In a long-expected move, today cable services provider Comcast appealed Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In a Sept. 4 statement explaining the brief filing, Comcast claims that “the Commission’s action was legally inappropriate and its findings were not justified by the record.” As you’ll recall, the FCC told Comcast that it could not interfere with select applications, such as peer-to-peer movie download services, its broadband access customers were using.
According to the three-page petition, Comcast has hired a battery of law firms to handle the case. One among them is Wiley Rein LLP, the Washington, D.C. law firm whose partners include former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley. Partner Helgi Walker who’s handling the case was associate council to President Bush during his first term in office and worked as a chief of staff for an FCC commissioner. Yes, Comcast is firing its big guns.
The appeal, whichever way it goes, could have huge ramifications for the whole telecom industry. If FCC’s action is recognized as unlawful by courts, all broadband service providers may feel free to manage their network traffic as they see fit — and peer-to-peer applications could go the way of the dinosaurs.
If, on the other hand, courts side with the agency, that could speed up changes to Internet access payment structure. Arguing that users of peer-to-peer applications consume too much of their bandwidth, companies like Time Warner Cable are considering charging traffic hogs higher fees for access. And analysts believe that, eventually, average Joes could end up paying more for their Web access as a result also.
Whichever way it goes, what’s for sure is that this decision will be appealed as well. This is one of those cases that could take years to unravel and could end up in the Supreme Court.