The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday released the official order it adopted on Aug. 1 against cable-TV and Internet service provider Comcast, confirming that the FCC has authority over Comcast's network management.
In a 67-page document, the FCC said Comcast violated the FCC's Internet Policy Statement by interfering with customers' use of peer-to-peer applications, specifically BitTorrent, an open-source P2P application. Its order also criticizes Comcast for changing its story on when and why it was monitoring and blocking P2P traffic.
Complaints Led to Action
The FCC stepped in after complaints by organizations that support an open Internet, including Free Press and Vuze Inc. The FCC held two public hearings which resulted in 60,000 pages of records.
Tests of Comcast's network by customers, the Associated Press, and the FCC's own computer experts revealed that Comcast placed equipment across its network to monitor customer connections using deep-packet technology to detect P2P traffic, according to the FCC.
Comcast insisted it only delayed P2P applications to manage traffic during periods of peak network use.
After the FCC decision, Comcast questioned the FCC's jurisdiction to enforce the order and company officials said they were considering legal options.
Details of Order
In its order, The FCC said it is responsible for overseeing and enforcing the national Internet policy established by Congress. It added that it is committed to incorporating the principles of its Internet Policy Statement in its policy-making.
"We are examining the order and are evaluating our options," Comcast spokesperson Charlie Douglas told us. He would not elaborate.
Commissioner Robert McDowell, who voted in favor of Comcast, said the FCC adopted the Internet Policy Statement as a general guideline, not to serve as enforceable rules. He also said there are no rules in place governing Internet network management.
"If Congress had wanted us to regulate Internet network management, it would have said so explicitly in the statue," McDowell said. "In other words, if the FCC already possessed the authority to do this, why have bills been introduced giving us the authority we ostensibly already had?"
FCC Slams Comcast
The FCC did not hold back against Comcast in its order, saying Comcast never complained about Free Press' initial allegations, was not forthcoming about its network-management practices, and changed its story about when and why it monitors and blocks network traffic. The agency also said it has evidence that Comcast:
Blocked customers using little bandwidth because they were using BitTorrent.
Blocked customers using BitTorrent and other P2P applications when there was no network congestion.
Blocking occurred in regions far from congestion and heavy traffic.
"If we are not going to stop a company that is looking inside its subscribers' communications, blocking that communication when it uses a particular application regardless of whether there is congestion on the network, hiding what it is doing by making consumers think the problem is their own, and lying about it to the public, what should we stop?" asked FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in his official statement before the vote.