22 Gen FCC Questioning Comcast Over Internet Phone Policy
CBS, FL, January 21, 2009
South Florida’s largest cable provider, Comcast, is coming under increased scrutiny from the FCC over allegations the company degraded the sound quality of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) services like Vonage and Skype. Companies like Vonage, Skype and others provide direct competition to Comcast’s own VOIP services. According to eWeek, the FCC sent a letter to Comcast on January 17 asking for “a detailed justification for Comcast’s disparate treatment of its own VOIP service as compared to that offered by other VOIP providers on its network.” The letter also wanted to know why the company did not disclose how its new network management techniques impacts Comcast’s own VOIP service versus those of competitors. Comcast’s web site declares its VOIP service to be a separate entity that is not impacted by any network changes the company makes. However, if that is true, then Comcast will have to begin paying fees like regular telephone providers. Comcast has until January 30 to respond to the FCC’s inquiry. This is not the first time Comcast has come under fire from the FCC and Internet users. Last summer, the FCC declared Comcast to be in violation of national Internet policy when it unilaterally blocked access to BitTorrent across its entire network. The FCC didn’t impose any fines on Comcast at the time, but did require them to allow access to BitTorrent for all users and keep customers informed about any changes to how it would manage the company’s network. Outgoing FCC chair Kevin Martin also took aim at Comcast’s cable television division, as well as those from Bright House, Cox, and Cablevision. Martin proposed multiple fines against all of the companies for failing to respond to letters of inquiry from the commission about the practice of switching cable channels to a digital tier. The FCC said it received 600 complaints nationwide about problems with companies switching channels to a digital tier with little to no notice from the cable providers. Most of the time, this would result in customers losing channels or having to pay more for channels they used to have.