Broadband Internet customers of cable television giant Comcast should be free to use file-sharing software, the Federal Communications Commission says. The commission has ordered Comcast to stop blocking its Internet customers from using BitTorrent, an online software application that enables users to share large movie, TV show and music files.
Commission Chairman Kevin Martin split with his Republican colleagues to join the two Democratic members to produce a 3-2 vote against Comcast. The precedent-setting decision was hailed by supporters of so-called "net neutrality", which maintains Internet service providers should be barred from discriminating among various types of traffic.
It was unreasonable for Comcast to discriminate against particular Internet applications, including BitTorrent, Martin wrote in his majority opinion. They delayed and blocked customers using a disfavored application even when there was no network congestion.
Other commissioners, however, said Internet engineers need to regulate traffic flow and say the ruling will nudge providers toward instituting volume-based pricing.