Comcast Rebuts FCC VoIP Probe

Comcast has told the Federal Communications Commission that the MSO's new bandwidth-management technique has no bearing on its own voice service because that service does not actually traverse the public Internet.

The FCC launched a probe on Sunday, Jan. 18 — two days prior to Kevin Martin's resignation as chairman — asking Comcast to explain an “apparent discrepancy” between its disclosure that the updated network-management practices could affect voice-over-Internet services and a section of its site that says Comcast Digital Voice is unaffected.

“There is, in fact, no discrepancy,” Comcast vice president of regulatory and state legislative affairs Kathryn Zachem wrote in the letter, dated Jan. 30.

That's because Comcast Digital Voice, while it uses an Internet-protocol network, is a separate service that does not run over the operator's high-speed Internet service, she said. CDV customers do not even need to be broadband subscribers.

“The network-management techniques at issue in this proceeding affected solely traffic that is delivered to and from our subscribers as part of our [high-speed Internet] service,” Zachem said.

The FCC's inquiry appeared to be “fishing for a new rationale to justify regulating competitive services,” Scott Cleland, analyst with telecom consulting firm Precursor LLC, wrote in a blog post.

Comcast has the law and precedent on its side, according to Cleland, because its voice service is precisely the kind of service the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was designed to encourage.

As of the end of 2008, Comcast had migrated to a “protocol-agnostic” bandwidth-management approach across its entire footprint, after negative publicity erupted around its policy of hampering peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent. Under Martin's direction the FCC issued an order demanding Comcast cease the practice.