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Reaction to FCC’s Comcast Ruling

Reaction continued to pour in Friday to the Federal Communications Commission’s “landmark” decision finding that Comcast had not reasonably managed Internet traffic.

House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) used the opportunity to plug his network-neutrality legislation, as well as to praise the FCC and even give Comcast props for the self-regulatory steps it took.

“The FCC’s decision today underscores the importance of Internet freedom for consumers and entrepreneurs. I have introduced bipartisan legislation, the ‘Internet Freedom Preservation Act,’ (H.R. 5353), with Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), to establish a policy framework for resolving this critical issue and to ensure that consumers and entrepreneurs are protected against unreasonable interference or discrimination from broadband-network providers," he said.

"Going forward, I believe today’s FCC action sends a strong message to the industry that the commission intends to take Internet freedom principles seriously and will act to protect the integrity and openness of Internet commerce and communications,” he added.

Markey concluded, “For its part, I understand that Comcast has already begun efforts to modify its network-management approach, and I believe its efforts to treat content providers in a more nondiscriminatory way from a network-management standpoint are laudable and welcome. I intend to continue monitoring practices in the industry and pressing for passage of my legislative framework for addressing these issues in the months ahead.”

Also weighing in from Capitol Hill was Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who, unlike Markey, didn't like what he saw.

“I am disappointed in the FCC’s action against Comcast,” Brownback said. “There has been no market failure to justify the heavy hand of so-called net neutrality, and I do not believe the commission has the authority to enforce principles as if they were adopted rules."

Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, which filed the complaint against Comcast that partly resulted in the FCC decision, said the FCC took "a bold step to protect the rights of Internet users, while punishing the unacceptable behavior of Comcast."

But she also pushed the FCC to go further by adding a fifth nondiscrimination principle to its current four Internet freedoms. "We have consistently called for such a policy and believe it would be a good addition to the FCC’s view of the Internet.”

She was echoing Democratic FCC commissioner Michael Copps' renewed call for that addition.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the FCC was headed in the right direction but still needed some help from Congress.

“[FCC chairman] Kevin Martin deserves credit in this case for leading the commission to limit Comcast’s abuse of the Internet," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington, D.C., legislative office. "But commission decisions are only as permanent as the commissioners who voted for them, and we are far from a point where we can all relax secure in the knowledge that the Internet as we have always known it is safe. More needs to be done … The ACLU will continue to work toward legislation that will free the Internet from corporate censorship and the fleeting policy decisions that accompany a commission filled with political appointees.”

NBC Universal, a leading voice for protecting copyrighted content online, said broadband capacity is being "hijacked" by digital theft through P2P networks that "clogs bandwidth, slows service and saddles legitimate Internet users with higher prices."

Even so, in its statement reacting to the decision, NBCU took an upbeat tone.

"We are pleased that chairman Martin’s statement affirms that the FCC’s order will not prevent ISPs [Internet-service providers] from using network-management tools to block illegal content, specifically including pirated video and music, and that the FCC’s Internet policy statement protects only lawful content," NBCU said. "As commissioner [Deborah Taylor] Tate emphasizes, such theft harms content creators and costs the U.S. economy billions [of dollars] each year. It will be critical for all stakeholders to work together to address the issue of illegal file distribution and reduce copyright theft."