Comcast exec: Internet ‘fast lanes’ were always allowed

As the Federal Communications Commission faces backlash over Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plans to allow Internet “fast lanes,” Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said those deals were always allowed.

“Fast lane sounds bad … [but] I believe that whatever it is, it has been completely legal for 15 or 20 years,” Cohen said Wednesday at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit, according to Variety.

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Cohen’s remarks come before the FCC is scheduled to vote Thursday on Wheeler’s controversial proposal to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules.

The original rules — which kept Internet providers from slowing or blocking access to certain websites — were struck down by a federal court in January.

Last month, Wheeler announced he would rewrite the rules according to the federal court’s ruling to allow Internet providers to charge websites for better access to users.

Comcast, which is in the middle of trying to get its acquisition of Time Warner Cable past regulators, is bound by the agency’s old net neutrality rules under conditions it agreed to during its 2011 purchase of NBC Universal.

But even the old rules, which are considered stricter than what Wheeler is proposing now, would have allowed websites to pay for prioritized access to users, Cohen said.

He also commented on the “almost hysterical reaction” of net neutrality advocates, who have vocally criticized Wheeler’s plans, which won’t become public until the FCC votes to move forward with the proposal.

“You have the whole world reacting to a document no one has seen,” Cohen said.

-- This post was updated at 3:55 p.m.