Comcast is about to get an expensive lesson, one that Warner Music Group learned last year at the expense of its business: going to war with your customers doesn’t pay.
As 2007 came to a close, we learned what we suspected for years: that Comcast has been inhibiting their users’ ability to use popular file sharing protocols, like BitTorrent. Treading in the waters of non-network neutrality is a major faux pas amongst the geek elite, but it may turn out to be a costly violation by the standards of the FCC.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced today that a coaltion of consumer groups and legal scholars had asked the agency in November to stop Comcast from discriminating against certain types of data. The two groups also asked the FCC to fine Comcast $195,000 per affected subscriber.
I’ll give you a second to digest that. I went through the article from the AP wire a couple times, and I somehow absorbed that Comcast was only going to be fined $195,000. That’s not the case. Comcast has 9.1 million subscribers to their digital services, according to their most recently issued investor’s report.
Run that through your calculator. The fine could reach upwards of $1.77 trillion!
As it turns out, violating the trust of your userbase and denying them the ability to use their data plans unfettered can cost a bit more than a few days of bad PR in the technology blogosphere. One thing is for certain, admitting your company is not net neutral won’t be acceptable behavior any longer, and maybe - just maybe - big broadband providers may reconsider their network filtering policies.