Comcast welcomes FCC inquiry into traffic management

Company has defended its practice of sometimes slowing P2P networks such as BitTorrent

Cable-modem service provider Comcast Corp. said Wednesday that it would welcome a Federal Communications Commission investigation into its broadband traffic management practices.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, speaking at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Tuesday, said the commission would investigate complaints that Comcast was blocking some peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic. An Associated Press investigation published in October found that Comcast was slowing traffic connected through the popular BitTorrent file-sharing program (see "FAQ: Comcast vs. BitTorrent").

A Comcast spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company had not yet received information requests from the FCC. Comcast, in a statement, also defended its practice of sometimes slowing P2P traffic during peak traffic times.

"We look forward to responding to any FCC inquiries regarding our broadband network management," David Cohen, Comcast's executive vice president, said in the statement. "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 will work with the FCC to better inform customers about broadband network management, the statement said. "Comcast does not, has not and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services," Cohen said.

Martin also said the FCC would look into complaints that Verizon Wireless and other wireless carriers were blocking access to text messaging on their networks. In September, Verizon Wireless denied access to Naral Pro-Choice America, when the abortion rights group asked to allow Verizon customers to sign up for its text-messaging alerts. Verizon reversed the decision a day later.

A Verizon Wireless spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on Martin's CES speech.

In December, eight consumer and public-interest groups -- including Public Knowledge Inc., the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union of the United States Inc. -- filed a complaint with the FCC, saying that mobile phone providers should not be able to block text messages from political groups and advertisers.

Public Knowledge and Free Press, both of which are critical of provider traffic blocking, praised Martin's CES statements. Public Knowledge said in a statement that it is pleased that the FCC is "willing to stand by their principles to protect American consumers." The organization also said, "We look forward to FCC proceedings that will determine what are legitimate uses of power by telecom companies, and which are not."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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