FCC vs. Comcast

As the development of technology increases, consumers expect their devices and Internet connections to run faster and more efficient. Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are advertising high-speed broadband Internet connections, running at an average speed of 2 Mbps and unlimited bandwidth. That may sound impressive and high-tech, but what if your ISP slowed down your Internet connection to certain Web sites, such as their competitors, and blocked all access to others? Unfortunately, some ISPs have begun to do that, even though several organizations say it should be illegal. However, there’s not a single state or federal law that prevents large corporations and ISPs from blocking or slowing down Internet connections.

All of this started in 2007 when Comcast targeted BitTorrent connections on their network. BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol that is used to send large amounts of data across a network or the Internet. Since BitTorrent was a quick and efficient way to download movies, software and music, thousands upon thousands of Comcast subscribers started using BitTorrent as their primary download tool. As a result, the Comcast network started to become tangled and began to slow down. In response, Comcast began to greatly slow down or totally block BitTorrent connections from and to their subscribers, but they just happened to forget to tell their customers. Of course, to the customers affected, that was an unethical practice, but in the eyes of Comcast, they were attempting to make their network run faster and more efficient.

Though at first, Comcast was only blocking BitTorrent connections, ideas started to form in the think tank at major ISPs all across the United States. What if they charged their customers monthly fees, depending on the Web sites they like to visit? It would be just like how cable companies charge their subscribers for the different channels they are allowed to watch. A basic plan might allow the customer to visit standard Web sites, such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN and eBay, but a premium monthly plan would allow the customer to access those, along with Amazon, WorldStart and more. Plus, the ISP could even block their competitors’ Web sites or slow down the connection so that their customers wouldn’t want to switch.

Before long, people got wind of the idea and the principle of Net Neutrality was quickly formed. Net Neutrality states that connections on the Internet shouldn’t have restrictions and that data should move freely across the network, without experiencing any blockage or delay. When the Internet was first formed, it was intended to follow that principle, however, when businesses and corporations started using the Internet, Net Neutrality started to fade.

In August 2008, the FCC ordered Comcast to stop interfering in peer-to-peer traffic on its broadband network, which is definitely a huge victory for Net Neutrality. It’s just something to think about!

~ Jack William