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
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballLive: Latest news from Champions League draw
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Scrum Master (Agile, Java, team recruitment)

    £45000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Scrum M...

    Recruitment Consultant - Life Sciences

    £20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?