Over the past few years, Comcast has butted heads with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the way it tries to shape the portions of the Internet that it allows its customers to access. The most famous situation being when it was revealed that the ISP was blocking access to BitTorrent technology. The FCC sanctioned the company, which, in turn, took them to court over what right it had to hold rule over the Internet.
The newest bout between these two entities could take shape over Netflix of all things. Complaints have been filed with the federal body over new fees Comcast is imposing on Level 3, the content delivery network (CDN) that streams Netflix’s Watch Instantly service.
According to the Level 3 provider, Comcast contacted them on Nov. 19th to inform that continued access to the company’s subscribers would come with new fees. When the companies again talked on Nov. 22nd, Level 3 was informed this was a “take it or leave it” deal, and that there would be no negotiations. The fees were agreed to simply because neither Level 3 or Netflix wanted to cut off support to Comcast’s 17 million subscribers.
Thomas Stortz, Chief Legal Officer of Level 3, said of the matter:
Comcast is effectively putting up a toll booth at the borders of its broadband Internet access network, enabling it to unilaterally decide how much to charge for content which competes with its own cable TV and Xfinity delivered content. 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.
Comcast has fired back, saying that the offer it made to Level 3 was no different than the ones they offer other CDNs. “Level 3 is trying to gain an unfair business advantage over its CDN competitors.” said oe Waz, SVP, External Affairs and Public Policy Counsel for Comcast. “[Level 3 is] 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.”
If we understand this correctly, Comcast’s argument is that it is charging its subscribers for access to the Internet, but yet it feels it should charge content providers for delivering that information to the subscribers … who are paying for access? In other words, Comcast wants money from both parties? How in the world does this make sense to anyone?
Of course, one has to wonder if Comcast isn’t being somewhat influenced by having its own streaming video service, Xfinity. Raise the costs for the competition in hopes of bolstering your own service perhaps? This is only idle speculation, but one must wonder. There is some possible precedence for Comcast doing something similar in that Zoom Telephonics has filed complaints with the FCC over the fact Comcast is cutting off their modems from working with the company, which would lead more people to rent their modems from the provider itself.
It seems Comcast just can’t keep itself out of controversies.
What say you? Is Comcast right or wrong for wanting this money from Level 3?