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FCC Opens Net Neutrality Probe of Comcast

Washington -- Comcast Corp., the nation's leading provider of residential high-speed Internet access, has received official word that it is being investigated by the Federal  Communications Commission in connection with its network management practices, two sources said Monday.

The FCC's Enforcement Bureau, according to sources, sent Comcast a letter on Jan. 11 that spelled out in general terms the agency's interest in knowing whether Comcast is managing its network in a manner consistent with the agency's August 2005 “policy statement” with four consumer-centric “principles” to ensure that “that broadband networks are widely deployed, open, affordable, and accessible to all consumers.”

FCC chairman Kevin Martin signaled the launch of the investigation in comments Jan. 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

A Comcast spokeswoman confirmed the receipt of the FCC inquiry, but would not make a copy available. An FCC spokesman would not confirm the letter, saying Enforcement Bureau communications of this type were not to be made public.

The FCC probe follows Associated Press articles positioning Comcast as blocking peer-to-peer file sharing Internet transmissions by BitTorrent users.

The articles triggered complaints at the FCC that Comcast violated the agency's principles, one of which states that “consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.”

The FCC said that its principles were not formal “rules” and that the principles “are subject to reasonable network management.”

Comcast has denied blocking traffic. It has acknowledged that during peak traffic times, it will delay peer-to-peer communications to ensure that such large transmissions by a minority of users do not degrade service to the majority of Web users.

The cable company said that its management of broadband traffic is limited to just peer-to-peer uploads.

“We believe our practices are in accordance with the FCC's policy statement on the Internet where the commission clearly recognized that reasonable network management is necessary for the good of all customers. Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services," Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said in a statement.

Although Comcast counts about 12.9 million residential cable modem subscribers, AT&T has more total high-speed data subs due to millions of commercial accounts.