Net Neutrality: Comcast Blocking Netflix

Level 3 Communications, a central partner in the Netflix online movie service, accused Comcast on Monday of charging a new fee that puts Internet video companies at a competitive disadvantage. Level 3, which helps to deliver Netflix’s streaming movies, said Comcast had effectively erected a tollbooth that “threatens the open Internet,” and indicated that it would seek government intervention. Comcast quickly denied that the clash had anything to do with network neutrality, instead calling it “a simple commercial dispute.”

More at the link.

That’s what I get for only reading a summary: Level 3 agreed to pay, allowing access:

Three days later, under pressure from Comcast, “Level 3 agreed to the terms, under protest, in order to ensure customers did not experience any disruptions,” Mr. Stortz said.

Based on recent rumors it also sounds like Comcast is being a baby about fewer and fewer customers wanting to use their shit cable television services anymore, they’re starting to feel the heat and are trying to adapt accordingly. Leeches.

The bandwidth Comcast is complaining about are requests from Comcast’s customers? Comcast wants to charge the party responding to it’s customers requests more money?

They didn’t realize this was what the business would be like. They owned the previous distribution network, they’re owning this one, right – that means they’re entitled to control the content and the prices, just like last time!

It’s an interesting problem, especially for those of us who rely on Comcast for our high-speed Internet access. Where I live, there is no choice–it’s Comcast or dial-up. And so far, Comcast has actually been very good in terms of performance and reliability. We have the TV, phone, and 'Net package because it ended up being the best deal overall. We watch a LOT of Netflix, using the Xbox as our portal for viewing mostly TV shows from seasons we’ve missed, as well as movies. We also watch a lot of cable TV from Bravo and Food Network as well.

Of course, without Comcast we’d have no access to Netflix. Without Netflix we’d have much less interest in turning on the TV. Comcast alone doesn’t offer enough stuff we want to watch. Netflix can’t exist without an ISP to bring us the goods.

Neeener neeener net neutrality is some silly beardy hippie nerd idea! Look at the shiny colors!!!

The only solution to this is probably going to be municipal broadband. Expect big cable to lobby bans for that like they did in North Carolina (they’ve failed twice so far, I think they get it this time)

A possible alternative explanation here is that Level 3 are waving Net Nutrality and the threat of the FCC at Comcast in order to apply pressure during a perfectly routine commercial dispute. It’s normal (and IMO perfectly fair) that ISPs and CDNs pay transit charges for data as part of peering arrangements. Level 3 have themselves been willing to simply cut off other ISPs when they’ve decided that those ISPs have been abusing Level 3’s networks and wouldn’t pay the peering charges that Level 3 wanted.

If Comcast are targeting Netflix specifically that’s one thing. But Comcast’s claim is that they want to charge Level 3 the same rates they charge other networks for transit. Whether that’s true it’s hard to tell from here, but knee-jerk responses whenever someone waves the Net Neutrality flag might not be the correct ones.

Exactly. Net Neutrality is this wonderful PR magic wand that can be waved to generate publicity and outrage from those who don’t actually understand how the internet works. L3, who is far from a saintly organization, just waved it around and assumed (correctly) that the journalists covering this would be too technically ignorant of the real issues to see what’s going on.

Very well said.

That’s weird. I have comcast and netflix still works for me…

Because Level 3 agreed to the extortion.

And if this is simply a traffic issue then why were streaming movies specifically singled out?

They weren’t, at least not by Comcast. It was Level 3 that brought up streaming video when they started pointing the finger at Comcast and calling them poopyheads for not giving L3 free bandwidth increases.

No, not quite. As I said in the other thread, it’s a peering dispute.

Think of it like an ole’ boys’ club. Peering happens for-pay (I pay you for the traffic I send over your network), or, if you’re big and respected enough, you go into the backroom and give a secret-squirrel handshake and agree to peer with each other for free for the benefit of the Internet as a whole. Usually because it has some sidelong benefit (both of your networks are popular, and you’ll get a more competitive edge if you peer directly based on shorter routes, lower pings, less overall equipment transversal which can save money and avoid a potentially costly route through your own or someone else’s equipment, and improve your performance for your customers so you’re more competitive), or whatever. It’s almost never written down & formal for those types of deals. While common, it can be fickle, and who decides who pays and who decides to ride for free is usually pretty subjective.

I think it goes without saying that misunderstandings and disagreements will quickly turn very ugly. And if a high level provider like Level 3 even says the words ‘network neutrality’, a bazillion techblogs instantly go crazy, like we are seeing here with ‘OMG EXTORTION! NETFLIX KILLED BY COMCAST TO DEATH!’.

Could Level 3 turn this around and say, “Hey Comcast, it’s your customers who want our Netflix. Why don’t we charge YOU extra?”

Or throw up a message in front of Netflix movie, “Warning, you are on Comcast. They requested we not use so much bandwidth, so your experience will be lower quality.”

This is actually the same response I had. I’m not sure where the line for content neutrality needs to be drawn, but it’s entirely possible this is a routine negotiation cast in inflammatory terms.

This is my default assumption for anything even tangentially related to net neutrality. Since the idea was born, it’s been a solution in search of a problem, and there’s a terrible tendency for advocates to search far and wide for cherries to pick to prove the existence of an issue that needs to be addressed with a bunch of rules and regulations.

“Hi Netflix, we just signed a big deal with you to handle your traffic. However, because Comcast are big meanies and we’re a bunch of cheapskates, we’re not going to be able to pass your traffic to any of your customers who use Comcast. Hey, how about you tell your customers that we’re degrading their experience? That’ll help us in negotiating a peering deal!”

Without being privy to any of the inside details, I’m pretty sure it is.

Comcast and Level 3 have a peering agreement, where they pass traffic to each other for free. Level 3 just announced a big deal with Netflix, which will presumably result in them generating a lot more traffic. Comcast is now putting the screws to Level 3, telling them that they aren’t getting free peering any more.

I don’t know if this is Comcast playing hardball (“we have you over a barrel, pay up”), or them reacting to a legitimate change in the ratio of traffic going in/out of Level 3 (“we used to send you as much as you sent us, now you’re sending us 5x what we send you”). Either way, it sounds like ordinary business negotiations, not anticompetitive OMG-they’re-killing-the-Netflixez evilness.

I see this whole thing as two drunk assholes arguing in a bar. There’s no rational way to pick sides.