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PSA: Comcast Doesn’t Really Support Net Neutrality

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Slate: Anyone who has ever paid a bill to or waited for customer service from Comcast knows why it is one of America’s most detested companies, its recent efforts to improve its image notwithstanding. While Comcast says its customers will “enjoy strong net neutrality protections,” it hasn’t explicitly said it won’t offer paid prioritization, which is how the company would most likely monetize its new ability to legally muck with internet traffic. In other words, Comcast might not choke or slow service to any website, but it could speed access to destinations that pay for the priority service. The company’s promises should sound familiar. As Jon Brodkin pointed out in Ars Technica on Monday, back when the FCC was crafting the network neutrality rules in 2014, Comcast said it had no plans to enact paid prioritization, either. “We don’t prioritize Internet traffic or have paid fast lanes, and have no plans to do so,” a Comcast executive wrote in a blog post that year.

But Comcast’s line has changed in an important way. In a comment to the FCC from earlier this year, the company said it is time for the FCC to adopt a “more flexible” approach to paid prioritization, and noted in a blog post at the time that the FCC should consider net neutrality principles that prevent “no anticompetitive paid prioritization.” In other words, not necessarily all paid prioritization. The inclusion of “anti-competitive” could signal that the company does in fact hope to offer fast-lane service, but at the same price for all. And it might be a price that say, Fox News and the New York Times can afford, but one that smaller outlets can’t. That Comcast’s language is changing is one reason to distrust its promises regarding net neutrality, but its track record is an even bigger one. The company has been caught red-handed lying about its traffic discrimination in the past. In 2007, for example, when Comcast was found intermittently blocking users’ ability to use BitTorrent, the company made numerous false claims about its network interference before finally admitting its bad behavior and halting the disruptions.


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