Comcast's Letter To The FCC About Netflix Tollgate

Here is the letter Comcast sent the FCC after eyebrows were raised when Level 3 accused the cable company of setting up a effective tollgate to collect fees when L3 tried to deliver Netflix content to Comcast customers.

The letter accused Level 3 of trying to “game” “peering,” the agreements between companies to trade information over networks:

… despite Level 3’s effort to portray its dispute with Comcast as being about an ‘open Internet,’ it is nothing but a good old-fashioned commercial peering dispute, the kind that Level 3 has found itself in before. Notwithstanding Level 3’s claims, this is not about online video, it is not about “paid prioritization,’ it does not involve putting ‘toll booths’ on the Internet, and it is not about net neutrality. Indeed, if anything, it is Level 3 that is seeking ‘non-neutral’ treatment that would favor its network traffic over those of all its competitors.

The dispute between Comcast and Level 3 relates to how Level 3 wants Comcast (and presumably other networks) to treat their new influx of CDN traffic, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with any content, application, or service that Level 3 is transmitting. This concerns only the vast increase in the amount of traffic Level 3 told Comcast that it wants to send to Comcast’s network on a ‘peering’ basis. Given that this will throw traffic between the two networks grossly out of balance, and in keeping with long-established settlement practices on the Internet backbone, Comcast has asked Level 3 to enter into commercial negotiations to achieve a solution that accounts for this new and significant traffic imbalance.

Despite Level 3’s complaints, Comcast is neither resisting carrying Internet video traffic nor imposing new ‘tolls’ on Internet video traffic. The simple fact is that Comcast terminates huge amounts of online video traffic to our high-speed Internet customers, most of it pursuant to longstanding, mutually acceptable commercial arrangements we have in place with the leading CDN companies. Our customers get access to all the online video they want, along with any other Internet content, application, or service they choose — regardless of its source. And, regardless of how this dispute turns out, that will continue to be the case.

Level 3 fired back a riposte saying the real issue is whether Comcast is engaging in antitrust behaviors:

The fundamental issue is not whether Comcast sends more traffic to Level 3 or whether Level 3 sends more traffic to Comcast. Both Level 3 and Comcast are responding to the requests of Comcast’s subscribers, who want to be free to see and use the full suite of content and applications that are available on the Internet today and in the future. Level 3 wants to assure that freedom is preserved.

Instead, the fundamental issue is whether Comcast, as the largest cable company in the country with absolute control over access to its cable TV and broadband access subscribers, has the right to unilaterally set a ‘price’ for that access that effectively discriminates against competitors of Comcast’s cable and Xfinity content.

No doubt the coming weeks will bring more letters and press releases and chest beating. We’ll be waiting to see how it all shakes out.

Comcast’s Letter to FCC on Level 3 [Comcast Voices] (Thanks to Cheap Sniveler!)
Level 3 Communications Issues Response to Comcast Statement [Level 3]
Comcast: We bent over backwards to help Level 3! (those bastards) [Ars Technica]

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