It was tough to miss the news last week that a DC federal court overturned the FCC’s 2008 decision that Comcast was blocking internet access, at Comcast’s whim.
The history: In response to consumer complaints, in 2008 the FFC concluded that Comcast monitored the content of its customers’ internet connections and selectively blocked peer-to-peer connections — allegations Comcast denied.
The selective blocking of file sharing traffic interfered with users’ rights to access the internet and to use applications of their choice, the FCC said. Comcast used deep-packet inspection to monitor customers’ internet traffic, and routed packets according to their content, not their destination. “In essence, Comcast opens its customers’ mail because it wants to deliver mail not based on the address on the envelope but on the type of letter contained therein,” the commission ruled.
Get this: Comcast’s throttling was widespread — up to three-quarters of all file sharing connections in certain areas, the commission said, resulting in a significant disruption to internet traffic.
As it happens, the FCC was acting outside its authority, the DC court said. If the FCC is crabby about the reversal (and it seems to be), the commission has only itself to blame. During the great Republican years, the FCC began regulating cable internet service providers as “information services” instead of as “telecommunication services.” The latter, which include phone carriers, are subject to a bevvy of rules and obligations, including some that mimic net neutrality rules. Not so “information services.”
The FCC needs to fix this, in order to restore internet access and transmission equality. Join others who are raising their voices for net neutrality. For power in numbers, check out the Media Alliance, a Bay Area-based organization working for a more diverse, just, and accountable media system. The Media Alliance is collecting signatures in support of net neutrality. Help them get to 99,999 comments, and help us all. LLII.
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