The advocacy group Public Knowledge is calling on federal regulators to investigate Fox's recent decision to temporarily prevent Cablevision users from accessing Fox Web sites.
"This kind of blocking, which concerns anti-competitive conduct inflicted on ISPs or end-user applications, rather than committed by an ISP, is not a 'network neutrality' concern as precisely understood," Public Knowledge Legal Director Harold Feld says in a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday. "But network neutrality is not the end-all be-all of consumer protection, and these practices could threaten the integrity of the open Internet as much as anti-competitive behavior by telecommunications providers. Accordingly, incidents such as these should be investigated by the FCC, FTC, Justice Department, or other agencies, according to their jurisdiction."
The letter was spurred by Fox's move last weekend to prevent Cablevision broadband subscribers from reaching Fox.com, Hulu and other sites. Fox began the blockade when it pulled all TV programming from Cablevision after failing to come to an agreement about fees. But the TV network later restored Web access -- reportedly after it realized it was blocking people who subscribed to Cablevision for broadband service, but to other companies for TV programming.
Public Knowledge called Fox's act "crude," noting the apparently unintentional blockade of Web users who don't receive television programming from Cablevision. The advocacy group also warns of future online blockades. "As the Fox/Cablevision dispute illustrates, rather than the Internet providing the cure to media consolidation, the few remaining media conglomerates can -- and will -- leverage their off-line market power to control the distribution and evolution of online media."