FCC Gives Comcast 30 Days to Comply with Penalties for Throttling BitTorrent

Must detail how it did it, how it plans to stop the practice by the end of the year, and also how it intends to manage network traffic in the future.

It was just recently that the FCC found Comcast in violation of the agency’s principles for electively targeting and throttling the connection speeds of a single application – BitTorrent – as part of its overall efforts in managing network traffic.

"We consider whether Comcast, a provider of broadband Internet access over cable lines, may selectively target and interfere with connections of peer-to-peer (P2P) applications under the facts of this case," reads the FCC’s ruling. "Although Comcast asserts that its conduct is necessary to ease network congestion, we conclude that the company’s discriminatory and arbitrary practice unduly squelches the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet and does not constitute reasonable network management."

The FCC even went so far as to say that Comcast "compounded the harm" to its customers by refusing to divulge it’s throttling practices.

In it’s decision the FCC spells out what the penalties will be, though it remains to be seen if Comcast will go on to challenge the ruling, which for the first time establishes the principle of network neutrality, or devise other ways to manage its network traffic.

"Accordingly, we institute a plan that will bring Comcast’s unreasonable conduct to an end," continues the ruling. "In particular, we require Comcast within 30 days to disclose the details of their unreasonable network management practices, submit a compliance plan describing how it intends to stop these unreasonable management practices by the end of the year, and disclose to both the Commission and the public the details of the network management practices that it intends to deploy following termination of its current practices."

It’s good news for BitTorrent users since it ensures that an ISP can’t single out a particular service or application simply because it’s capable if using what it deems an inordinate amount of bandwidth.

The bad news is that Comcast is already devising new methods of managing network traffic, including its most recent "fair share" plan which will throttle the heaviest bandwidth users during periods of congestion and reduce their connection speeds for anywhere from between 10 and 20 minutes (afterwards it would return to normal). Throttled users will find themselves relegated to "a really good DSL experience," according to Mitch Bowling, Comcast’s senior VP and general manager of online services.