Not A Joke: Comcast Says No One Is More Dedicated To Net Neutrality Than It Is

Even in his official photo it looks like Comcast's merger mouthpiece David Cohen is having a hard time keeping a straight face.

Even in his official photo it looks like Comcast’s merger mouthpiece David Cohen is having a hard time keeping a straight face.

A month ago, Comcast and Netflix seemed to be buddy-buddy when the streaming video service agreed to pay a price to end Comcast’s passive-aggressive efforts to make sure its customers had cruddy access to Netflix. Then today, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had a not-so-nice word or two about his new paid-peering partner.

In a Netflix blog post titled “Internet Tolls And The Case For Strong Net Neutrality,” Hastings writes candidly (at least as candidly as the CEO of a huge company can be) about his true feelings regarding Comcast and the deal his company made to ensure that Comcast Internet subscribers could actually have access to Netflix.

“A few weeks ago, we agreed to pay Comcast and our members are now getting a good experience again,” says Hastings. “Comcast has been an industry leader in supporting weak net neutrality, and we hope they’ll support strong net neutrality as well.”

Though Hastings also mentioned other companies — most notably Verizon, whose lawsuit resulted in the recent gutting of the Open Internet rules that had prevented ISPs from throttling or blocking access to websites and services — Comcast’s David Cohen, Exec. VP of Shoving Mergers Down Consumers’ Throats, actually released the following laughable statement to Consumerist and other outlets:

“There has been no company that has had a stronger commitment to openness of the Internet than Comcast. We supported the FCC’s Open Internet rules because they struck the appropriate balance between consumer protection and reasonable network management rights for ISPs. We are now the only ISP in the country that is bound by them.”

(Insert sound of record scratching for full effect.)

What Comcast’s Regulator Whisperer fails to mention is that Comcast is only still bound by those Open Internet rules because it’s part of the agreement Comcast made to fool the FCC and Justice Dept. into allowing its merger with NBC Universal.

This is like a paroled convict saying she’s a real homebody without revealing that she’s not allowed to leave her home except for trips to work and to visit her parole officer. Or someone who brags about having a positive impact on the environment by only using public transportation without mentioning that he had his license taken away.

While we’re at it, let’s continue to call B.S. on Cohen’s inane claim that Comcast is some crusader for net neutrality. As Senator Al Franken of Minnesota recently pointed out in his timeline of Comcast’s checked history, Comcast was caught not only throttling BitTorrent traffic for its users, but lied to consumers and regulators that it was a matter of network efficiency. The FCC referred to Comcast’s actions as a “discriminatory and arbitrary practice [that] unduly squelches the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet and does not constitute reasonable network management.”

Do not be fooled. Comcast is not, and will never be, a supporter of true net neutrality. It begrudgingly accepted the terms placed upon it by regulators, terms that expire in 2018, meaning that Comcast can then join in the fun of blocking and throttling services that compete with its on-demand offerings.

Additionally, the conditions of the now-dead Open Internet rules were vague enough to allow for ISPs to make end-runs around the regulations by allowing for bottlenecks on the wholesale end, where bandwidth providers connect to ISP networks, and which were not guided by the weak-kneed net neutrality rules.

“The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don’t restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make,” writes Hastings, calling the rules that were recently shredded “insufficient” in meeting those aspirations.

He calls for regulators to craft a stronger series of rules that would also prevent ISPs “from charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube, or Skype,” or to the bandwidth providers they contract out to.

Strong neutrality rules, says Hastings, “must provide sufficient access to their network without charge.”

“Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service,” contends the Netflix CEO. “The big ISPs can make these demands — driving up costs and prices for everyone else — because of their market position.”

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