Comcast and Level 3 in Netflix net-neutrality spat

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By Richi Jennings. November 30, 2010.

Comcast and Level 3 are embroiled in a new net-neutrality dispute. Level 3 accuses Comcast of erecting toll booths, but Comcast says Level 3 is a CDN in disguise, pointing to customers such as Netflix. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers ponder the reality of video bandwidth.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention Lemmings...


Cecilia Kang says it "raises questions about Comcast’s power to control consumers’ access":

Level 3 ... whose main client is the video giant Netflix ... said Comcast’s action amounts to setting up a “toll booth” on the Internet. ... Comcast disputed [that] saying its demand for fees is unrelated to the content that Level 3 wants delivered.


The allegations come as the ... cable titan seeks to wrap up federal reviews of its merger with NBC Universal. ... Regulators are expected to demand ... that the company ... show [no] preference for some Web sites over others. ... [And] as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to issue more formal rules ... that would force broadband provider to treat all content equally.

Grant Gross goes on:

Comcast said it would cut off its own customers' access to the movies and other Web traffic unless Level 3 paid the fee ... [which] violates network neutrality principles that the [FCC] approved in 2005, Level 3 said.


The timing of Comcast's actions are curious, given rumors that the FCC plans to act on formal net neutrality rules during its Dec. 21 meeting.

Comcasts' Joe Waz explains himself:

These discussions have nothing to do with Level 3's desire to distribute different types of network traffic. ... Level 3 wants to compete with other ... Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) ... but pass all the costs of that business onto Comcast.


Comcast has long established and mutually acceptable commercial arrangements with Level 3's ... competitors. ... Level 3 is trying to gain an unfair business advantage ... by claiming it's entitled to be treated differently. ... What Level 3 wants is ... a more than twofold increase in the amount of traffic [it] delivers onto Comcast's network -- for free.

Glenn Fleishman  thinks that sounds reasonable:

Comcast cannot be denied to have the business basis to determine with which firms it ... opens specific point-to-point pipelines for network interchange. ... Where network neutrality intrudes is if Comcast is threatening to degrade or block all Level 3 traffic on any Internet route. ... That's a different kettle of fish than wanting to collect fees for a direct network connection with Level 3.

But Stacey Higginbotham says, "We have a problem!"

By getting Level 3 to pay more for delivering a CDN service ... Comcast is getting Level 3 to pay for the increase in traffic on its network. ... This idea of content providers paying ISPs to deliver the traffic to consumers, while consumers pay ISPs for access to the pipe isn’t a new one.


Companies such as Google or Hulu may find themselves paying more for peering [too]. ... So while Comcast and Level 3 fight their commercial disagreement over peering ... the real people to suffer will be those who depend on the web. Not because Comcast has decided to call Level 3 on it being a CDN, but because of the lack of real competition in our broadband networks.


And Finally...

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Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

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