Comcast reiterates a shifting promise of ‘no paid prioritization’

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Comcast has promised earlier than that it doesn’t and won’t have interaction in paid prioritization, and right this moment the corporate has reiterated that stance — after being known as out for having apparently weakened it during the last yr.

Over the previous couple of years, Comcast’s Senior Govt Vice President and Chief Range Officer David Cohen has written a number of instances on the subject of web neutrality. In 2014, when the present guidelines have been pending, he wrote fairly unambiguously:

No paid prioritization – We agree, and that’s our observe… We don’t prioritize Web site visitors or have paid quick lanes, and haven’t any plans to take action.

Shortly afterwards, in response to suggestions, he doubled down on that assertion:

To be clear, Comcast has by no means supplied paid prioritization, we aren’t providing it right this moment, and we’re not contemplating getting into into any paid prioritization creating quick lane offers with content material house owners.

In 2015, when the brand new guidelines have been voted in, he wrote once more:

We totally embrace the open Web ideas which were laid out by President Obama and Chairman Wheeler and that now have been adopted by the FCC… we now have no concern with the ideas of transparency and the no blocking, no throttling, and no quick lanes guidelines integrated in right this moment’s FCC Order.

In some unspecified time in the future, nevertheless, and that is only a guess however I’m pondering in November of 2016, Comcast apparently determined that this specific promise might have been just a little overboard. In April of 2017, the corporate posted three gadgets to its weblog. Guarantees have been once more made, however barely totally different ones.

Dave Watson, president and CEO of Comcast Cable, wrote:

Here’s what we stand for after we say we imagine in an Open Web. We don’t block, decelerate, or discriminate towards lawful content material. And we imagine in full transparency…you’ll know what our buyer insurance policies are.

And Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Company, echoed him:

We don’t block, throttle, or discriminate towards lawful content material delivered over the Web, and we’re dedicated to persevering with to handle our enterprise and community with the objective of offering the absolute best client expertise.

Lastly, our pal David Cohen made a puzzling assertion:

In step with our longstanding practices, Comcast will proceed to provide our broadband prospects the web neutrality protections they’ve come to count on. Nothing much less.

Puzzling as a result of in line with the corporate’s personal guarantees, we should always count on nothing lower than “no paid prioritization” in anyway. That’s, in any case, what he wrote not lengthy earlier than. But the promise doesn’t seem in any of the three items revealed in April. Since Watson promised full transparency, we must know why that’s the case.

Maybe they have been simply ready to clarify. The reason didn’t are available Might, when Cohen wrote:

We don’t and won’t block, decelerate, or discriminate towards lawful content material.

Or on the web neutrality day of motion, on which he reassured everybody:

We would like the general public, our prospects, and different shoppers throughout the net to know we’ll proceed to guard them, to not block, throttle, or discriminate, it doesn’t matter what the FCC does.

However then, simply days later, paid prioritization returns! Form of. In describing what the “Restoring Web Freedom” proposal would do, Cohen writes (emphasis mine):

Along with reclassifying broadband Web entry service as an data service, these FCC efforts can embody the adoption of clearly outlined web neutrality ideas – no blocking, no throttling, no anticompetitive paid prioritization, and full transparency.

Word that right here Comcast will not be really stating its personal coverage, merely explaining what the brand new proposal would do. It’s not solely correct, although: blocking and throttling usually are not banned below Restoring Web Freedom. In paragraph 259, the FCC writes: “We discover the no-blocking and no-throttling guidelines are pointless to stop the harms that they have been supposed to thwart.”

In actual fact the brand new guidelines require ISPs to be clear about what they throttle or block, and somebody thinks there’s an issue, they’ll take it up with the FTC and antitrust authorities; it’s not the FCC’s enterprise. That’s an entire different dialogue, however price mentioning right here.

Don’t fear, although. As David Cohen and Comcast repeatedly promised, the corporate “has by no means supplied paid prioritization” and by no means will, “it doesn’t matter what the FCC does.”

It’s only a humorous coincidence that as quickly because the FCC prompt that paid prioritization isn’t, strictly talking, forbidden, Comcast dropped it from the listing of issues it received’t do. Now it simply received’t do anticompetitive paid prioritization.

What constitutes “anticompetitive,” you ask? That will likely be hashed out over years of court docket circumstances and federal lawsuits, simply as with each necessary definition on this trade. And you’ll wager your backside greenback that Comcast will likely be spending a whole lot of money and time ensuring that definition is to its liking!

After a number of current articles identified this vacillation on Comcast’s half, I requested the corporate for remark. It informed me on the time that “Comcast hasn’t entered into any paid prioritization agreements. Interval. And we now have no plans to take action.” Once I talked about that it might be useful to shoppers to see this posted publicly because it was earlier than, a Comcast consultant informed me I used to be “splitting hairs.”

All the identical, the corporate did determine to put up it publicly right this moment, saying:

Is Comcast creating Web quick lanes? No, we’ve stated constantly we’ve not entered into paid prioritization agreements and haven’t any plans to take action.

I unironically applaud Comcast for saying so, and I hope it retains its phrase, though I reserve the suitable to stay skeptical. The promise did fade away briefly, and I can’t assist however suppose that had nobody made a fuss about it, it might have continued fading.

Cohen stated: “Comcast will proceed to provide our broadband prospects the web neutrality protections they’ve come to count on.” And that’s what I’ve discovered to count on.

Featured Picture: Mike Mozart/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.zero LICENSE

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