Comcast reacts to Net neutrality proposals

The FCC is pushing for Net neutrality, stirring online debate among companies that will be affected.

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By Eric Kuhn, CNN audience interaction producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined two new principles Monday that represent big steps toward net neutrality -- prompting a plethora of online reaction.

On the company blog today, David L. Cohen, Comcast's executive vice president of broadband, wrote that the company "completely agree[s] that any consideration of new 'rules of the road' begin with notice and an open, public rulemaking proceeding -- this is both fair and appropriate."

Net neutrality can be loosely defined as the principle that all information on the Internet should be treated equally by Internet service providers (ISPs). The new principles focus on the future of the Internet and will have the largest effect on Comcast (CMCSK), AT&T (T, Fortune 500) and Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500).

In a speech delivered at the Brookings Institution today, Genachowski noted: "The Internet is an extraordinary platform for innovation, job creation, investment, and opportunity. It has unleashed the potential of entrepreneurs and enabled the launch and growth of small businesses across America. It is vital that we safeguard the free and open Internet."

The two new principles the FCC seeks could be classified as "non-discrimination" and "transparency."

Non-discrimination means that companies cannot pick winners and losers online. For example, a company like Comcast would not be able to able to decide if Amazon.com (AMZN, Fortune 500) could load faster than BarnesandNoble.com (BKS, Fortune 500).

In 2007, Comcast came under fire from the FCC for attempting to block BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing program. The blocking of this program would not be allowed under the new regulation. The FCC was worried that down the road, companies would pay for priority on certain ISPs, stifling entrepreneurs.

The FCC also wants to ensure that consumers know what their provider's Internet practices are. For example, Comcast was blocking BitTorrent, but it didn't tell consumers about that decision.

In regards to the BitTorrent controversy, Cohen did not mention the company by name, but wrote, "When it was alleged in 2007 that one of Comcast's network management practices regarding uploads of P2P files violated those policies, we defended our actions as a reasonable form of network management."

He then went on to say: "We went to court to challenge the way the FCC acted on that 2007 complaint against us, but for a relatively narrow reason -- because the former FCC leadership simply handled the matter improperly, as even some who disapproved of our earlier network management system have conceded."

A source close to the FCC told CNN that the two principles will apply across all platforms (cable, DSL and wireless), and that the Commission is looking more closely at how, when and to what extent the principles will apply. From here, the Chairman will circulate his proposal to the other four commissioners, who will vote on whether they undertake a rulemaking process, which would lead to a vote on the final rules.

Adam Ostrow, the editor-in-chief of the social media news blog Mashable.com, said the reaction from the online community has been very positive. "Most folks who cover the Internet space realize it is an important piece of legislation for the long term future of the Internet." To top of page

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