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Comcast allegedly demanded more money from a high internet video provider, or threatened to disconnect its customers. The move marks a bold assault on net neutrality.  (Source: CFC Oklahoma)
Legislation may stop the "toll booth" practice, though

Comcast is no stranger to controversy, with a penchant for aggressive cost saving measures.  It ran afoul of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission when it began throttling users' traffic, such as torrents or peer-to-peer connections (with regard for their legality).

Now Comcast appears to have landed itself in another mess with Level 3 Communications' Chief Legal Officer, Thomas Stortz, accusing it of demanding money in order to continue to allow Comcast customers to access Level 3's high speed video.  In essence, if true, that would represent Comcast spitting in the face of the net neutrality movement, and making a bold move towards a "toll booth" web as Level 3 puts it.

Mr. Stortz writes:

On November 19, 2010, Comcast informed Level 3 that, for the first time, it will demand a recurring fee from Level 3 to transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast’s customers who request such content. By taking this action, 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.
On November 22, 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.
Level 3 operates one of several broadband backbone networks, which are part of the Internet and which independent providers of online content use to transmit movies, sports, games and other entertainment to consumers. When a Comcast customer requests such content, for example an online movie or game, Level 3 transmits the content to Comcast for delivery to consumers.
Level 3 believes Comcast’s current position violates the spirit and letter of the FCC’s proposed Internet Policy principles and other regulations and statutes, as well as Comcast’s previous public statements about favoring an open Internet.
While the network neutrality debate in Washington has focused on what actions a broadband access provider might take to filter, prioritize or manage content requested by its subscribers, Comcast’s decision goes well beyond this. 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. 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.
It is our hope that Comcast’s senior management, for whom we have great respect, will closely consider their position on this issue and adopt an approach that will better serve Comcast and Comcast’s customers.
While Comcast’s position is regrettable, Level 3 remains open and willing to work through these issues with Comcast. However, Level 3 does not seek any ‘special deals’ or arrangements not generally available to other Internet backbone companies.
Given Comcast’s currently stated position, we are approaching regulators and policy makers and asking them to take quick action to ensure that a fair, open and innovative Internet does not become a closed network controlled by a few institutions with dominant market power that have the means, motive and opportunity to economically discriminate between favored and disfavored content.

Comcast is America's largest cable internet provider, so if Level 3's claims are indeed legitimate, net neutrality advocates -- including corporations like Google -- should be very concerned.  After all, other cable providers will likely follow in Comcast's lead.

If Comcast indeed succeeds in this bid, it would likely mean that the cost of internet services for users would greatly increase.  Advertising would no longer be enough to sustain sites like YouTube or Facebook, and they would have to switch to subscription fees.

The U.S. Congress and the FCC are working on legislation to prevent this kind of "pay to play" practice.  The pending legislation has generally enjoyed bipartisan support, though it has a few vocal critics, including Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).



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RE: McCain
By namechamps on 11/30/2010 2:42:26 PM , Rating: 5
Your being scammed. US doesn't have much lower taxes we just get far less.

Now your marginal income tax rate might only be 25% but I bet most people have a state income tax too, and most also have a state sales tax. Of course lets not forget the hidden "FICA" tax which is actually 18% (your employer pays half don't think that doesn't affect your salary). You pay real estate taxes too either directly or via higher rent. Then you add on gas tax, telecom excise tax, duties & tariffs (like on sugar and corn to protect farmers in US), various fees that are essentially taxes in another name (storm water fee, DMV fee, gun license, pet license, etc.

Now 100% of those might not apply to you personally but the point is the US has a rather high level of OVERALL taxation. We simply get very little for it. It is essentially the cost of socialism without any benefit.

Of course we do have the largest military in the world (3x rest of worlds military spending combined), 45% of the worlds nuclear weapons to protect 2% of the worlds landmass (Russia has the other 50%, and entire rest of world has 5%), the largest corporate welfare system in the world, one of the most corrupt govt in the developed world, and a giant do nothing govt bureaucracy. Money well spent.. er maybe not?


RE: McCain
By Spivonious on 11/30/2010 4:01:25 PM , Rating: 2
FICA isn't a tax, it goes into your social security account, which is repaid to you in installments upon retirement. I'd love to see it made optional, but it's not a tax in the classic sense.

For me:
federal income tax: 25%
state income tax: 3%
county income tax: 1%
real estate tax: 4.8 mils, ~0.5%
sales tax: 6%

Far, far less than the top tax bracket of 56% in Sweden. And don't forget their 25% VAT on items, 12% VAT on food, 6% on transportation.

Sure they get lots of stuff free or discounted, but to say taxes in the U.S. are even in the same universe as Sweden is ridiculous.


RE: McCain
By Kurz on 12/1/2010 10:24:45 AM , Rating: 2
FICA is a tax when in actuality is a Pyramid Scheme.
It is only surviving because the Federal Reserve is fiancing its obligations.

Its not like a bank account it goes into a pool with all the rest of everyone's money. To pay for the current baby boomers.

The Privatation of social security is going to make sure its your money. And gives you the potiential retiree more say on your retirement.


RE: McCain
By Kurz on 12/1/2010 10:33:58 AM , Rating: 2
Actually... Ponzi Scheme is more accurate than Pyramid Scheme.


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