Comcast said on multiple occasions that it would not violate net neutrality. In March 2014, Comcast Senior Executive VP David Cohen wrote, “To be clear, Comcast has never offered paid prioritization, we are not offering it today, and we're not considering entering into any paid prioritization creating fast lane deals with content owners.” So, is Comcast going back on its word to keep the internet open?
Comcast and Net Neutrality - Then and Now
It appears so. In July, when Comcast filed its comments with the FCC regarding net neutrality, it urged “no blocking, no throttling, no anticompetitive paid prioritization, and full transparency.” However, last week, Comcast tweeted: “We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content. We will continue to make sure that our policies are clear and transparent for consumers, and we will not change our commitment to these principles.”
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Paid prioritization. The tweet leaves the door open for paid prioritization, i.e. charging tolls for internet “fast lanes.”
We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content. We will continue to make sure that our policies are clear and transparent for consumers, and we will not change our commitment to these principles. pic.twitter.com/19PFCPJ3TY— Comcast (@comcast) November 22, 2017
Comcast denies plans for paid prioritizations
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, has proposed going back on Obama-era net neutrality rules and his proposed plan, which will be up for a vote on Dec. 14, doesn’t ban blocking or throttling.
A spokesperson for Comcast told CNET that the company doesn’t plan to charge for internet fast lanes.
"Comcast hasn't entered into any paid prioritization agreements. Period," spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said in an email. "And we have no plans to do so."
The website Ars Technica noted that while earlier this year Comcast’s website read, “Comcast doesn't prioritize Internet traffic or create paid fast lanes,” the company’s public open internet commitment only reads, "We do not block, slow down or discriminate against lawful content."
Did Comcast forget the part about paid prioritization of internet traffic?
Why is net neutrality such a hot-button issue?
Supporters of net neutrality say that only the “big guys” who can afford to pay extra will be able to access the high-speed channels, which would push out the “little guy” and startups. Pai maintains that some services, like home health monitoring applications or self-driving car applications, need a “fast lane.”
"Without net neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes," the advocacy group Free Press explained, CBS News reported. "An ISP could slow down its competitors' content or block political opinions it disagreed with.”