July 11, 2008
Washington D.C. – Consumers may be nearing a victory over Comcast, as Federal Communications Commission Chairman (FCC) Kevin Martin told the Associated Press on Thursday the agency is prepared to take action against the Internet and cable provider for violating the law when it degraded users’ Internet connections.
Consumers Union (CU) strongly urges the FCC to resist pressure from Comcast to settle the case so that it will not result in a legal precedent. In FCC comments on this matter, CU noted the importance of establishing legal norms that protect the open Internet.
AP broke this story last October when it found Comcast degrading the Internet connection of a customer trying to send a copy of the King James Bible to another subscriber.
When the FCC held a hearing in Boston regarding Comcast’s behavior, the company engaged in real-world blocking—hiring people off the street to fill seats, resulting in dozens of genuinely interested citizens being turned away from the hearing. Comcast employees were photographed handing out envelopes of cash to these “seatwarmers” after the public hearing.
Martin said that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, violated FCC principles. Though no FCC ruling has yet been issued, Consumers Union applauds the FCC’s action and calls for penalties on Comcast.
“Sometimes consumers feel like their only recourse against cable giants is to take a hammer to their cable company. We’re glad that the FCC may pick up the hammer so consumers don’t have to,” said Chris Murray, Senior Counsel for Consumers Union. “Action from the FCC to preserve the openness of the Internet is a definite win for consumers.”
The FCC’s Order reportedly calls for Comcast to cease the practice of blocking, requests that details are provided to the FCC on how the blocking was conducted and requires the company to inform its customers on how it will manage its networks in the future.