Cecilia Kang at the Post was one of many to cover this story. Level 3 provides video streaming services, most notably to Netflix. They are complaining that Comcast is asking for unfair fees to carry their content to the cable co’s network access subscribers. Comcast is already acting to muddy the waters, disputing the claim.
Comcast disputed Level 3’s claims, saying its demand for fees is unrelated to the content that Level 3 wants delivered to consumers.
“Comcast offered Level 3 the same terms it offers to Level 3’s content delivery network competitors for the same traffic,” Joe Waz, Comcast’s senior vice president for external affairs, said in a statement. “But Level 3 is trying to undercut its . . . competitors by claiming it’s entitled to be treated differently and trying to force Comcast to give Level 3 unlimited and highly imbalanced traffic and shift all the cost onto Comcast and its customers.”
We have no way to verify Comcast’s basis for these feeds. ISPs adversarial to notions of network neutrality regulations haven’t been exactly forthcoming with empirical, verifiable data to back their claims of congestion, the justification for either outright discriminatory traffic shaping or additional fees or both. Nate Anderson at Ars Technica has some further remarks from folks at both Comcast and Ars Technica. These are worth reading before jumping on the anti-Comcast bandwagon as they suggest the argument may have greater legitimacy in the context of what is normative for peering arrangements, rather than last mile access.
Kang mentions both the discussions over Comcast’s proposed merged with NBC/Universal and the network neutrality rulemaking that is ongoing at the FCC. The silver lining of this story, regardless of who is right between the two parties, is that it will continue to draw focus to the concerns underlying the calls for an open and neutral network.