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FCC Votes on the Comcast/BitTorrent Issue Tomorrow, and EDUCAUSE Enters the Fray

Tomorrow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to hold a meeting to adopt an enforcement action against Comcast for violating the Commission's principles on an open and accessible Internet. In a preliminary vote last Friday, it was determined that at least three of the five commissioners will officially vote against the cable giant tomorrow.

The three commissioners voting against Comcast agree that the company violated federal rules by slowing certain kinds of Internet traffic, specifically peer-to-peer applications. It is believed that the FCC will demand that Comcast stop blocking or slowing traffic, but will probably not issue a fine. Last November, the FCC received a complaint stating that Comcast was deliberately blocking certain file-sharing services. Comcast, however, has said it did not violate any federal laws and moreover, the FCC does not have the authority to enforce its net neutrality principles. It is expected that Comcast will challenge the decision in court.

EDUCAUSE has submitted a letter to the FCC in response to a letter that the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) submitted for the record in preparation for tomorrow's meeting. In their filing, the NCTA says cable companies should have the right to manage their networks the same way they claim universities and colleges do. In other words, they say that any regulations "must apply equally to all providers," including higher education networks. They also argue that universities already engage in network management practices that restrict traffic. I

EDUCAUSE, however, says universities are considered private networks that are not subject to the regulatory authority aimed at public networks like Comcast. They also say that while universities may have the right to block certain kinds of traffic, there is no evidence that the higher education community is actively stifling Internet communications.

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