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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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February 14, 2008 2:14 PM

Comcast the Gate Keeper

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Comcast is trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission that it has the right to monitor the Internet. The Internet Service Provider giant filed comments with the commission on Tuesday explaining that it needs to block the activities of subscribers to efficiently manage traffic on its network. Comcast is particularly concerned with subscribers sharing files.

This stinks of Comcast positioning itself to degrade or block competition in areas where it competes with downloads. It would be convenient for Comcast to be able to block movies from being downloaded to push subscribers toward Comcast's on demand movies.

Comcast does not seem to be suffering too much from competition. It was reported today that Comcast's profits are up 54 percent.

The FCC filing was prompted by an Associated Press report last fall that showed Comcast was blocking some subscribers from using BitTorrent, a file-sharing program. A number of consumer groups complained to the FCC about Comcast's actions.

Consumers do not need ISPs to judge what content or programs are acceptable to flow through the Internet. The beauty of the Internet is that it is an open system. It is more vital than ever to have an open Internet as more of every day life migrates in some way to the Web.

Congress must act before Comcast and other anti-consumer luminaries like AT&T bully the FCC into allowing a filtered Internet. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. Introduced a network neutrality bill that would keep ISPs from blocking content. The House need not waste time debating. Make Markey's bill law.

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