TWT - Comcast congestion

Richard A Steenbergen ras at
Tue Nov 30 22:59:25 CST 2010

On Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 07:53:25PM -0800, Leo Bicknell wrote:
> I'm not privy to the deal, but I will point out as reported it makes no
> sense, so there is something else going on here.  This is where both
> sids are hiding the real truth.  I suspect it's one of two scenarios:
> - Comcast demanded a lower price from Level 3, which Level 3 has spun
>   as paying Comcast a monthly fee.
> - Comcast said they would do settlment free peering with Level 3, in
>   addition to, or in place of transit.  Level 3 is spinning the cost
>   of turning this up as paying Comcast a fee.
> I suspect we'll not know what terms were offered for many years.

While obviously nobody is going to come out and officially acknowledge 
the exact terms on the NANOG mailing list, I'd say this is far too 
massive a leap of logic to make any kind of sense. Both Level 3 and 
Comcast seem to acknowledge that Comcast is asking for Level 3 to pay, 
is it really so hard to believe that this is the case? :)

> Yes and no.  First off, network neutrality is a vaguely defined term, 
> so I'm not going to use it.  Rather I'm going to say I think many 
> people agree there is a concept that when it comes to traffic between 
> providers there should be roughly similar terms for all players.  
> Comcast shouldn't give Netflix a sweetheart deal while making Youtube 
> pay through the nose.

Why shouldn't they? Charging different people different rates based on 
their willingness to pay is perfectly legal last I looked, and goes on 
in every industry. 

Personally I thought net neutrality was about not charging Netflix a 
special fee or else risk having their services "degraded" (in the same 
way that the mob makes sure "nothing bad happens" to your store :P), so 
they don't compete with an internal VOD service which doesn't get such 
fees applied. But obviously net neutrality is like "tier 1", you can 
apply any definition you'd like. :)

> > The funny part is that Level 3 was clearly ill prepared for the PR war, 
> > whereas Comcast, being the first mover (if not the first PR issuer), was 
> > well prepared.
> Really?  I just checked google news again, and the first statement I can
> find by either side was a Level 3 submission to business wire:

I believe that's what I said. To be perfectly clear, what I'm saying is:

* Comcast acted first by demanding fees
* Level 3 went public first by whining about it after they agreed to pay
* Comcast was well prepared to win the PR war, and had a large pile of 
  content that sounds good to the uninformed layperson ready to go.

> > The reality is that Level 3 offered Netflix a cut-throat price on CDN 
> > service to steal the business from Akamai, probably only made possible 
> > by the double dipping mentioned above. They were already in for a world 
> > of hurt based on their CDN infrastructure investment and the revenue 
> > they were able to extract from it, this certainly isn't going to help 
> > things. :)
> I feel you undercut your network neutrality argument right here, because
> you make an argument that this is just two competitive businesses trying
> to get a leg up on each other.  You can't have the fairness part of
> network neutrality and try and stab each other in the back at every
> step.

The net neutrality part comes from the fact that Level 3 can't just turn 
Comcast off for non-payment without risking massive impact to their 
customers. I'm pretty sure Level 3 is still allowed to charge people for 
transit services. If Comcast didn't want to buy from Level 3 they could 
have easily gone elsewhere, the part where the gov't steps in is when 
someone is abusing a monopoly/duopoly position.

> Neither Level 3 nor Comcast here are interested in the fairness of 
> network neutraility, or even interested in helping their customers. 
> They are interested in hurting their "competitors" and boosting their 
> own bottom line.

Probably true, but I'm sure someone somewhere (i.e. the consumers who 
have little to no choice in their home broadband) cares about the 
fairness just a little.

> I bet the cash spent on lawyers and lobbiests taking this to the FCC 
> on both sides could pay for enough backbone bandwidth and router ports 
> to make this problem go away on both sides many times over.  If they 
> really cared about the customers experience and good network 
> performance they would put away the press release swords, the various 
> VP and CxO's egos, and come up with a solution.

Do you really think Comcast cares about the $50k router ports (by their 
own accounts, though personally I'd suggest they get off the CRS-1 tippe 
if they actually wanted to save some money :P), or might they actually 
be more interested in establishing themselves as a new Tier 1? :)

At the end of the day both companies have made their share of mistakes, 
but I have a lot more respect for the ones who compete fairly and 
honestly, rather than by forcing people to use their services "or else".

Richard A Steenbergen <ras at>
GPG Key ID: 0xF8B12CBC (7535 7F59 8204 ED1F CC1C 53AF 4C41 5ECA F8B1 2CBC)

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