Comcast reiterated support for so-called net neutrality provisions the same day (June 11) the Federal Communication Commission’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” took effect, rolling back many safeguards intended to mandate a level playing field on the Internet.
In a blog post, Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said the nation’s largest cable pay-TV operator would not change how it handles third-party streaming services on its broadband network.
“We still don’t and won’t block, throttle or discriminate against lawful content,” Watson wrote. “We’re still not creating fast lanes. We still don’t have plans to enter into any so-called paid prioritization agreements.”
Yet, throttling is precisely what Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings accused Comcast and other Internet Service Providers of doing in 2014. Hastings said Netflix was forced into paying “a toll” to “some big ISPs” so its subscribers wouldn’t be subjected to buffering and pixilated images.
“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,” said Hastings at the time. “The traditional form of net neutrality which was recently overturned by a Verizon lawsuit is important, but insufficient. This weak [pre- 2015] net neutrality isn’t enough to protect an open, competitive internet; a stronger form of net neutrality is required.”
Hastings’ grumblings reached President Obama, who, together with former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015 helped push through tougher safeguards for streaming services – much to the chagrin of ISPs.
Under new FCC chairman Ajit Pai – a former cable lobbyist and Obama appointee – the agency did away with what Pai considered “unnecessary, heavy-handed regulations” imposed by Wheeler that characterized the Internet as a utility and regulated under the Telecommunications Act of 1934.
Watson contends the Internet can be better safeguarded under the same regulatory-light (i.e. scant government oversight) approach that helped create it.
“We continue to believe the best way to ensure lasting net neutrality rules that protect consumers and promote investment is for Congress to enact legislation,” he wrote.