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Companies Come Out Of The Woodwork To Claim Comcast Is Violating Net Neutrality... But Exaggerations Abound

from the but-are-they? dept

Network neutrality gets thrown around all too often, quite frequently in misleading ways. As the NBC/Comcast merger gets closer, there were two separate claims that Comcast is violating net neutrality on Monday, probably in an effort to derail the merger or at least include greater restrictions. Of course, it's not entirely clear if either is really a "net neutrality" issue. The first is the more dubious. Cable modem maker Zoom complains that Comcast has jacked up "device testing" costs, creating additional hurdles for Zoom's modems to be used by Comcast customers. I'm reading through the details, and I'm struggling to see how this is, in any way, a "neutrality" issue. It just seems like a stretch by people who are generally against the merger. This has nothing to do with content discrimination and seems more like a standard business relationship complaint.

The other complaint is at least a bit more interesting -- but details are still lacking. Level 3 claims that Comast has told it that it will need to pay up to let Comcast subscribers access online movies offered by Level 3. I'm not familiar with Level 3's online movie offerings -- so if anyone has details, please let us know. Based on Level 3's statements alone (which are, obviously, one-sided), this certainly does sound like the original dream scenario of the telcos to charge content owners to reach customers -- effectively double charging everyone by pretending that their internet connections only reach halfway into the cloud, but to reach any other site, those sites should have to pay up too.

If this is true, and the details do line up, it's rather stunning (and incredibly braindead) that Comcast would make such a demand right now, just as the merger is close to approval. You would think that someone in management would recognize the sort of backlash such a demand would bring. Of course, again, I'm wondering if there are more details here. I wasn't aware of an online movie offering from Level 3, and I'm wondering if Level 3 was actually trying to do something more involved rather than just letting users access online content through existing connections. I'm sure the details will come out soon enough...

Update: And out come the details suggesting that Level 3 is exaggerating. Level 3, as suspected, does not offer a consumer online video offering, but is simply powering Netflix's video offering, and the discussion with Comcast was a standard peering discussion, which happens all the time when internet infrastructure players realize that one of their peers is delivering more traffic than it's taking. In other words, this looks like yet another case of claiming "net neutrality" when there's no actual net neutrality issue...
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Filed Under: content, net neutrality, video
Companies: comcast, level 3, zoom


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2010 @ 7:21pm

    Re:

    They don't need more money, they make far more than what it costs to run their networks and it keeps getting cheaper. What they should be doing (and all other ISPs for that matter) is actually provide us with a network that is actually competitive with the rest of the highly wired world. We, Americans, pay more money for less speed than most of the other developed nations. It's not just a matter of landmass either.

    They could provide us with a fast network across the country, but that would make their legacy services (phone and cable TV) obsolete and they know it. They make a killing selling those services because they're dirt cheap to maintain and they rake in gobs of cash from both sides. The phone companies are the same. They continue to use the obsolete copper wire networks to deliver phone service knowing full well that people with even a 5 Mbps connection can use VoIP applications to talk to people for free. We don't need cable or the antiquated phone services anymore, but they keep their internet offerings anemic in order to keep us dependent on them.

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