Comcast Comments to FCC on Broadband Network Management Practices
By Debbie Rosenbaum — Edited by David Lawson
Comcast Comments to the Wireline Competition Bureau
FCC Request for Comment on Broadband Network Management Practices
FCC Request for Comment on Request for Declaratory Ruling on ISP Network Management Policies
Vuze, Inc. Petition for Rulemaking
FCC Internet Policy Statement
On February 13th, Comcast Corporation, one of the largest Internet service providers (“ISP”) in the United States, filed comments pursuant to two Requests for Comment issued by FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau. The comments addressed 1) whether managing peer-to-peer (“P2P”) traffic generated by Comcast subscribers violates FCC’s Internet Policy Statement and 2) whether the agency should promulgate further regulations defining reasonable network management.
The FCC notices arose from an investigation launched earlier this year after Vuze, Inc., a company that uses P2P to legally distribute video content, filed a Petition for Rulemaking with FCC in objection to Comcast’s treatment of P2P connections initiated by Comcast subscribers.
In its comments, Comcast argues that the tools it uses minimize interference that would otherwise degrade the activities of all Comcast subscribers. The company requests that FCC not initiate a rulemaking proceeding to address which broadband network management practices are reasonable, and further requests that FCC declare that network management practices such as Comcast’s are reasonable and consistent with the Internet Policy Statement.
Peter Svensson of the AP (carried on Wired News) summarizes the story.
Nate Anderson of Ars Technica details Comcast’s argument.
Craig Aaron of Save the Internet argues that Comcast’s practices are much more harmful than the company admits.
At the center of the controversy are “reset packets” that Comcast’s network management software silently inserts into subscribers’ P2P uploads, which repeatedly interrupt the uploads, severely reducing throughput. Comcast urged FCC to declare this and similar network management practices “reasonable” within the meaning of its Internet Policy Statement, as well as fully consistent with the idea of net neutrality. The company further indicated that it changed its Terms of Service to make its practices more clear.
Network management, Comcast argued, is best left to the sound, good-faith judgment of the engineers and proprietors who run and own the networks and who are best able to remedy customer service issues promptly, rather than to government regulation. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has generally been supportive of ISPs’ network management efforts, but has said providers like Comcast should be open about their practices.
FCC’s reaction to Comcast’s strong advocacy of its traffic management practices is likely to foreshadow how much leeway the agency will give to other ISPs to manage their own traffic in the future. If FCC determines that the practices constitute “reasonable network management,” other ISPs will likely adopt practices similar to Comcast’s.