Comcast prevails over FCC in Web traffic fight

By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A federal appeals court in Washington ruled on Tuesday that the FCC does not have the authority to stop Internet service provider Comcast from interfering with its customers' file sharing.

Tuesday's court decision is the latest volley in a legal fight dating back to 2007, when Comcast subscribers realized that the company was hindering their ability to use peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent to swap files that consume large amounts of bandwidth.

That led to petitions from advocates and regulatory action from the Federal Communications Commission, which wants to prohibit Internet providers from selectively blocking Web content and applications. The FCC ruled that Comcast had "significantly impeded consumers' ability to access the content and use the applications of their choice" and slapped Comcast with several new oversight rules.

Comcast (CMCSA, Fortune 500) appealed, saying the FCC had no regulatory authority over the company's network-management practices. Tuesday's ruling backs Comcast's position -- a major setback for the FCC as it tries to step up its regulation of broadband providers.

The case is a high-profile battle in the ongoing "Net neutrality" fight, which pits large Internet providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon against content and application providers like Google and Skype that rely on those connections to deliver their programs to consumers.

"This is not about government regulation of the Internet," FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said in September, as the commission outlined new rules for Internet providers. "It's about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the Internet."

The FCC adopted those new rules in October, but Tuesday's court ruling casts doubt on their enforceability.

Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice told CNNMoney.com, that her company was "gratified" by the court's decision and that the "primary goal was always to clear our name and reputation."

She said that Comcast never blocked file sharing, but acknowledged that the sharing had been "delayed" in a "very, very small percentage of cases when an area gets overloaded."

She said Comcast regards all file sharing to be on equal footing and no longer targets peer-to-peer file sharing. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,826.30 -279.47 -1.54%
Nasdaq 4,931.82 -75.98 -1.52%
S&P 500 2,081.18 -23.81 -1.13%
Treasuries 1.85 -0.03 -1.49%
Data as of 3:36pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 15.56 -0.23 -1.46%
General Electric Co 27.25 -0.03 -0.11%
Apple Inc 124.75 -1.42 -1.13%
Comcast Corp 58.42 -1.25 -2.09%
Microsoft Corp 41.62 -0.54 -1.29%
Data as of Apr 17
Sponsors

Sections

Comcast and Time Warner Cable representatives will sit down with Justice Department officials this week amid intense scrutiny of the proposed cable company merger. More

The U.K. election on May 7 is arguably the most influential in a generation. Nina dos Santos explains why the outcome of this vote could disrupt economies around the world. More

The Smokio e-cigarette pairs with an app on your phone to keep track of how much you smoke, and how much money you've saved by not buying tobacco cigarettes. More

The home of some of the most iconic toys has teamed up with a crowdsourcing platform for inventors to find the next great toys. More