Speaking yesterday at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), FCC chairman Kevin Martin finally acknowledged four-month-old press reports questioning the American ISP's commitment to net neutrality.
"Sure, we're going to investigate and make sure that no consumer is going to be blocked," he told VIPs at CES.
Of course, "blocked" is a loaded word in this case.
Comcast's efforts to throttle P2P traffic were first uncovered in May, when an independent network researcher named Robb Topolski posted the results of several tests to DSLReports.com. But this news didn't reach the web at large until Topolski's tests were spied by the P2P-happy blog TorrentFreak.
In essence, Topolski had shown that Comcast was preventing P2P users from "seeding" files. When one machine attempts to trade a file with another, Topolski's tests proved, the ISP was sending a duped "reset flag" to break this peer-to-peer connection. Two months later, The Associated Press published its own tests showing this was indeed the case.
Is this acceptable behavior? The SaveTheInternet.com Coalition thinks not. In early November, members formally asked the FCC to give Comcast a look-see.
"In 2005, when the FCC adopted an order reclassifying wireline broadband as an information service, it sought to ensure that network providers of Internet service, like phone and cable companies, would not violate network neutrality," SaveTheInterneters said. "Consumers are entitled to access all applications, services, and content of the consumerís choice, and entitled to competition among providers of networks, applications, services, and content."
Meanwhile, Comcast argues that this FCC policy statement gives ISPs free rein to practice "reasonable network management." "We engage in reasonable network management to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience, and we do so consistently with FCC policy," Comcast has said.