Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Comcast Attacks Net Neutrality Again; Now Demands Fees For Web Movie Viewing; Ransoms Subscribers

Grant Gross, of IDG News, reports that Comcast has demanded a recurring fee from broadband backbone provider Level 3 Communications to deliver video to Comcast customers, Level 3 said Monday.
Comcast said it would cut off its own customers' access to the movies and other Web traffic unless Level 3 paid the fee, Level 3 said in a press release.
     The Comcast decision violates network neutrality principles that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved in 2005, Level 3 said. Comcast successfully challenged the FCC's enforcement of the net neutrality principles when, earlier this year, a U.S. appeals court threw out its ruling against the broadband provider slowing peer-to-peer traffic on its network.
     It's unclear why Comcast would seek to charge Level 3 for the activities of its own broadband customers. Level 3 announced Nov. 11 that it would be the primary delivery partner for streaming video service from Netflix.
     Comcast informed Level 3 on Nov. 19 that it would begin charging the backbone provider for transmitting online movies and other content to Comcast customers, Thomas Stortz, Level 3's chief legal officer, said in a statement.
     A week ago, "after being informed by Comcast that its demand for payment was 'take it or leave it,' Level 3 agreed to the terms, under protest, in order to ensure customers did not experience any disruptions," Stortz said in the statement.
     ...Comcast's efforts to collect recurring fees from Level 3 go "well beyond" filtering or prioritizing Web traffic, Stortz said. "With this action, Comcast is preventing competing content from ever being delivered to Comcast's subscribers at all, unless Comcast's unilaterally determined toll is paid -- even though Comcast's subscribers requested the content," he said. "With this action, Comcast demonstrates the risk of a 'closed' Internet, where a retail broadband Internet access provider decides whether and how their subscribers interact with content."

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