The same day that modem manufacturer Zoom Electronics alleged that Comcast was violating net neutrality principles, a second company, Level 3 -- which earlier this month was named primary backbone Internet service provider for Netflix -- also accused the cable giant of acting contrary to open Internet standards.
Level 3 said on Monday that it was recently informed by Comcast of a new fee to transmit online movies to subscribers. "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," Level 3 said in a statement. "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."
News of the allegations spurred consumer advocates to renew calls for net neutrality regulations, and also to reiterate warnings that Comcast's pending merger with NBC Universal could prove anticompetitive. "On its face, this is the sort of toll booth between residential subscribers and the content of their choice that a Net Neutrality rule is supposed to prohibit," Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld said in a statement. "In addition, this is exactly the sort of anticompetitive harm that opponents of Comcast's merger with NBC-Universal have warned would happen -- that Comcast would leverage its network to harm distribution of competitive video services, while raising prices on its own customers."
Comcast's public policy counsel Joe Waz called Level 3's position "duplicitious" in a blog post. "Comcast has long established and mutually acceptable commercial arrangements with Level 3's Content Delivery Network (CDN) competitors in delivering the same types of traffic to our customers," Wax said, adding that Comcast had offered service to Level 3 on the same terms as to its rivals.
"Level 3 is trying to gain an unfair business advantage over its CDN competitors by claiming it's entitled to be treated differently and trying to force Comcast to give Level 3 unlimited and highly imbalanced traffic and shift all the cost onto Comcast and its customers," Waz said. --Wendy Davis