Cable giant Comcast, which has a major side business in the ISP field, has agreed to discontinue its practice of blocking the use of file-sharing service BitTorrent by its subscribers. Comcast has said that it’s intent was not so much to block any particular internet service, but rather to manage the volume of traffic going out over its network. It has agreed to switch to a neutral system that does not discriminate between services by years end.
Several FCC Commissioners have weighed in on the agreement. Jonathan Adelstein (D) hailed the agreement and said it needed to be studied to learn its application to other similar situations; Robert McDowell (R) hailed the agreement and said it proved that the free market was the best was to resolve such disputes; and Chairman Kevin Martin (R) hailed the agreement, and praised Comcast for freely admitting that it had been blocking BitTorrent, and for its willingness to sit with BitTorrent to arrive at a resolution.
Martin went a bit farther. "I am concerned, though, that Comcast has not made clear when they will stop this discriminatory practice. It appears this practice will continue throughout the country until the end of the year and in some markets, even longer. While it may take time to implement its preferred new traffic management technique, it is not at all obvious why Comcast couldn’t stop its current practice of arbitrarily blocking its broadband customers from using certain applications. Comcast should provide its broadband customers as well as the Commission with a commitment of a date certain by when it will stop this practice."
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) also weighed in. He expressed concern that this was one agreement between two parties, and may not necessarily be replicated when other disputes arise. He also noted that Comcast did not acknowledge that is recognized the FCC’s authority in such matters. He said relevant legislation may soon be in the works.