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Comcast FCC Filing Expected Today
September 19, 2008
Thomas Mennecke
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The Comcast vs. BitTorrent saga is about to be driven up a notch, as Comcast is expected to submit its compliance filing with the FCC today. The filing is the culmination of a nearly year-long battle between Comcast, the FCC, consumers and the BitTorrent protocol. Last year, Public Knowledge and Free Press, two now very important public advocacy groups, filed a complaint with the FCC that claimed Comcast was in violation of Net Neutrality standards.

Last year, complaints of crippled BitTorrent connections were building momentum. TorrentFreak reported that Comcast customers who were uploading often times found the task impossible, and download speed were also negatively affected. The Associated Press also investigated the claim, and concluded that uploads were disconnected by remote machines employed by Comcast.

There was a quasi-denial from Comcast, as it explained that it didn't block access to any application, including BitTorrent. But such as claim was vague at best, and left a vast landscape open to interpretation. The following week, Comcast revised their stance, and according to the Associated Press, was merely "delaying" traffic. Although some traffic would resume after a period of time, Comcast customers were not impressed and neither was the FCC.

Public Knowledge and Free Press' complaint was joined by several other firms, such as Vuze (BT application formerly known as Azureus). In February of this year, the FCC heard arguments from both sides in a highy publicized hearing. The hearing itself took on a life of its own, as Comcast was accused of installing pro-Comcast audience members. During the hearing, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin appeared sympathetic to the complainants, and much less so towards Comcast.

This sympathy turned into reality in July when Kevin Martin told the Associated Press that he felt that Comcast had violated the principals of Net Neutrality. His words were non-binding at the time since the other 4 members of the council had not yet voted. Comcast saw the writing on the wall however, and was already putting plans into motion to quell the tide against them. About 3 weeks later, the full council voted and a majority (3-2)sided with Martin - making his words from the previous month official. On August 20th, the FCC released its findings, which slammed the company for its lack of disclosure.

“Comcast’s claim that it has always disclosed its network management practices to its customers is simply untrue.”

The report also demanded that Comcast “disclose to the Commission the precise contours of the network management practices”, “submit a compliance plan to the Commission…by the end of the year”, and “disclose to the Commission and the public the details of the network management practice…”. Comcast had 30 days from the date of the order to submit its filing. At the stroke of midnight tonight, 30 days will have passed.

In anticipating of a ruling against the ISP, Comcast has already complied with most of the FCC’s findings. It has since announced that it will switch to a “protocol agnostic” bandwidth management system, and has entered into several collaborative agreements with bandwidth intensive companies such as BitTorrent, Inc., Pando, and Vonage. The details of the agreements are not public, however, their overall goal is to improve the quality of performance for customers. But customers don’t want to see agreements, they want to see blood.

Although there’s plenty of speculation on whether Comcast will even submit a filing, Slyck anticipates that Comcast will submit their filing before the 30 day deadline. What the filing contains is anyone’s guess, but since Comcast has already appealed the FCC’s ruling, the only certainty is this saga has a lot of life ahead of it.

Update: Comcast has released its compliance filing, about 6 hours before the midnight deadline. In its filing, Comcast submitted a cover letter and three other documents: a document describing its current practices, a document describing Comcast's future practices, and a transition compliance plan.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Legal/Courtroom :: Court Rulings/Decisions

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