Comcast is appealing an FCC ruling that it is improperly blocking customers' Web traffic, triggering a legal battle that could determine...

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WASHINGTON — Comcast is appealing an FCC ruling that it is improperly blocking customers’ Web traffic, triggering a legal battle that could determine the extent of the government’s authority to regulate the Internet.

In a precedent-setting move, a split Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month determined Comcast is violating a federal policy that guarantees unfettered access to the Internet.

Comcast challenged the decision Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said in a statement the company is seeking “review and reversal” of the FCC order and that the commission’s action was “legally inappropriate and its findings were not justified by the record.”

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said, “I am disappointed by Comcast’s decision to appeal.”

The case arose from complaints by users of a type of “file-sharing” software often used to download large data files, usually video.

Tests by The Associated Press and others found that file-sharing transmissions were aborting prematurely. It was later discovered Comcast was cutting off transfers without informing customers.

The FCC noted Comcast’s network-management practices were “discriminatory and arbitrary” and that the company’s practices “contravene industry standards and have significantly impeded Internet users’ ability to use applications and access content of their choice.”

The agency also noted that the type of traffic Comcast is blocking has become “a competitive threat” to cable operators because it is used by people to view high-quality video they “might otherwise watch [and pay for] on cable television.”

While the FCC action did not include a fine, it does require Comcast within 30 days to disclose the details of its “discriminatory network management”; submit a compliance plan describing how it intends to stop these practices by the end of the year; and disclose to customers and the commission its new plan.

Cohen said Thursday the company will comply with the FCC’s order. Before the FCC action, Comcast had said it will switch to a management technique that treats all users the same by the end of the year.

Martin said he was “pleased Comcast will comply with the commission’s order and fully disclose to the commission, the public, and its customers the company’s new network-management practices.”