FCC likely to punish Comcast for blocking P2P file sharing traffic

On Saturday, the Associated Press cited "an agency official" reporting that the majority of FCC commissioners had voted in favor of punishing Comcast for blocking subscribers from engaging in certain activities -- namely, peer-to-peer file sharing.

The likely punishments were first reported to be sanctions, but at a press conference shortly thereafter, Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said a policy change will be the outcome.

On the August 1, an open commission meeting will take place, with the formal complaint of Free Press and issues surrounding Comcast's secret degradation of P2P applications as first items on the docket.

Free Press' Complaint asks the Commission to address Comcast's secret violations of the FCC's Internet Policy Statement, which "guarantee consumers access to the content, applications, and services of their choice, as well as access to competition among network, applications, and content providers."

Last year, "throttling" was brought into common parlance after several Canadian ISPs were found to have been limiting the bandwidth that customers could use. Comcast, the United States' second-largest ISP was accused of engaging in the practice, but denied doing so. Later, the company admitted that it had been "delaying" requests for BitTorrent files, but maintained it was a limited form of network management.

A German study conducted in May 2008 found Comcast and Cox to be the two American ISPs most guilty of BitTorrent blocking.

While early reports are effectively meaningless until all commissioners have voted, Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, as well as Republican chairman Kevin Martin, have been said to be in agreement upon Comcast's violation of the policy statement. A memorandum opinion and order will be voted upon Friday.

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