The New York Times published an article yesterday entitled, “F.C.C., in a Shift, Backs Fast Lanes for Web Traffic”. Pay careful attention to the ISP-friendly political marketing language being used.
This language was carefully constructed to sound like a positive, additive move: It’s building, not destroying or restricting. They want to offer faster service, not reduce the speed or priority of all existing traffic. Who could possibly be against that?
It’s already extremely expensive for companies to deliver content to end users as quickly as possible. Many companies elect to pay for content delivery networks, like Akamai or Amazon, to bring content closer to end users by mirroring data around the world in huge server arrays. Other companies — like Apple, Google, and Facebook — simply elect to build their own data centres. Now the FCC wants to mandate an additional implicit penalty on companies that cannot afford additional costs to ISPs.
For a content company such as Netflix, paying an ISP like Comcast for interconnection is not the same as paying for Internet transit. Transit networks like Level3, XO, Cogent and Tata perform two important services: (1) they carry traffic over long distances and (2) they provide access to every network on the global Internet. When Netflix connects directly to the Comcast network, Comcast is not providing either of the services typically provided by transit networks.
Comcast does not carry Netflix traffic over long distances. Netflix is itself shouldering the costs and performing the transport function for which it used to pay transit providers. Netflix connects to Comcast in locations all over the U.S., and has offered to connect in as many locations as Comcast desires. So Netflix is moving Netflix content long distances, not Comcast.
Comcast has a multiplicity of other agreements just like the one Netflix approached us to negotiate, and so has every other Internet service provider for the last two decades. And those agreements have not harmed consumers or increased costs for content providers – if anything, they have decreased the costs those providers would have paid to others.
Comcast has upped the ante by accusing Netflix of something extraordinary: The cable company says the video company sabotaged its own streams prior to the transit deal the two companies reached earlier this year.
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