Level 3 Communications Issues Statement Concerning Comcast'sActions

George Bonser gbonser at seven.com
Mon Nov 29 17:42:45 CST 2010

> From: Rettke, Brian 
> Sent: Monday, November 29, 2010 2:41 PM
> To: Patrick W. Gilmore; NANOG list
> Subject: RE: Level 3 Communications Issues Statement Concerning
> Comcast'sActions
> Essentially, the question is who has to pay for the infrastructure to
> support the bandwidth requirements of all of these new and booming
> streaming ventures. 

>From a cultural standpoint, we in the US are used to a model where the
sender pays the postage for unsolicited content and the requestor pays
the shipping for requested content.  So asking an ad network to pay
Comcast for shipping their ads is valid but in a request where the end
user specifically asked for a movie, the user should be expected to pay
for that.  What Comcast appears to be doing is subsidizing "flat rate"
customer rates by charging the providers "metered" access (assuming the
fee charged the provider isn't also a "flat rate").  If so, that really
isn't fair because:

1.  The provider has no control over the size of or number of requests
that are made.  The provider is essentially agreeing to an unknown
quantity in advance.
2.  There is no way to ensure that a request is legitimate and not a
request generated simply to generate revenue (sort of like click fraud
... stream fraud).
3.  It opens the provider up to a "denial of sustainability" attack
where a bot net requests many copies of various streams, sends them to
the equivalent of /dev/null and the provider is presented with a huge
4.  The only way a provider could mitigate increases in fees is to meter
access causing a sub-optimal user experience.

Shouldn't Level3 turn around and charge Comcast for distributing
NBC/Universal content?

The whole thing is like a movie theater charging the studios to show
movies while selling tickets to the public to watch them.  Actualy, it
is like Universal opening their own movie theaters and charging
competing studios to show their movies while still charging the public
to see them.  Comcast is simply imposing a tariff on competing content.
If I were level3, I would have denied the request. Customers on Comcast
would then discover they have sub-optimal Internet service and gone to a
competitor (AT&T Uverse or Verizon FIOS, for example).
As owner of NBC Universal, Comcast is a producer as well as a
distributor of content.  That puts them in direct competition with other
producers regardless of the distributor.  Level3 should deny the request
and Comcast users will have "Internet" access instead of Internet
access.  Comcast doesn't have the captive audience they once had in many
places and when customers discover their choices are limited when they
choose Comcast, they will go elsewhere.  

I hope Level3's acquiescence is temporary or the FTC puts a stop to it.
It is sort of like FedEx owning the freeway and charging UPS to use it.

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