You’ve probably heard about the recent peering dispute between Level-3 and Comcast ... and might have enjoyed the frenzy with which the blogging pundits have followed the false net neutrality scent left by Level-3 spin doctors.
Facts first: Level-3 is trying to dump huge amount of data into Comcast’s network for free.
Follow the money: Comcast will eventually have to upgrade the network to carry the additional data. It cannot charge the end-users (or people will start screaming about net neutrality). Giving the users their fair share of bandwidth could be a problem - either due to outdated DOCSIS equipment or because Netflix streaming simply wouldn’t work on reduced amount of bandwidth ... raising new cries about violations of net neutrality.
I never understood how giving an end user a fair share of the core/access bandwidth is not neutral when the fair share happens to be too small to support the user’s application.
To support massive Netflix deployment, Comcast’s network would have to be upgraded. The party causing the massive increase in traffic (Level-3) is playing dumb and wants to get a free lunch. Comcast is trying to squeeze some money out of them. Business as usual.
Is anyone innocent? I doubt. However, the motives of Level-3 (and its tactics) are obvious for everyone to see (unless, of course, you hysterically fall into the neutrality lure). Comcast might prefer not to have Netflix on its network, but as long as Comcast doesn’t block or interfere with Netflix traffic, there’s no reasonable argument that it’s violating any rules.
What probably happened? Level 3 offered Netflix a better deal than their existing CDN partner and tried to push all the costs over to Comcast.
Why am I interested in this? It’s a perfect example of the discrepancies (and failing business models) in today’s Internet that cause most of the problems I’m describing in the Upcoming Internet Challenges webinar (register here).
More information (thanks to my Twitter friends):
- Great Net Neutrality Pearltree made by Mike Fratto
- Understanding the Level 3-Comcast spat (FAQ) – a fantastic, pretty accurate and easy-to-understand summary.
- How Comcast became a toll-collecting, nuke-wielding hydra – slightly biased as expected from ars technica (but then I’m known to be biased in the opposite direction), but still very valid.
- The Comcast side of the story (added 2010-12-02 17:25 GMT)