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
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Co...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Part Time

    £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital agency based in Ashford, Ke...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent