WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- A day before the Federal Communications Commission is
set to formally reprimand cable giant Comcast Corp. (CMCSA, CMCSK) for slowing
certain Internet connections, the top House Republican says the action reflects
"poor policy judgment" that will "hijack the evolution of the Internet."
In a letter sent Thursday to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, House Majority Leader
John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the FCC is improperly inserting itself into a self-
governing entity. "Congress has intentionally refrained from imposing the heavy
hand of government, which is precisely why we have seen such rapid growth in the
Internet," the letter said.
The FCC is scheduled to vote Friday on an order telling Comcast to stop
throttling Internet traffic to customers using certain video file-sharing
services such as BitTorrent. Martin's proposed order would also require Comcast
to submit any new network-management techniques to the FCC for approval and to
disclose them to consumers.
Consumer advocates consider the FCC's action critical to ensuring undeterred
access to the Internet. Without the FCC's action, Internet providers will "want
to retain their choke-hold over their networks," said Consumers Union Senior
Counsel Christopher Murray.
While open Internet advocates had hoped for a monetary fine against Comcast,
Murray said the FCC's citation is an important start. "What was needed was to be
able to point to a bottom line. This is the inner limit," he said.
Martin wants the FCC's action against Comcast to put other Internet service
providers on notice that they can't single out individual applications when
managing traffic and they must fully disclose the limitations of their services.
He has also warned that other providers who engage in improper practices can
For Republicans such as Boehner and FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, the
FCC's move takes away businesses' freedom in managing their networks. When large
file transfers started to clog networks, Boehner said, service providers
responded by collaborating with the makers of Internet applications that consume
a lot of bandwidth.
The FCC's "heavy handed attempts" to regulate those efforts "deter the very
broadband investment we need for the Internet to continue growing to meet the
increasing demands being placed upon it," Boehner's letter said.
Despite McDowell's protests, Martin is assured that his proposed reprimand
will be approved, having secured support from a majority of the five-member
Comcast is expected to challenge the order in court, arguing that the FCC
doesn't have the legal authority to cite it. Boehner agreed, saying the FCC
appears to be proceeding on "shaky legal and procedural grounds" because it
hasn't issued regulations on Internet network management.
Martin maintains that the FCC's action is a legitimate way to address the
-By Fawn Johnson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9263; fawn.johnson@
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