The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken the unprecedented step of barring Comcast from delivering data-based advertising to smart home devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Home and smart thermostats.
The ban, which was announced Monday, will apply to smart devices with built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC.
Comcast, a company that makes billions of dollars annually through its broadband services, is also prohibited from selling such devices to anyone other than Comcast customers, even if they don’t use Comcast services.
The FCC, however, is free to regulate any company’s broadband services as it sees fit.
The company has a vested interest in the FCC’s decision, which is not binding, since Comcast is a major cable operator in the U.S. and is the largest provider of video-on-demand (VOD) streaming.
Comcast has been the target of regulatory action by the FCC in the past, most notably in 2016, when the agency ruled that it had a “strong” interest in regulating its video-delivery businesses as a utility.
“The FCC’s actions today are not in the public interest, but in the interests of fairness, consumers and competition,” said Michael Powell, general counsel at the American Cable Association.
“As a result, we will vigorously oppose the FCC decision.
We expect this case to be appealed.”
But the agency also noted that the company is not required to comply with the order because the ban applies only to devices “connected to the Comcast Internet service, which includes smart home products.”
While Comcast has yet to officially announce its plans to appeal the decision, it did issue a statement Monday saying that it “does not expect to be required to provide video-based services to its customers until it receives additional legal authority to do so.”
“The American Cable Alliance will continue to support the cable industry in its efforts to ensure fair competition in the marketplace and ensure that the American people have access to quality Internet access,” it added.
“Comcast’s continued denial of consumer choice and its discriminatory practices will not be tolerated by consumers, and we remain committed to defending our customers’ rights to free speech and free expression.”
Comcast said it is already providing VoIP service to smart thermoregulation devices, but is not currently selling its devices.
It said that the ban on smart devices is designed to “address issues that arose during the past five years of regulatory scrutiny and to ensure that broadband services that include video are available to all Americans.”
The FCC is expected to vote on the proposed order on July 13.