Monday, August 4, 2008

FMC on FCC's Comcast Decision

As you probably heard, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 last Friday that, according to the official FCC statement (PDF), "Comcast’s network management practices discriminate among applications rather than treating all equally and are inconsistent with the concept of an open and accessible Internet." The Commission's decision ordered Comcast to stop interfering with legal internet traffic, disclose to the FCC its network management practices and to alert consumers to any future changes.

The decision followed FCC investigations into allegations that Comcast blocked access to legal peer-to-peer content by interrupting connections between users’ computers. The story first broke when the Associated Press tested Comcast's national networks, confirming the interruption of legal content sent using BitTorrent. This immediately raised questions about whether Comcast had violated the FCC's stated net neutrality principles that "consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice; that they are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice; that they are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network."

The FCC's also says that the above is "subject to reasonable network management," which they haven’t explicitly defined. Still, Comcast’s behavior — which invited ire from many a public interest group — was found by the Commission to be unreasonable.

You can read our press release about the FCC decision here.

FMC has long advocated for responsible government policy that protects open internet structures where musicians can compete on a level playing field and distribute their work any way they choose. Our Rock the Net campaign, which kicked off in March, 2007, now has close to 1,000 musician and indie label supporters, including founding artists Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Calexico, Kronos Quartet and Ted Leo. But we've been paying attention to “the tubes” way longer than that.

Our push to keep the internet open and accessible to artists comes from our deeply held belief that we can't replicate the failures of previous music structures — with their system of gatekeepers, bottlenecks and limited access for all but a select few — when making decisions about how to deal with the internet. We're also of the mind that the solutions to problems on the internet are likely to come from innovators — those brainiacs in the garage coding the future — rather than big corporations whose interests are based more on squeezing dollars from existing structures than coming up with competitive marketplace solutions.

We've been saying this stuff for a long time: in our 2006 Op-Ed on net neutrality for The Hill; our 2005 statement on the Supreme Court's Brand X decision; our 2002 comments with the Black Congressional Caucus Forum on Piracy; and our 2002 letter to the House Judiciary Committee on music/technology issues. All along, we've recognized the need to encourage the emergence of a legitimate digital music marketplace through innovation, creativity and, where appropriate, legislation.

At this rather interesting moment in time (we swear we didn't time the release of our Rock the Net CD with the Comcast decision), we acknowledge the FCC's recognition of the value of the open internet, while reiterating that the fight for net neutrality is far from over. You can help us in the effort by joining our Rock the Net campaign and demonstrating to policymakers and the public that the internet is for everyone, and not just the big cable and telecommunications companies.

If you haven't yet picked up a copy of the CD — which features Wilco, Bright Eyes, Aimee Mann, They Might Be Giants, Portastatic, DJ Spooky and more — you can do so at your favorite local record shop, or online at Amazon (MP3 store), iTunes, eMusic and Rhapsody.

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