Comcast files appeal of FCC Web traffic order

NEW YORK Thu Sep 4, 2008 7:50pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Comcast Corp has filed an appeal to reverse a U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) decision ordering the cable operator to change how it manages its broadband Internet network.

Comcast said on Thursday it told the Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. Circuit that it wants a review and reversal of the Commission's order, but intends to comply fully with the requirements established in it.

The company, which has more than 14 million high-speed Internet subscribers, previously said it was changing its network management practices to ensure all Web traffic is treated essentially the same.

Comcast said its appeal is an attempt to protect itself legally and challenge the basis on which the Commission found it in violation of federal policy in the "absence of preexisting legally enforceable standards or rules".

"We continue to recognize that the Commission has jurisdiction over Internet service providers and may regulate them in appropriate circumstances," said Comcast executive David Cohen in a statement.

"However, we are compelled to appeal because we strongly believe that, in this particular case, the Commission's action was legally inappropriate and its findings were not justified by the record."

Comcast has said it is trying to manage Web traffic flowing over its network to prevent degradation of its Internet service delivery for the majority of its users.

However it has become a flash point for a growing debate over a concept known as 'network neutrality' which argues for all Web traffic to be treated without preference or discrimination by service providers.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin expressed disappointment with Comcast's court move but said he was pleased that the company will comply with the order and fully disclose its new network management practices.

"Given Comcast's past failure to disclose its network management practices to its customers, it is important Comcast respond to the many still-unanswered questions about its new management techniques," Martin said in a statement.

In a precedent-setting decision last month the five-member FCC voted 3-2 to uphold a complaint which said Comcast violated the FCC's open-Internet principles by improperly hindering peer-to-peer traffic via applications like BitTorrent.

The FCC did not fine Comcast but required the company to cease blocking peer-to-peer applications, which are commonly used to distribute large files like TV shows and movies.

Martin has said he was especially troubled because the file-sharing targeted by Comcast is a potential competitive threat to the company's own video services.

U.S. Internet service providers like Comcast have been overwhelmed by the rapid growth of online services like peer-to-peer applications as well as online video, music downloading and photo-sharing, and are seeking ways to cost-effectively avoid network congestion.

Comcast said last month it would cap customers' Internet usage to 250 gigabytes per account starting October 1, in a bid to ensure the best service for the vast majority of its customers.

In January Time Warner Cable said it would run a trial of billing Internet subscribers based on usage rather than a flat fee.

(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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