FCC Wants Answers From Comcast

The commission wants to know how the ISP's Internet phone service is impacting competition.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission sent a letter to Comcast asking about the effects its network management practices had on its competitors' VoIP services.

The FCC sent the letter Sunday, asking the company to explain the effects its new network management techniques (PDF) have had on its VoIP service and the VoIP services of competitors.

The letter questions why Comcast said its VoIP quality would likely be better than its competitors' service when traffic is high. It also questioned why the company characterized its VoIP services as separate and distinct from its Internet service. The letter goes on to question why Comcast defines its VoIP service as separate from its Internet service but is not complying with intercarrier compensation rules that apply to telecommunications providers.

"We have fully complied with the FCC's order regarding our congestion management practices," a Comcast spokesperson said Tuesday. "We are reviewing the FCC staff's letter."

Media reform group Free Press complained in October about Comcast's management of VoIP traffic after the company said it switched to an improved protocol-agnostic approach to network management. Monday, the group praised the FCC for sending out the letter, referring to the FCC's earlier investigation of Comcast's network management practices, as well as its insistence that Comcast live up to the FCC guidelines on net neutrality.

"This letter is a positive sign that the FCC's Comcast decision was not a one-and-done action on net neutrality," Free Press policy director Ben Scott said in the statement. "We are pleased that the commission is conducting an ongoing investigation into network management practices that might impact users' access to the online content and services of their choice."

The FCC concluded its investigation into whether Comcast degraded some traffic and ordered the company to explain how it manages network traffic so the FCC could monitor those techniques.

Scott said that Congress and the FCC must close legal loopholes that allow Internet service providers to arbitrarily interfere with an open Internet.

"As the agency transitions into the new administration, this letter demonstrates that vigilance for consumer protection will not be put on hold," he said.

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