Net neutrality: Cohen says Comcast not 'degrading' content, Netflix tells FCC to classify ISPs as utility

In the busiest week yet for the FCC's ongoing revaluation of net neutrality policy, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) executive VP David Cohen told a Senate hearing that his company was not "blocking or degrading" video content on its network, and that Comcast would remain beholden to the FCC's net neutrality policy as a condition of its NBCUniversal acquisition approval in 2010.

Cohen's comments Wednesday to a broadly focused hearing on the state of the video marketplace came almost simultaneously with a flurry of significant commentary filings to the Federal Communications Commission, which extended the commentary period on net neutrality through Friday.

Comments came not only from ISPs including Comcast, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), and technology giants including Google and Facebook, but also Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), which offered a rather pointed assessment of the FCC's work so far: it's almost worse than not having any net neutrality policy at all.

In its 28-page filing, Netflix once again accused Comcast and Verizon of intentionally letting interconnection gates become congested, resulting in "nearly VHS quality" of Netflix video streams ... unless, of course, Netflix pays an interconnection fee.

Only Title II reclassification of ISPs as utilities will end this practice, Netflix notes.

"By endorsing the concept of paid prioritization, as well as ambiguous enforcement standards and processes, the commission's proposed rules arguably turn the objective of Internet openness on its head--allowing the Internet to look more like a closed platform, such as a cable television service, rather than an open and innovative platform driven by consumers and the virtuous circle," Netflix states in its FCC comments. "Given this, no FCC rules would be preferable to rules endorsing paid priority deals on the Internet."

The FCC received more dissenting commentary Wednesday, including a memo from the Writers Guild of America West, warning that Internet video distribution could, like pay TV, become "dominated by a few vertically-integrated conglomerates,"

"In a few short years," the Hollywood guild wrote in its 39-page letter, obtained by Deadline Hollywood, "the rise of Internet video distribution has created the opportunity for a more diverse, competitive and independent market for content. Writers have new outlets to sell to and consumers have an expanded menu of content options to choose from. But the promise of vibrant video competition is threatened by incumbent control of distribution."

For more:
- read this Multichannel News story
- read this DSL Reports story
- read this Deadline Hollywood story

Related links:
Netflix calls out Verizon again on streaming speed after ISP continues PR war
Writers Guild of America East opposes Internet fast lanes
Level 3 calls for FCC to extend net neutrality to interconnect points