Interfering with high-bandwidth peer-to-peer traffic is unlawful, concluded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a precedent-setting case against Comcast.
The internet provider has been "systematically throttling" (that is, slowing) traffic to specific types of sites — particularly peer-to-peer destinations — a discriminatory action unearthed after some subscribers reported they were having trouble uploading files. Subsequent testing by the AP and the Electronic Frontier Foundation showed that Comcast was indeed obstructing traffic for some types of internet use and not others, an issue 'net neutrality advocates took seriously.
Under guidelines demanded by the FCC, Comcast promised to stop singling out peer-to-peer traffic and blocking it. The FCC order — which will not include a fine — requires that it do so by the end of the year.
Comcast maintains that broadband throttling is a legitimate way to manage congestion on its network, arguing its decisions were "wholly consistent with industry practices" and "did not block access to websites or online applications." Free Press and Public Knowledge disagreed and are using the information to file a 'net neutrality complaint with the FCC.
Some argued that the complete lack of traffic management on Comcast will result in slower internet traffic speeds for 95 percent of US internet consumers. (Heavy filesharing taxes broadband access for everyone.) Tim Wu, Columbia law professor and Free Press chairman of the board, dismissed the claim as unsupported by real data.
Comcast is not the only company to fall under fire for bandwidth interference. Cox Communications used similar methods to slow peer-to-peer traffic, according to a Max Planck Institute study.