Martin Fires Back at Comcast

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin was not pleased with Comcast's court challenge to the FCC’s network-management decision.

In a statement released late Thursday, Martin said he was "disappointed" and suggested that the appeal did not square with the terms under which the FCC allowed Comcast and Time Warner Cable to divvy up the systems of Adelphia Communications.

"When the commission approved the Adelphia transaction, we put Comcast on notice that we would act upon complaints that the company was willfully blocking or degrading Internet content, and Comcast nonetheless chose to close on that deal," Martin said.

"Now, little more than two years later, Comcast has gone to court to contest the commission’s authority to act on precisely the type of complaint discussed in the Adelphia order," he added.

Martin did give Comcast props for agreeing to comply with the order even as it challenges its substance and legal justification.

Comcast was cited by the FCC for network-management techniques that it concluded violated its guidelines on open access by targeting a specific application -- in this case BitTorrent -- and without sufficiently informing customers of what it was doing. Comcast pledged to move to a "protocol-agnostic" method of management.

As part of the order, Comcast has to explain its new management technique to the FCC within the next couple of weeks.

Martin Thursday gave some clues about what specifically he is looking for, asking, "Will there be bandwidth limits and, if so, what will they be? Will they be hourly? Monthly? How will consumers know if they are close to a limit? If a consumer exceeds a limit, is his traffic slowed? Is it terminated? Is his service turned off? The commission needs to understand the answers. Perhaps more important, Comcast’s subscribers deserve to know the answers."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.