Net-Neutrality Group Hits Comcast for 'Censorship'

Fight for the Future is claiming Comcast is trying to censor pro-network-neutrality website Comcast counters that it is just trying to protect its brand.

The new site encourages users to investigate what Fight for the Future says are fake anti-net neutrality comments filed in the FCC docket and "likely" funded by the company, though it does not elaborate on that assertion.

The public-interest group, which has been actively protesting FCC chair Ajit Pai's proposal to roll back Title II classification of ISPs and review the net neutrality rules, published a copy of a cease and desist letter that appears to be from a legal representative of Comcast.

RELATED: FCC's Pai Launches Effort to Repeal Title II Classification

The letter claims the domain name violates Comcast's intellectual property rights because it is "identical or confusingly similar" to Comcast's protected mark because it "sounds the same, looks the same and is spelled similarly to Comcast."

The letter says Comcast is ready to resolve the issue amicably and "without pursuing its claims for damages," but only if the domain is turned over to Comcast ASAP.

The notice cites the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act in signaling that the site is out of bounds.'

Comcast defended sending the letter and trying to protect its brand, but said that it had no plans for additional action and doesn't block content.

“Comcast  supports strong, legally enforceable net neutrality rules and does not and will not block websites or content. Title II does not equal net neutrality," Comcast said in a statement. "Like most major brand owners, Comcast protects our company and brand names from being used improperly on the Internet by third parties. We use an established outside vendor to monitor for websites that use our name and brands without authorization, and the vendor routinely sends out notices to those sites. That is what happened here. This particular site also raised other legal issues supporting further investigation (for example, the site appears to collect personal information and has no posted privacy policy). After reviewing the site further, we do not plan additional action at this time.”

According to a source familiar with the letter, it was sent on May 17, only three days after the Web site was registered and before the site actually went live, so there was no way for Comcast to determine whether the site was trying to profit from its name.

Comcast had no comment on whether "no additional action" meant it was dropping its demand that the domain be turned over, though the letter was sent before it became clear that the site was not trying to monetize the Comcast name.  

Fight for the Future disputes Comcast's characterization of their Web site's privacy protections.

"The function that searches the FCC's docket does not collect any personal information, it just takes people to the FCC site directly," said Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer told B&C. "If you click "Contact your Attorneys General" it takes you to a standard petition page where there is a privacy policy clearly linked."

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.