Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

Summary: Network neutrality may be a cat with yet another life and the Comcast-Level 3 sparring match appears to be well-timed to get the debate rolling (again).

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Network neutrality may be a cat with yet another life and the Comcast-Level 3 sparring match appears to be well-timed to get the debate rolling (again).

On Monday, Level 3 said that Comcast is charging a fee to deliver online movies---think a toll booth for Netflix. This charge equated to a toll, argued Level 3, which was wrapping itself in the net neutrality banner. Comcast said Level 3 was just trying to get over on the cable provider by gobbling up bandwidth without paying for it. Comcast argued that the deal it offered Level 3 is the same one other content delivery networks received.

All of this drama is quite interesting fodder for the Federal Communications Commission, which doesn't have much authority to act without a hand from Congress.

Some analysts, however, note that the FCC may get some movement on net neutrality yet.

Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Larsen said in a research note that net neutrality compromise may be at hand. The FCC moved its last meeting of the year to Dec. 21 from Dec. 15. That move may telegraph a last minute push to support a network neutrality order. Bottom line is that there may be some compromise among legislators. The FCC had been weighing regulating broadband providers as Title II outfits (much like telephone companies) or Title I, a framework that is less onerous.

Larsen said:

The latest news reports out of Washington say that the FCC may now be looking to implement net neutrality rules using a Title I framework. This would ultimately be a more palatable and less restrictive framework for the telecom service providers, but we would expect them to continue to lobby against any form of additional regulation. We hear that the FCC may be looking at an order similar to the network neutrality legislation put forth earlier in the year by Representative Henry Waxman.

The Waxman proposal called for restoring the FCC’s authority to prevent the blocking of Internet content, banning wired broadband providers from unjustly or unreasonably discriminating against legal Internet traffic, applications and services, and prohibiting wireless providers from blocking websites and applications that compete with voice services. Telecom service providers loathe the thought of any additional regulations, especially in wireless. In fact, we believe the key issue for the telcos in their current lobbying efforts is the treatment of wireless. The Waxman proposal was lighter in its treatment of wireless, banning the blocking of websites and applications but falling short of banning packet discrimination.

In other words, the Waxman proposal isn't that far off from what Google and Verizon already pitched. The Google-Verizon proposal argued for a light hand on wireless and net neutrality provisions on the wired side of the network.

What remains to be seen is how this Level 3-Comcast flap alters the equation. Level 3 said:

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 responded with:

Comcast has long established and mutually acceptable commercial arrangements with Level 3’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) competitors in delivering the same types of traffic to our customers. Comcast offered Level 3 the same terms it offers to Level 3’s CDN competitors for the same traffic. But Level 3 is trying to gain an unfair business advantage over its CDN 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.

The ducks here line up almost too nicely. The Level 3-Comcast scrum gives FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski a few key talking points. The FCC will argue that it needs the authority to referee these cat fights. And new regulations may just give it to him. Simply put, net neutrality isn't dead yet.

Related:

Topics: Government US, Government

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14 comments
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  • RE: Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

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  • RE: Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

    This is so idiotic. If Comcast users want to watch so much content on Level 3's network, than do like most other ISPs do and purchase a direct link to that system or host a caching proxy of on your network. Who's pays for the interconnect or proxy can be for them to decide, but it seems pretty obvious that Level 3 doesn't need it.
    eric@...
  • RE: Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

    Level 3 has equal access to Comcast's network, which I believe belongs to Comcast, not Level 3, but surprise, surprise, surprise, Level 3 wants more. What Level 3 wants, like all net neutralists, is a "must carry" law. That's what "net neutrality" is really all about. Next thing you know, Level 3 will be telling us we "must watch" their programming.
    Vesicant
    • RE: Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

      @Vesicant

      So, AOL should be able to reject all emails sent from gmail and yahoo and Google should be able to refuse to accept emails from any Microsoft Exchange server.

      To do these things would be in violation of RFC's that outline the behavior of the SMTP protocols for email...not to mention it would really p!ss off a lot of customers.

