Comcast tried to stop it. Telecom-funded politicians tried to discourage it. Big Media tried to de-legitimize it. But nothing could stop the people-powered movement to hold Comcast accountable for illegally blocking Internet content. Today, the FCC issued a punishment that has Network Neutrality opponents cringing and the rest of us popping champagne.
In a landmark decision, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein approved a bipartisan "enforcement order" that would require Comcast to stop blocking and publicly disclose its methods for manipulating Internet traffic.
Tests by the Associated Press and others showed that Comcast blocked users' legal peer-to-peer transmissions by sending fake signals that cut off the connection between file-sharers. Today's decision follows a months-long FCC investigation, launched in response to a complaint from Free Press and Public Knowledge urging the federal agency to stop Comcast's blocking.
In response to the victory, Josh Silver, Free Press executive director, said: "Comcast's history of deception and continued blocking shows brazen contempt for the online consumer protections established by the FCC. We commend Chairman Martin and Commissioners Copps and Adelstein for standing up for internet users and working across party lines to protect free speech and the free market."
Martin Stands with the People
Traditionally a friend to industry, even Martin couldn't deny Comcast's culpability.
In his statement this morning, Martin compared Comcast's blocking practices to allowing the post office to discriminate against mail "Would you be OK with the post office opening your mail, deciding they didn't want to bother delivering it, and hiding that fact by sending it back to you stamped 'address unknown - return to sender?'" he asked. "Or if they opened letters mailed to you, decided that because the mail truck is full sometimes, letters to you could wait, and then hid both that they read your letters and delayed them?"
Despite the cable giant's Hail Mary effort to shame and pressure Martin into bending to their will, Martin stuck by the wisdom that allowing ISPs to block and discriminate against online content is bad for America.
Today he stands with the public. Activists, bloggers, consumer advocates and everyday people have shown a relentless effort in lobbying the FCC to punish Comcast. The people who use and love the Internet have successfully brought Comcast to justice for trying to stifle consumer choice on the open Internet.
The Fight Continues
This precedent-setting victory sends a powerful message to phone and cable companies that breaking Net Neutrality rules will not be tolerated. And it marks a milestone in the fight to preserve a free and open Internet - and the first time the FCC has enforced the peoples' right to see and hear what they want on the Internet without blocking or slowing down content.
This victory is monumental. But the fight to safeguard Net Neutrality is far from over.
Commissioner Copps recognized the struggle ahead, and called for the FCC to adopt a principle that commits the FCC to a policy of network openness. "A clearly stated commitment of nondiscrimination would make clear that the Commission is not having a one-night stand with net neutrality, but an affair of the heart and a commitment for life," he said in a statement.
Already, more than 1.6 million people have contacted the FCC and Congress to protect Net Neutrality. The calls, petitions and e-mails must not stop. Now is the time to flood our policymakers with the message that we demand an open and free Internet now and always.