Comcast accused of internet abuse in latest net neutrality spat

The net neutrality debate has flared up once again, with arguments between cable operator Comcast and broadband backbone provider Level 3 over new fees for data transport. Level 3 has accused Comcast of charging extra for content delivered to Comcast subscribers from Level 3's customers, "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." However, Comcast argues that this isn't an open access issue, and is in fact Level 3 offering CDN (Content Delivery Network) services to its clients but refusing the pay the going rate for such data transport to Comcast.

"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. In other words, Level 3 wants to compete with other CDNs, but pass all the costs of that business onto Comcast and Comcast's customers, instead of Level 3 and its customers" Comcast statement

Level 3's stance is that Comcast is using its control over customer cable access to limit which companies can compete and unfairly drive up costs while holding them to ransom. Comcast was issued a C&D order by the FCC in April this year for throttling video bandwidth to better balance overall traffic for all users (a ruling which was overturned recently by a court of appeal); Level 3 is pushing for this incident to be seen in a similar light.

It seems Comcast would be happy if Level 3 started paying it the same as other CDN providers currently do, but of course Level 3 is reluctant to lose its price advantage over rivals. Meanwhile Comcast is apparently threatening that Level 3 must accept the terms or face a block on its traffic. The FCC is likely to vote on net neutrality later this month.