Public Knowledge, Free Press, Media Access Project, See Zoom Complaint Against Comcast As Reason for FCC to Act

Contact Info: 

Jenn Ettinger, 202-265-1490 x 35

WASHINGTON - Earlier today, modem manufacturer Zoom Telephonics filed a complaint at the FCC against Comcast, setting out a string of facts which show that the media giant is restricting consumer access to innovative devices by controlling the approval process for cable modems.

According to the complaint, the requirements are "unreasonable, irrelevant, time-consuming and costly." The requirements ranged from paying tens of thousands of dollars for duplicative testing and related expenses (including business class air fare and expensive hotels), to requiring the company to meet standards far in excess of normal consumer electronics needs which have no bearing on whether the cable network would be harmed (including weight, labeling, packaging, waxes to be applied) to "arbitrarily refusing" to test one of Zoom's modems for distribution. With Comcast controlling about 40 percent of the national cable market, Zoom said, Comcast's approval is necessary in order to sell their products. Comcast is the only cable operator of which Zoom is aware that charges manufacturers for independent testing.

Zoom told the Commission that by its practices, Comcast was violating both the Communications Act and the FCC's open Internet principles.

Public Knowledge, Free Press and MAP said that the complaint shows that Comcast is continuing its pattern of anti-competitive behavior that it showed in throttling the BitTorrent protocol, and that the proceedings show the need for binding open Internet policies that guarantee the right of consumers to attach devices which don’t harm the network.

Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, said: "We are disappointed that Comcast has chosen to continue the pattern of behavior which hurts consumers and threatens innovation. The pattern of facts in this complaint clearly shows Comcast has little regard for consumers by making life difficult for those companies like Zoom that would compete with it. This issue should certainly be raised in the context of conditions to be placed on Comcast's takeover of NBC-Universal.

"It is also obvious that Comcast is blatantly disregarding the open Internet principle that allows consumers to attach devices of their choice to the Internet. By erecting anti-competitive barriers and even declining to process a request to allow a modem to be sold, Comcast is violating the open Internet ideas it has previously said it supports. This case clearly shows yet again the need for over-arching, simple and clear rules guaranteeing an open Internet. It is up to the FCC to enact those rules to protect consumers."

S. Derek Turner, research director, Free Press, said: "This case clearly establishes that Comcast is engaging in grossly anti-competitive conduct and is a serial violator of the FCC's Net Neutrality policies. Despite its calls for self-regulation, Comcast has demonstrated time and again that it will push the boundaries of the law without any concern for how its actions harm consumers.

"Not only has Comcast been caught once again violating the FCC's Net Neutrality policy statement -- by blocking a consumer's right to use the modems of their choice -- but the company has shown that it has no intention of keeping its own voluntary promise to abide by those policies as it seeks regulatory approval for its merger with NBC. That Comcast would so blatantly break its own promises, even while regulators conduct their merger review, raises serious questions as to the company's trustworthiness and its ability to adhere to any formal conditions placed on the transaction."

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president of Media Access Project, said: "This is one more reason why the FCC should block the Comcast's acquisition of NBC. Time and time again Comcast has demonstrated that it is willing to use its clout to block competition. The last thing the public needs is a bigger and stronger Comcast."

Find out more about Zoom's complaint against Comcast here: http://www.freepress.net/files/zoom_facts.pdf

You can read a copy of Zoom's complaint here: http://www.freepress.net/files/Zoom_Complaint.pdf

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good