FCC Proposes Severe Net-Neutrality Restrictions on Comcast

As a condition for approval of the Comcast acquisition of NBCU, the FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed severe net-neutrality restrictions that would last for seven years, independent of any future net-neutrality legislation passed by Congress.

Details of the conditions haven’t yet been made public, according to Bloomberg News on Tuesday.

Critics of the deal, probably just about everyone who either competes with NBCU or Comcast, are worried that Comcast could unfairly withhold NBC content from the emerging market for online video. They also want to make sure Comcast’s 17 million Internet customers aren’t blocked by Comcast from content created by competitors. That blocking could be something as simple as slowing down packet transmission in an insidious and undetectable fashion. Net-neutrality restrictions by the FCC would block that.

The rules aren’t final, and other members of the FCC committee could block or revise the chairman’s proposals.

The issue could, at some point, affect Apple as it seeks to deliver ever more online video content that competes with NBCU. Bob Cringely recently predicted that Apple would acquire a major cable-internet company, like Time Warner, in order to preserve its ability to deliver content, but such an acquisition would have its own set of major problems.

If FCC rules for Comcast in particular and net-neutrality legislation in general can secure Apple’s (and other company’s) rights to compete freely on the Interner, it would save Apple a lot of money and grief.