FCC Holds Second Network-Neutrality Hearing

PALO ALTO, Calif. - Representatives of the Federal Communications Commission met Thursday at Stanford University to discuss the issue of network neutrality, but they did so without input from any major Internet service providers.


The FCC did "invite the carriers to participate in today's event, as well, several weeks ago," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said. "We did reach out to Comcast, who declined. We reached out to Time Warner, to Cable Labs, to AT&T."


Thursday's meeting was the second held this year. Interest in the issue of network neutrality continues to grow, especially after formal complaints were filed against Comcast for blocking or slowing access of some customers who were uploading videos, music and other large data files.


During the hearing, FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein said the agency should strengthen its power to prevent ISPs from unfairly discriminating against customers. But Commissioners Deborah Tate and Robert McDowell expressed concern about any plan that might burden the industry with expensive regulations.


Martin argued that the FCC's current Internet policy is sufficient but needs to be enforced to guarantee that whatever actions ISPs take are "tailored to a legitimate purpose."


Comcast and other companies should be permitted to manage their networks to ensure traffic flows smoothly, Martin said, but customers should be given notice.


The FCC is formally investigating whether Comcast should be fined for blocking some subscribers from uploading files.


Comcast has acknowledged that it sometimes delays file-sharing traffic as a way to keep Web traffic flowing for everyone.