Comcast Confirms Internet Blocking, Offers Details of New Proposal

Contact Info: 
Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490, x22 or (703) 517-6273

WASHINGTON -- On Friday, Comcast released the technical details of its current and future "network management" practices. This disclosure by the nation's largest cable company was required as part of the Federal Communications Commission's order last month sanctioning Comcast for blocking Internet users' access to lawful online content and services.

Last fall, tests by the Associated Press and others exposed that Comcast was cutting off users' legal peer-to-peer traffic by sending fake signals that drop the connection between file-sharers. Comcast's new network management plan proposes to move away from its blocking scheme and toward a system that is focused on how much bandwidth a customer uses and not specific types of content.

Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, issued the following statement:

"We're encouraged that Comcast has complied with the FCC’s order in such great detail -- a welcome reversal of the company's past behavior. This newfound candor is a reminder of the positive impact of FCC oversight. The disclosure process provides an essential protection for consumers -- one that should be ongoing and industry-wide.

"While we're pleased by the initial compliance, we note that Comcast is still pursuing its lawsuit against the FCC to throw out the ruling that forced this disclosure. This is of particular concern since Comcast's filings concede that the company has been blocking peer-to-peer applications in the precise manner that the FCC and independent testers alleged. And they have been doing so since 2005.

"We are also concerned that after Jan. 1, 2009, Comcast reserves the right to change its practices without notice. Given the years it took to uncover the company's current blocking, we need assurances that we are not going back down that dark path. Transparency should never have an expiration date.

"The technical details of Comcast's future plans deserve careful scrutiny and analysis. It is important to ensure that consumers fully understand how Comcast's usage limits will impact their Internet experience. For example, will throttling regimes deter innovative next-generation applications? Will Comcast work with established Internet standard-setting organizations to refine their practices in the future? How will Comcast address any unintended consequences of its new practices?

"We look forward to an open discussion about the pros and cons of network management techniques that firmly eschew the practice of illegal, secret blocking. We continue to hope that congestion is treated as a temporary problem until the company can expand network capacity to meet consumer demand."

Read Comcast's filings:

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