Comcast: It’s Just Peering, Not Net Neutrality

November 29th, 2010 by · 3 Comments

I just have to say it.  I TOLD YOU SO!  A year ago, I wrote an article entitled "Could Network Neutrality Lead to Peering Wars?".  And that's exactly what Comcast is doing.  In a response to Level 3's revelation that Comcast is adding a surcharge for video, Comcast says it's not about video but about fair peering relationships and traffic ratios.  With the growth of online video, Comcast claims that Level 3's traffic exchange with its network is unbalanced and hence it must charge more.  The threat therefore was to end the peering relationship.

So we must now look at this from the perspective of a peering conflict, but one clearly that derives from the network neutrality debate and the heavy shift in total internet traffic toward video.  Comcast feels it can't filter competing traffic and get away with it, nor can it can't charge its subscribers more for the bandwidth it sells them.  So instead it has gone to the other end of the pipe, the peering/transit connection to demand more money.  Technically, Comcast may be entirely correct - but it doesn't change the fact that the reason behind their move is that they feel threatened by over-the-top video and wish to make content providers pay one way or another.  In the end, this remains about the competitive threat from Netflix and others who make money leveraging dumb pipes that Comcast  and others like them want a bigger piece of.

When I wrote that earlier post, it met polarizing responses.  A few from the transit/peering side thought I was a total idiot, that network neutrality and peering had nothing to do with each other, and that the importance of traffic ratios in peering agreements would never be used in that way.  Others from the nextgen carriers with long experience dealing with the last mile thought I was right to expect the last mile providers to "try to extract their pound of flesh" as one executive put it.  And that's the thing, it's not whether peering is the correct forum for this, but rather whether it is the weakest point in the fence and therefore the best target.

The question is, when the disagreement is looked at from a peering relationship point of view, does that decrease the likelihood of the FCC's intervention?  I think maybe it does.

Another question is, what does this do to the transit/peering ecosystem?  Level 3 is a Tier 1 backbone, but just one of about a dozen.  Is Comcast going to be taking action against others as well?  Or does Level 3's entry into the CDN space itself just make its position as as a Tier 1 backbone less tenable?

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Categories: Government Regulations · Internet Backbones · Internet Traffic

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3 Comments So Far


  • carlk says:

    I would find this argument null and void-peering-based upon the fact that, Comcast’s network is in essence, its own WALLED GARDEN for captured subscribers, subscribers who are reaching out beyond their walls for more pleasing content not offered by Comcast, the ISP they are already paying handsome sums to always with the expectations that the world wide web(www) is at their fingertips.

    They can’t satisfy the needs of their subs with their limited footprint-excluding the in territory network they purchased from (3)-unless (3) hauls back to their subscriber base what they want to consume!

    In the mean time, (3) is spending all the money-success based capital with minimum contract commitments-to meet Comcast’s customer needs via the Netflix offering, a “VIDEO APP” to be sure.

    If I’m not going to begin to start accusing (3) of being part of an insidious plot along with other infrastructure owners, they better come out and tell owners who’s going to pay for this because the BEARS are already implying that (3) is going to be forced to EAT this as part of Netlfix’s margins! That better not be the case!

    The other thing is that the media is describing this gnat on the ass of an elephant with a paltry $1.7B market cap as an “INTERNET GIANT!” Comcast’s market cap is $57B comparatively, and let me not even broach upon Netflix or Akamai market caps, these other companies who are part of the same problem but not being embroiled in this mess!

    If Netflix is “The Giant,” please let them pay, and please let (3) owners know! imo

    Comcast, which had 16.7 million broadband customers as of Sept. 30, shot back, saying Level 3 was trying to get it to carry far more traffic than it sends to Level 3, an unfair trade.
    “What Level 3 wants is to pressure Comcast into accepting more than a twofold increase in the amount of traffic Level 3 delivers onto Comcast’s network — for free,” said Joe Waz, a senior vice president at Comcast. The terms being offered to Level 3 are the same ones presented to Level 3’s competitors, the cable company said.

    Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703945904575645251061168526.html#ixzz16jcPpwXi

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703945904575645251061168526.html?ru=yahoo&mod=yahoo_hs

  • cbemerine says:

    And it begins…

    Americans were promised Fiber back in the 1990s and the telco – Cable Co – Cellular – Wireline – Wireless Oligopoly received over $900 Billion since that time three ways: (Our tax money in grants/hand-outs; add’l taxes on bills – many are still on bills and add’l fees – again many still on bills two decades later.).

    Where’s the Fiber?

    So companies that wanted to maintain a failed tiering policy refusing to build out their infrastructure while claiming a fake scarcity bandwidth myth want to cry about their lack of planning? I think not.

    There are almost 30 locations in the USA where American consumers can get Fiber To Their Home (FTTH), here is the map: http://sn.im/1axal4

    After Google announces their five Go Big with a Gig Cities/Communities in 2011, there will be just over 30 communities in the USA where Americans can get decent bandwidth and true, honest broadband, finally.

    I would strongly suggest any American that has had their homes stolen by the banks/financial industry or those thinking about purchasing a home to seriously decide which communities might recover faster economically in the future.

    My bet is on one of the communities on this map: http://sn.im/1axal4

    Imagine Net Neutrality, minimum upstream bandwidth guarantees, bi-directional synchronous bandwidth, the ability and permission to run your own personal cloud server, mail server or other server, to own your own Fiber connection to the Internet or just un-throttled upstream bandwidth.

    You do not have to wait. You do not have to get involved in the latest Telco-Cable Co shouting match that just leaves you in the same old customer no-service position yet again.

    Move and be free!

    Would you pay $34.95 per month for 10Mb/10Mb (Wilson, NC); $28.95 per month for 10Mb/10Mb (Layfayette, LA) or how about $57.99 per month for 30Mb/30Mb (Chattanooga, TN)?

    That door you heard slamming and that car engine starting is your neighbor once he learns there is a place in America that has a bright future. There are communities working hard, laying Fiber, offering synchronous communication in order to encourage small businesses bring jobs for their citizens. What are you waiting for?

    Now does it really matter any more what any of the Cable companies do? Thought not.

    A final thought, should any provider be allowed to declare their product offering as “Broadband” if they throttle said bandwidth to below the FCC definition of 768Kbps upsteam? Well they are doing it. Run DD-WRT, OpenWRT or tomato firmware on a supported firewall/router and learn the truth of why your movies are sputtering, won’t load or stop. Why your music stops playing. You are paying for bandwidth, are you getting it?

    Even if you will not move, why are you paying Cable prices for below DSL bandwidth throughputs?

    WAKE UP!

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