FCC: We'll investigate Comcast-BitTorrent flap

At CES, chief Kevin Martin says agency plans to determine whether Comcast's reported interference with file-sharing traffic is "reasonable network management."

Anne Broache Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Anne Broache
covers Capitol Hill goings-on and technology policy from Washington, D.C.
Anne Broache

Federal regulators plan to investigate whether Comcast improperly interferes with BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic on its network.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin Federal Communications Commission

The announcement by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin arrived in a panel discussion at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, according to an Associated Press report Tuesday.

Since at least last summer, reports had been circulating that the cable company was throttling BitTorrent traffic, which Comcast promptly denied. But in October, the AP released the results of tests, based on attempts to download the King James Bible, which it said confirmed that Comcast was actively interfering with the practice.

The flap drew protests to the FCC from pro-Net neutrality groups, which said the incident clearly demonstrated the need for new regulations prohibiting prioritization of Internet content.

Marvin Ammori, general counsel for Free Press, which backed that complaint, said he was encouraged by Martin's statement at CES. "The FCC must stop these would-be gatekeepers and fine companies that censor the free flow of information," he said in a statement.

Comcast's defense all along has been that it is only taking "reasonable" steps to manage the functioning of its network so that its users get the best possible service.

"The question is going to arise: Are they reasonable network practices?" AP quoted Martin, a Republican, as saying. "When they have reasonable network practices, they should disclose those and make those public."