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Level 3 heats up the Netflix, Verizon internet war

Level 3 accuses Verizon of admitting to deliberately slowing down Netflix traffic.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Mark Taylor, VP of Content and Media at Level 3, a global Tier 1 business and consumer internet provider, has accused many end-user ISPs before of slowing down Netflix traffic.

Now, Taylor's gone further. He's accused Verizon of deliberately slowing down Netflix customers' videos.

Level3-Verizon Interconnect
According to Level 3, Verizon itself shows that it streams Netflix video slowly because it's too much of a cheapskate to pay for more 10Gbps ports at its internet Tier 1 interconnect routers.

Taylor states that Verizon has itself revealed that it's screwing Netflix customers over.

Taylor wrote, "David Young, Vice President, Verizon Regulatory Affairs, recently published a blog post, suggesting that Netflix themselves are responsible for the streaming slowdowns Netflix’s customers have been seeing. But his attempt at deception has backfired. He has clearly admitted that Verizon is deliberately constraining capacity from network providers like Level 3 who were chosen by Netflix to deliver video content requested by Verizon’s own paying broadband consumers."

The proof that Verizon is lying, according to Taylor, can be found in its diagram. It implies that the Verizon "network has lots of unused capacity at the most busy time of the day." In other words, "Verizon has freely admitted that it has the ability to deliver lots of Netflix streams to broadband customers requesting them, at no extra cost. But, for some reason, Verizon has decided that it prefers not to deliver these streams, even though its subscribers have paid it to do so."

He pointed out that Verizon portrays Level 3 is the bottleneck in the internet. Taylor claims that simply isn't true.

In an earlier blog post, Taylor stated that Level 3 has more than enough bandwidth to support its internet interconnect partners, but that some ISPs, such as Verizon, "have left interconnection ports congested and deliberately harmed the quality of the services that customers have paid them for."

So why does Verizon blame Level 3 and the other Tier 1 network operators for Netflix traffic problems? Taylor says that it's because Verizon refuses to upgrade their interconnect points.

Taylor specifically cites the example that Verizon picked: Verizon's Los Angles Network Operations Center (NOC). "All of the Verizon FiOS customers in Southern California likely get some of their content through this interconnection location. It is in a single building. And boils down to a router Level 3 owns, a router Verizon owns and four 10Gbps Ethernet ports on each router. A small cable runs between each of those ports to connect them together. This diagram is far simpler than the Verizon diagram and shows exactly where the congestion exists."

The solution? With no congestion on the Verizon or Level 3 sides, "We could fix this congestion in about five minutes simply by connecting up more 10Gbps ports on those routers. Simple. Something we’ve been asking Verizon to do for many, many months, and something other providers regularly do in similar circumstances. But Verizon has refused. So Verizon, not Level 3 or Netflix, causes the congestion. Why is that? Maybe they can’t afford a new port card because they’ve run out – even though these cards are very cheap, just a few thousand dollars for each 10 Gbps card which could support 5,000 streams or more. If that’s the case, we’ll buy one for them. Maybe they can’t afford the small piece of cable between our two ports. If that’s the case, we’ll provide it. Heck, we’ll even install it."

What really proves the case that Verizon and other ISPs are deliberately throttling Netflix videos, according to Taylor is that "This congestion only takes place between Verizon and network providers chosen by Netflix. The providers that Netflix does not use do not experience the same problem. Why is that? Could it be that Verizon does not want its customers to actually use the higher-speed services it sells to them? Could it be that Verizon wants to extract a pound of flesh from its competitors, using the monopoly it has over the only connection to its end-users to raise its competitors’ costs?"

Verizon has not replied to a request for comment. Lately, Level 3, Netflix, and Verizon have taken to communicating by dueling blog posts. 

That said, Taylor's position makes sense to me.

Yes, getting higher bandwidth to the last mile is expensive. ISPs are looking to newer technologies such as G.fast DSL and DOCSIS 3.1 to bring gigabit speeds to the home without the high costs of laying out fiber.

To improve the speed at the junction between the ultra-high-speed Tier 1 ISPs and the consumer and business ISPs is way cheaper. It really doesn't require anything more than adding 10 Gbps ports at the interconnect routers. The technology is here, the switches and cards are available for reasonable prices.

The only real reason I can see for Verizon, and other anti-Netflix ISPs, to continue to slow down traffic is because they want to break net neutrality to increase their own profits at the expense of video providers and their own end-users.

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