Kevin Martin Tries To Thread The Needle In Sanctioning Comcast

from the a-little-of-this-and-a-little-of-that dept

As was widely expected, FCC boss Kevin Martin has come out saying he believes Comcast violated FCC rules in its traffic shaping program, and he's recommending that the FCC sanction, but not fine, Comcast and order it to stop its traffic shaping (something it's already planning to do). Kevin Martin's favoritism towards the telcos is well known -- so it comes as no surprise that he'd come out against Comcast. He's given every indication that such a move was in the cards. However, the lack of a fine -- combined with telling Comcast to do what it was already doing -- is an interesting move. If anything, it may be an attempt by Martin to quietly assert control over cable and hope that the cable industry doesn't fight back.

Whether or not the FCC's mandate really does include cable is an open question -- and the cable companies have at least a decent claim to the fact that their systems are not covered by the FCC. So, here's a situation where the FCC is slapping Comcast's wrist in such a way that Comcast is unlikely to mind -- but if it "agrees" to the response, then it may be effectively admitting that the FCC does have a say in how cable companies operate, which could open quite a Pandora's box in terms of the FCC's overall mandate.

There is, of course, a simpler way out of this that no one appears to be taking. The real problem most people had with Comcast's actions was that it wasn't at all transparent about them -- continually insisting that they weren't doing anything. Effectively, Comcast may have been guilty of false advertising in terms of how its network worked. So why not have the FTC, rather than the FCC, slap them down for their lack of transparency, rather than having the FCC step in where it might not belong?

As for those who are claiming that Martin's statements are somehow a "victory" for network neutrality, you might want to think again. Martin has made it clear in the past that he's not a supporter of network neutrality -- especially when it comes to the telcos, telling AT&T that if it felt it needed to start discriminating traffic for a valid business reason, it should feel free to do so.

Filed Under: authority, fcc, kevin martin, net neutrality, traffic shaping
Companies: comcast


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  1. icon
    Richard Bennett (profile), 14 Jul 2008 @ 3:42am

    Fair Summary

    I'd say you've got the story right, with the exception of the "jurisdiction over cable" thing. Cable does have to follow FCC regulations for telephone service, and I'm pretty sure there's a specific section of the Comm Act on cable Internet.

    There are overlapping jurisdictions where disclosure is concerned, and either the FCC or the FTC can act on that issue. But the FTC obviously can't act without a petition.

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