The Federal Communications Commission appears poised to take steps to punish Comcast for blocking access to file-sharing traffic. Three of the five FCC commissioners have voted in favor of an item saying Comcast violated federal policy by dialing down peer-to-peer traffic over its network. The news isn't much of a surprise, given that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has publicly criticized Comcast for the practice and recommended to the rest of the commissioners that they vote in favor of the decision.
FCC set to punish Comcast on P2P blocking News - Digital Media - CNET News.com
It appears that the only thing left is for the FCC to hand out punishment. Most media outlets are reporting that the FCC isn't expected to hand down any monetary damages. The most likely outcome will be an order requiring Comcast to cease and desist filtering of traffic and full public disclosure of its network management practices.
This ruling should cause a ripple effect through the industry. It sets a precedent, and one would think the next company caught throttling bandwidth for any reason would get a pretty stiff penalty. I would imagine there are many ISP's out there that are rethinking their network management practices. To be sure, Comcast isn't the only one employing questionable network practices. Charter Communications use a device from a Arbor Networks to restrict certain types of traffic. The device, an Arbor Ellacoya, allows them to throttle bandwidth from specific programs or protocols. It will recognize the different patterns used by each "offending" program and throttle them to a trickle by using deep packet inspection. For instance, your Emule or Bit Torrent program will seem to slow down to a crawl, but your YouTube videos of someone picking their nose will stream great.
It seems that this ruling will send a shot accross the bow of the ISP's. The FCC seems to be sending a message that they intend to protect the consumer before they will cave to the bullshit being spewed from the industry. Let's hope that they continue to set policy based on the premise of true neutrality.