Just like how Annie Wilkes felt about Paul Sheldon in Stephen King’s Misery, Comcast says it’s net neutrality’s No. 1 fan. In a blog post written on Comcast’s website Tuesday, Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen insisted that his company was the best friend that net neutrality has ever had, despite the fact that the company got into hot water for throttling P2P traffic last decade in a case where we found out that Comcast was actively targeting specific protocols such as BitTorrent for throttling.
But that was then and this is now and Cohen writes that we have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to Comcast discriminating against certain kinds of traffic or setting up “paid priority” schemes that will give established players a competitive advantage over upstart competitors.
“We have publicly supported the FCC adopting new, strong Open Internet rules,” Cohen writes. “We have stated on numerous occasions that we believe legally enforceable rules should continue to include strong transparency, no blocking, and anti-discrimination provisions. We don’t prioritize Internet traffic or have paid fast lanes, and have no plans to do so.”
In fact, Cohen says his company’s only objection to the president’s plan is reclassifying ISPs under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which he says would lead to a lot of unnecessary and burdensome regulations.
What Cohen doesn’t mention, however, is that Title II at the moment seems like the only way to get any kind of enforceable net neutrality regulations. When Verizon successfully got the FCC’s old net neutrality rules tossed out, it meant that ISPs could legally discriminate against their competitors’ traffic in favor of their own. The court that issued the ruling made it clear that while the FCC did have the authority to regulate ISPs to prevent them from discriminating against rivals’ traffic, doing so would require reclassifying them as common carriers under Title II.
The FCC has been trying to cobble together another piecemeal approach that wouldn’t involve reclassification but so far it’s produced a set of policies that would potentially allow for the creation of Internet “fast lanes” that net neutrality activists openly hate. What’s more, it’s not clear that even these new restrictions would stand up in court because they’re built on the same flimsy legal architecture as the kind that the FCC tried to use during its first crack at implementing net neutrality rules.
In all, Comcast can say whatever it wants about supporting net neutrality. But if there’s literally no legal means to make sure that ISPs can’t discriminate against traffic, we can’t imagine them being in love with net neutrality for all that long.