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FCC Comes Down On Comcast For P2P Blocking

The Commission concluded that Comcast 'unduly interfered' with Internet users' right to access the lawful Internet content and to use the applications of their choice

Communications broadband peer-to-peer

The Commission concluded that Comcast has "unduly interfered" with Internet users' right to access the lawful Internet content and to use the applications of their choice," the FCC said in a statement. "Specifically, the Commission found that Comcast had deployed equipment throughout its network to monitor the content of its customers' Internet connections and selectively block specific types of connections known as peer-to-peer connections."

"Would you be OK with the post office opening your mail, deciding they didn't want to bother delivering it, and hiding that fact by sending it back to you stamped "address unknown - return to sender?" said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in a statement. "Or if they opened letters mailed to you, decided that because the mail truck is full sometimes, letters to you could wait, and then hid both that they read your letters and delayed them? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Comcast with their subscribers' Internet traffic."

Comcast has been under attack in the last year for reportedly jamming traffic of its high-speed Internet subscribers who share files online, specifically involving peer-to-peer provider BitTorrent.

"Comcast has an anticompetitive motive to interfere with customers' use of peer-to-peer applications," said the FCC in a statement. "Such applications, including those relying on BitTorrent, provide Internet users with the opportunity to view high-quality video that they might otherwise watch (and pay for) on cable television. Such video distribution poses a potential competitive threat to Comcast's video-on-demand ("VOD") service. Indeed, Comcast may have interfered with up to three-quarters of all peer-to-peer connections in certain communities."

The FCC did not impose fines against Comcast but said the company needs to come up with a compliance plan describing how it intends to stop "these discriminatory management practices by the end of the year."

Comcast responded to the ruling saying that the FCC order raises "significant due process concerns and a variety of substantive legal questions," and that it intends to consider its legal options.

"We are disappointed in the Commission's divided conclusion because we believe that our network management choices were reasonable, wholly consistent with industry practices and that we did not block access to Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer serviceso use a special type of "file-sharing" software," said Comcast spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice in a statement.

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