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FCC Awaits Comcast’s Network-Management Response

At press time, the Federal Communications Commission was awaiting Comcast's response on how it planned to manage network traffic in response to the commission's finding that the cable operator violated its Internet open-access principles.

A source said that response would not likely come until late in the day.

On Aug. 20, the FCC released the official order finding that the company's broadband-network-management practices were arbitrary and capricious and giving Comcast 30 days to "disclose the details" of those "unreasonable" network practices, as well as its plan for replacing them by year's end with network-management practices acceptable to the FCC.

Comcast took the commission to court over the decision. The operator said it would comply with the terms of the FCC decision, but it was challenging the legal underpinning of that decision, as well as the findings that Comcast was in violation, which it said "were not justified by the record."

The FCC's order was in response to complaints by Free Press that Comcast was interfering with its customers’ use of peer-to-peer applications, notably BitTorrent, as well as its request for a declaratory ruling on just what constituted reasonable network management.

The FCC concluded that Comcast had a competitive reason to slow BitTorrent uploads since it is trying to grow its own online-video business and BitTorrent represented "a competitive threat" to cable.

Comcast argued that it was simply trying to keep bandwidth hogs from impeding network traffic for other users, but the FCC countered that it was not necessarily targeting high periods of traffic or congestion -- a point Comcast ultimately conceded, the FCC said.

According to the FCC, this is what it is looking for: "Today, Comcast must (1) disclose to the commission the precise contours of the network-management practices at issue here, including what equipment has been utilized, when it began to be employed, when and under what circumstances it has been used, how it has been configured, what protocols have been affected and where it has been deployed; (2) submit a compliance plan to the commission with interim benchmarks that describes how it intends to transition from discriminatory to nondiscriminatory network-management practices by the end of the year; and (3) disclose to the commission and the public the details of the network-management practices it intends to deploy following the termination of its current practices, including the thresholds that will trigger any limits on customers’ access to bandwidth.”