      Essentially, what Comcast is doing is in violation of agreements between Comcast and end users. If Comcast is the only broadband service available to many of these customers then there is a monopoly here and Comcast is guilty of violating anti-trust laws. By becoming an ISP, they agree to carry ALL TCP/IP traffic that is routed between their network and other networks. If Comcast doesn't want to be an ISP, they can go back to being just a cable TV company until everyone becomes the "mythical" cord-cutters that Comcast denies exists.

      I pay my ISP to access content on the Internet. I do not pay them to block my access to said content. Whatever they want to charge me for my bandwidth usage is between me and them....not them and Netflix or L3.
      VRSpock
    • RE: Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

      @Vesicant

      To put it another way, Comcast wants to charge long distance call charges to the person receiving the call, not their own customer who is making the call. They should charge their customer who is making the call. If Level 3 were blindly broadcasting their content over Comcast's network that would be a different story, but they are not.
      Michael Kelly
    • Monopoly abuse

      @Vesicant
      I have to pay Comcast if I want broadband. I have no choice. I pay Comcast a pretty hefty chunk of my take home pay every month for exactly that. In the bargain, Comcast has promised me unfettered access to all of the Internet. That's what I am paying for, it's what I was sold. That's not what Comcast is evidently giving me. If I were an attorney the phrases "false advertising", "breach of contract", and dare I say it "Class Action" woud be running through my head right about now.
      use_what_works_4_U
    • Keep the Internet FREE of Government Intrusion

      @Vesicant
      I agree that Comcast should be free to operate as they choose.If you don't like their rules find a new provider.
      Those that say it is their only option may have to move.
      I live in the middle of BFE, KS by choice. My option for broadband have been satellite and cell cards.
      We are free to make our own decisions.
      Everything has a price.
      Keep the government out of what is still the FREE internet.
      KEEP the CHANGE
      tvman@...
  • RE: Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

    Having a hard time being objective because, based on experience, Comcast = Evil.

    But I might be bitter.
    chipbeef
  • Comcast Doesn't Get It

    I only watch a few channels regularly but have to pay for a premium subscription to get them.
    What a racket!
    Then Netflix comes along and offers me what I want at the right price.
    Screw Comcast.
    I wish I had another option for an ISP but I don't.
    Capitalism at it's best....... monopoly.
    yobtaf
  • Seems simple to me

    Comcast is costing their own customers more money. The customer has ALREADY paid for the bandwidth. Then Comcast turns around tries to charge the companies that the customers are using.... and who pays for that in the end.... the customers.
    FCC if you read this.... PLEASE stop this greedy practice (and get real competition in the ISP realm)
    el1jones
  • RE: Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

    As long as Comcrap and its bretheren have the monopoly on the `last mile`, then I feel they should be regulated as `common carriers`

    It all goes back to a picture I once saw, titled "How to make money in broadband". The gist of it was the grab for EVERY customer dollar spent on internet services.

    Come on FCC, Comcrap just made the task of expressing WHY ISPs need to be regulated. DO NOT DROP THE BALL NOW!!!! (or let the telco lobbyists get away with the continued `raping` of broadband customers)
    fatman65535
  • RE: Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

    Imagine if the companies that made electronic voting machines were able to decide who would get to use them and were able to make it more difficult to vote for the candidate of your choosing?

    Allowing companies that provide the infrastructure for the internet to invade the neutrality of the net is tantamount to that.

    The turn of the 21st century will be remembered as a time when government was outsourced to the highest bidder (or highest briber). We see it now from our military to our prisons.

    The dismantling of net neutrality will be the final nail in the coffin, the tipping point beyond which we will be unable to recover from the privatization of America.

    The mere fact that it's up for discussion is indicative of how poorly the importance of the issue is understood.

    As for Comcast and Netflix, the former may say that the latter must pay to use the former's bandwidth, but aren't Netflix customers with Comcast service already paying for that bandwidth?

    How a Comcast subcriber chooses to use his bandwidth is of no concern to Comcast, and Comcast charging Netflix amounts to "double dipping", i.e. they're getting paid at both ends.

    If I was a Comcast subscriber, regardless of whether I used Netflix, I'd be screaming bloody hell and insisting on getting what I paid for. You know that any fees Comcast charges to Netflix will inevitably be passed on to Netflix customers.
    omb00900@...
  • RE: Net neutrality: Not dead yet?

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