December 15, 2017

Comcast ditched some open internet pledges after FCC's net neutrality announcement

Net Neutrality Comcast
Carroll - Comcast Center Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Comcast Center

On Thursday, Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David Cohen wrote in a blog post that the rollback of "net neutrality" regulations wouldn't spell an end to an open internet, urging Congress to legislate protections for consumers.

Months earlier, the Philadelphia-based cable giant he helps lead removed and altered some net neutrality promises made to customers on its company website. The change occurred a day after Federal Communication Commissioner Ajit Pai announced intentions to eliminate the regulations.

The FCC, led by the Donald Trump-appointed Pai, voted 3-2 along party lines to nix rules enacted during the Barack Obama administration that classified internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon as public utilities. Those rules barred ISPs from favoring certain websites to charging consumers for access to certain sites.

Pai announced the FCC's intention to eliminate the rules on April 26. The next day, Comcast's page about being "committed to an Open Internet" changed rather dramatically, as recently pointed out by Ars Technica.

On and before April 26, here's what it said, according to the Internet Archive's WayBack Machine, with screenshots by Ars Technica:

COMCAST IS COMMITTED TO AN OPEN INTERNET.

Here is what we mean when we say that:

• Comcast won't block access to lawful content

• Comcast won't throttle back the speed at which content comes to you

• Comcast doesn't prioritize Internet traffic or create paid fast lanes

• Comcast's Internet Essentials will make the Internet more accessible to low income families

• Comcast will inspire innovation, promote learning, create access to jobs

An Open Internet with access for all. That's what we're for.

Well, after April 26, Comcast scrapped the parts about more access for low income families, creating access to jobs, promoting learning and "an open internet with access for all." It now reads:

Comcast is committed to an Open Internet.

• We do not block, slow down or discriminate against lawful content.

• We believe in full transparency in our customer policies.

• We are for sustainable and legally enforceable net neutrality protections for our customers.

Notably missing as well is the commitment not to prioritize internet traffic or create paid fast lanes, or additional charges for access to higher network speeds. Comcast has maintained it will not do so, a point reiterated in Cohen's blog post.

Comcast/Screenshot

Comcast's webpage about commitment to net neutrality. The page changed dramatically the day after the FCC announced intentions to eliminate net neutrality regulations.

Gizmodo reported that after repeated requests for Comcast to explain the "strange timing" of the changes to the list of commitments, a spokesperson provided the following statement:

“Our commitments have stayed that same as they’ve been since the FCC first adopted the Open Internet rules we supported in 2010, that we won’t block, that we won’t throttle, that we won’t discriminate against lawful content. We’ve said consistently we’ve not entered into paid prioritization agreements and have no plans to do so. No matter what the skeptics say, you can’t accurately convert an unequivocal statement that Comcast has no plans to enter into any paid prioritization arrangement into plans for paid prioritization.”

In his blog, Cohen tried to downplay criticisms about the FCC's decision, writing there's "a lot of misinformation." He wrote that the decision would end "heavy-handed government regulation."