Comcast sanction should serve as warning

A recommendation to punish Comcast for blocking subscribers' internet traffic should serve as a warning to other service providers, the telecoms regulator in the US said.

An Associated Press report further quoted Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin as saying that he hopes his action will make network operators sensitive about putting 'arbitrary limits on the way consumers can access information on the internet.'

The Associated Press reported that Martin will recommend to his fellow commissioners that Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, be punished for violating agency principles that guarantee customers open access to the internet.

Martin provided more details of his proposed disciplinary action in a meeting with reporters.

Comcast was accused by consumer groups of blocking 'peer-to-peer' internet traffic, where users share large data files using special software. The complaint followed an AP investigation in October.

Comcast denies it blocks content, but says it uses 'carefully limited measures' to manage traffic on its broadband network to ensure all customers receive quality service.

Martin wants Comcast to stop using its current practice, to tell commissioners where it has used it in the past, and to disclose to the agency and consumers what limitations will be placed on customers under its new traffic management plan, which it hopes to have in place by the end of the year.

Martin said he is not recommending a fine against Comcast because he wants to use the case as a means of laying out agency policy.

'It doesn't make the enforcement action less important,' he said. 'Oftentimes (what is) most important is to try to clarify what is allowed and what isn't.'

Martin said he would circulate an order recommending the enforcement action among his fellow commissioners on Friday. The measure is scheduled for a vote at the agency's next open meeting, scheduled for Aug. 1.

Martin's action was in response to a complaint filed by Free Press and Public Knowledge, nonprofit groups that advocate for 'network neutrality,' the idea that all internet content should be treated equally.