updated 02:50 pm EST, Wed January 21, 2009
FCC Investigates Comcast
FCC chairman Kevin Martin this week launched a formal investigation into whether Comcast's policies on voice-over-IP telephony are anti-competitive. Making the move the evening before the Obama presidency and his own resignation takes effect, Martin intends for the regulatory body to determine whether Comcast has been favoring data traffic for its own VoIP phone service over that from competitors. Concerns have been raised that the cable provider's service-independent throttling technique is still interfering with third-party VoIP services and reducing their call quality.
The notification has been received by Comcast, which says it's "reviewing" a letter sent earlier on Monday regarding the FCC's plans. The carrier has obeyed past rulings on traffic but only after being caught throttling BitTorrent traffic after repeated denials.
Martin also concluded his term in keeping with a practice of targeting cable companies by levying a $500,000 fine against multiple cable providers for not providing enough information for a separate investigation on the shift to digital programming. The FCC under the official has accused companies of unfairly shifting channels from analog to digital plans and forcing customers into more expensive subscriptions to keep particular shows.
It's not known whether the investigations will continue under the Obama administration, which is widely understood to be nominating Julius Genachowski as Martin's replacement. The venture capitalist and Obama campaign supporter has been a consistent advocate of net neutrality and may favor a continued investigation of Comcast, but has yet to implement policy relating to Internet traffic.