Network neutrality is a simple concept: ISPs shouldn’t play favorites with the content that goes over their parts of the Internet. It’s a concept that harks back to the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX) in 1991 when the first Internet carries agreed to share connections equally with each other. Although CIX is now largely forgotten, it’s what started the Internet on its way from a backwater for researchers and schools to the omnipresent network in which we live, work, and play today.
Now, Comcast, appears to be the first major ISP to break that old CIX rule of network neutrality. Level 3 Communications, one of Netflix’s content delivery network (CDN) partners has accused Comcast of charging Level 3 extra fees for carrying Netflix’s movies.
Thomas Stortz, Chief Legal Officer of Level 3, wrote that out of the blue “On November 19, 2010, Comcast informed Level 3 that, for the first time, it will demand a recurring fee from Level 3 to transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast’s customers who request such content. By taking this action, Comcast is 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. This action by Comcast threatens the open Internet and is a clear abuse of the dominant control that Comcast exerts in broadband access markets as the nation’s largest cable provider.”
Stortz added: “On November 22, after being informed by Comcast that its demand for payment was ‘take it or leave it,’ Level 3 agreed to the terms, under protest, in order to ensure customers did not experience any disruptions.”