting the FCC’s attempts, the country’s leading Internet companies, including Google and Skype (News - Alert), are raising their own thoughts about the controversial matter. According to the Internet companies, without rules like the ones looking to be implemented by the FCC, broadband providers could have the potential to prioritize traffic based on financial status, creating a social stereotype for Internet customers.
But broadband providers such as Comcast, AT&T Inc. and Verizon (News - Alert) Communications Inc. argue that after pouring billions of dollars into their networks, they should be able to offer premium services to differentiate themselves from competitors and earn a healthy return on their investments.
What is to come of this is still undetermined, but one thing is definitely for certain: Comcast is not forging any stronger relationships by pushing against the FCC’s goals.

Kelly McGuire is a TMCnet Web editor, covering CRM and workforce technologies, and anchor of its daily TMC Newsroom video broadcast. Kelly also writes about eco-friendly 'green' technologies and smart grids, compiling TMCnet's weekly e-Newsletters on those topics, as well as the cable industry. To read more of Kelly's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Kelly McGuire