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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 Exodite on 12/1/2010 11:25:40 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
So you believe in the notion that Government is more efficient than Private industry?

Not necessarily, no.

It's more a question of accountability. Governments are held accountable by the people they govern, which you perfectly illustrated yourself, while companies are only accountable to their shareholders.

If I wanted to efficiently make money, short-term, I'd definitely turn to private enterprise. If I wanted to assure the quality and accessibility of a particular service or set of goods however, I'd definitely turn to the government.

That's not to say that everything must be government-run, merely that a framework for regulation must be in place.

Private industry have no reason to be more efficient or develop better technologies unless it improves their bottom line. The governments job is to foster a climate, or dictate terms, that prevents monopolies, oligopolies, price-fixing conglomerates or every other trend that would allow the private industry to sit on their asses while increasing prices.

Earlier I mentioned that I found the fear of government regulation both sad and amusing. The amusing part being that the people who fear government involvement are so willing to believe that the private industry have our best interest at heart.

It's a combination of, not entirely unfounded, paranoia and childish naiveté that goes very poorly together.


RE: McCain
By Kurz on 12/1/2010 2:42:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's more a question of accountability. Governments are held accountable by the people they govern, which you perfectly illustrated yourself, while companies are only accountable to their shareholders.


Businesses are Accountable to everything from government Regulation, Customers, and Shareholders. They have to please everyone in order to have a successful business. They have more accountablity than the government.

quote:
If I wanted to efficiently make money, short-term, I'd definitely turn to private enterprise. If I wanted to assure the quality and accessibility of a particular service or set of goods however, I'd definitely turn to the government.


Actually I perfer Private enterprise since expectations constantly change and they get instant feedback from their customers to improve their service, become cheaper, more efficient.

quote:
Private industry have no reason to be more efficient or develop better technologies unless it improves their bottom line. The governments job is to foster a climate, or dictate terms, that prevents monopolies, oligopolies, price-fixing conglomerates or every other trend that would allow the private industry to sit on their asses while increasing prices.


Private industry always has a reason to become more efficient. The only time they don't have an incentive is when their marketshare is protected by the government.
More Efficiency means using less resources for the same output. So Businesses are always striving to be more efficient. You made a logical fallacy.

What If I told you most monopolies throughout history were protected in one way or the other by the government. Then when the government decidied it was politicaly sound to break it up they came in and did it. Alcoa is the only monopoly I can think of that was a natural monopoly. However, it was because the rest of the world hasn't perfected the process to make Aluminium. Though at the same time they had to compete against other products like steel. So they couldn't charge high prices since people can go for subsitutes, steel, copper, etc.

Private industry will go for whatever the people want.
If they don't have the people's interest in heart they wont get business its that simple.


RE: McCain
By Reclaimer77 on 12/1/10, Rating: -1
"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer














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