Five US ISPs accused of holding the internet to ransom

Five US internet providers have been accused of "deliberately harming" the web experience for their customers, with claims that the companies are purposefully keeping things congested so as to extract cash from content providers. The US ISPs – described as "large Broadband consumer networks with a dominant or exclusive market share in their local market" – and one European ISP are not named by "internet middleman" Level 3, though the company has previously requested that the FCC look into AT&T's handling of networks.

Level 3 is one of a number of internet backbone providers, which collectively hook up businesses, individuals, and other services to the web as a whole. While the company has its own fiber network, it also hooks into other networks through peering agreements.

The complaint is around the nature of those interconnects, and specifically their capacity. In best practice, each side is responsible for upgrading its server hardware to deliver the necessary speeds – a 10Gbps port would cost $10-20k, Level 3's Mark Taylor suggests – in order to deliver a smooth experience for things like video streaming and timely webpage loads.

However, the behaviors of these six ISPs has led to a situation of "congestion that is permanent, has been in place for well over a year and where our peer refuses to augment capacity," Taylor writes.

"They are deliberately harming the service they deliver to their paying customers. They are not allowing us to fulfil the requests their customers make for content" Mark Taylor, Level 3

Instead, it's suggested, the ISPs hope to effectively extort content providers – like Netflix and Amazon Video – to subsidize their costs by paying to transfer data across their networks. It's the thorny topic of net neutrality again, something we've seen Netflix and others slam – in some cases calling out specific ISPs, as Netflix did with AT&T.

SOURCE Level 3