Comcast, Netflix partner feud over 'open Internet'

A dispute between US cable giant Comcast and a networking company that streams online movies from Netflix is being cast as a potential battle for an open Internet.

The tussle between Comcast and Level 3 Communications Inc., a Colorado-based firm, is being closely watched by proponents of "net neutrality," the principle that Internet service providers should treat all Web traffic equally.

The disagreement became public Monday when Level 3 complained that Comcast for the first time was demanding a "recurring fee" from Level 3 to transmit online movies and other content to Comcast's customers.

Level 3 said Comcast's actions amounted to erecting a "toll booth" around its broadband network while Comcast said the matter was a simple commercial tiff in which Level 3 was seeking to gain an unfair advantage over its rivals.

Whatever the case, the conflict drew the attention of US regulators on Tuesday with Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), saying that his staff would be looking into it.

Genachowski, whose efforts to promote "net neutrality" have met resistance from telecom companies and Republican lawmakers, also announced late Tuesday that the FCC would discuss open Internet rules at a December 21 open meeting.

"These rules would protect consumers' and innovators' right to know basic information about broadband service, right to send and receive lawful Internet traffic, and right to a level playing field, while providing broadband Internet access providers with the flexibility to reasonably manage their networks," the FCC said.

Level 3 operates what is known as "broadband backbone network," transmitting online content such as movies and games to Comcast for delivery to consumers.

Earlier this month, Level 3 signed a contract with movie rental giant Netflix that Comcast said would result in Level 3 sending five times more traffic to Comcast than Comcast sends to Level 3.

Under a long-running and standard industry arrangement known as "peering," Comcast said that it had asked Level 3 to pay a fee to make up for the traffic imbalance.

Level 3, however, accused Comcast of "effectively putting up a toll booth at the borders of its broadband Internet access network" and charging for online content which competes with its own cable television programming.

"This action by Comcast threatens the open Internet and is a clear abuse of the dominant control that Comcast exerts in broadband access markets as the nation's largest cable provider," Level 3 said.

Further complicating the issue, is Comcast's proposed acquisition of NBC Universal, a deal that is awaiting the approval of US authorities and one that would give Comcast, the largest US cable television and high-speed broadband provider, an entertainment empire to rival that of The Walt Disney Co.

"After being informed by Comcast that its demand for payment was 'take it or leave it,' Level 3 agreed to the terms, under protest, in order to ensure customers did not experience any disruptions," the Colorado company said.

Comcast senior vice president Joe Waz rejected the Level 3 accusations.

"There is nothing about this dispute with Level 3 that concerns an effort by Comcast either to resist carrying Internet video traffic or imposing new 'tolls' on it," Waz said in a blog post.

"This is all about Level 3 gaining an unfair advantage over its competitors by gaining enormous additional capacity at no cost to itself, instead shifting the financial costs to Comcast's high speed data customers," he said.

"The bottom line is that this is a good, old-fashioned commercial peering dispute," Waz said. "It is not about online video, it is not a net neutrality issue.

"And it does not involve putting 'toll booths' on the Internet."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

    £70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

    Ashdown Group: European Recruitment Manager - Cheshire - up to £48,000

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: European Recrui...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions