Comcast's Net Neutrality Promises Spark Skepticism

While many Internet service providers cheered the news that the Federal Communications Commission could soon roll back the net neutrality rules, Comcast has been particularly enthusiastic about the prospect.

In recent days, the cable company has been tweeting its support for FCC Chair Ajit Pai's proposal to reverse the 2015 decision to classify Internet access as a utility, regulated under "Title II" of the Communications Act.

Comcast says it supports open Internet principles, but also insists on Twitter that "Title II ≠ #netneutrality."

The obvious problem with that position is that an appellate court has already ruled that the FCC can only impose net neutrality rules -- including rules that ban providers from blocking or throttling content -- on companies regulated under Title II. When the FCC tried to impose those rules without reclassifying Internet service as a utility, the rules were struck down by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Silicon Valley lobbying group Internet Association, which supports the current net neutrality rules, is countering Comcast on Twitter. The organization publicly asks the company why it's fighting to change the rules if it doesn't plan to block, slow or throttle content.

Other Internet service providers have also publicly said they plan to follow net neutrality principles. But as Consumerist recently pointed out, those comments are hardly legally binding.

Meanwhile, a vendor used by Comcast picked a fight with an advocacy group over the Web site, which lets Web users search to see whether their names are appearing in fake comments. The organization Fight for the Future launched the site in response to news that opponents of net neutrality apparently submitted hundreds of thousands of identical, fraudulent comments to the FCC's site. The names attached to the comments appeared to have been scraped from databases.

Fight for the Future said today it received a cease-and-desist -- which came from the monitoring company LookingGlass Cyber Solutions -- accusing the advocacy group of violating Comcast's trademark. The organization called the claims "legally baseless."

"The site is clearly a form of First Amendment protected political speech and makes no attempt to impersonate Comcast," Fight for the Future stated.

By this afternoon, a Comcast spokesperson said the notice was sent by an outside vendor as part of its monitoring efforts, and that the company doesn't plan to take action regarding Fight for the Future's site.

Still, the move by Comcast's vendor today couldn't have been timed better, from Fight for the Future's perspective. Nothing shows the need for net neutrality rules as clearly as an effort by a broadband provider -- or, in this case, one of its agents -- to shut down a critic.

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