Comcast, BitTorrent Reach Throttling Agreement

The cable giant hopes the deal will resolve a network neutrality complaint filed with the FCC. 

LOS ANGELES-The agreement between Comcast and BitTorrent to resolve issues involving the throttling of P2P traffic may end a government investigation into the matter, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said March 27.

Comcast is facing a complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission that claims the company's network management practices violate the FCC's Internet Policy Statement issued Aug. 9, 2005. Comcast contends its practices are reasonable under FCC rules and even if the FCC found Comcast in violation, the agency has no authority to enforce the rules.

Nevertheless, Comcast and BitTorrent announced March 27 that they were working to address issues associated with rich media content and network capacity management.

"I'm not convinced the Comcast and BitTorrent [complaint] warrants any more government action," McDowell, a Republican appointed to the FCC by President Bush, said at the second annual Tech Policy Summit here. "The Internet and Internet governance has been all about private agreements."

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin also praised the agreement.

"I am pleased that Comcast has reversed course and agreed that it is not a reasonable network management practice to arbitrarily block certain applications on its network," Martin said in a statement. "I also commend the company for admitting publicly that it was engaging in the practice and now engaging in a dialog with BitTorrent."

Michael Copps, a Democratic member of the FCC, was less convinced.

"Today's announcement confirms my belief that the FCC needs to play a proactive role in preserving the Internet as a vibrant place for democratic values, innovation and economic growth," Copps said in a statement. "If it had not been for the FCC's attention to this issue earlier this year, we would not be having the conversation that we are having now among network operators, edge content providers, consumers and government about the best way to implement reasonable network management."

Since the complaint against Comcast was filed, the FCC has held an open meeting in Boston seeking public comment on Comcast's handling of network traffic and plans another hearing at Stanford University April 17.