FCC seeks comment on network neutrality issue

January 21, 2008

The FCC last week asked for public comment on whether its guidelines on network neutrality would prevent Internet network operators from discriminating against certain applications used over their networks.

The move by the regulatory agency asks for comment as to whether its existing guidelines would cover such network management by Internet service providers and, if not, whether there was a need to create new rules to govern this practice.

The FCC’s decision comes as a backdrop to critical comments from consumer organizations that Comcast has been preventing a file-sharing software application from being used effectively over its broadband network.

The FCC’s notice didn’t mention Comcast by name, but were the FCC to conclude that such a practice violated existing rules or passed a new rule to prevent it, there could be implications for the cable giant and other large network operators like AT&T and Verizon.

Free Press, one of the public interest groups that has filed a claim against Comcast, charged that the cable provider interfered with file-sharing software BitTorrent, preventing it from being used effectively over its broadband network. The group said it wants the FCC to declare that reasonable network management is not discriminating against any particular software.

The petition asking for the rulemaking was filed by Vuze, another file-sharing company. It asked the FCC to determine that its rules don’t “permit network operators to block, degrade or unreasonably discriminate against lawful Internet applications, content or technologies.”

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