Level 3 is Still Trying to Make Hay

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on December 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Since November 30th, Level 3 has made five filings in the FCC’s Open Internet Proceeding in which it raised “net neutrality” concerns about the agreement it had previously reached to purchase connectivity from Comcast.  Yesterday, Level 3’s CEO sent another letter to the FCC and the Department of Justice in which he urged the FCC to consider regulating broadband Internet access providers generally to deal with its concerns. The fact that Level 3 did not file its latest letter in the Open Internet docket (such a filing would be prohibited under the FCC’s sunshine rules) may indicate that Level 3 has abandoned its frivolous net neutrality claims.

In any case, this is a pretty remarkable call for regulation of Internet interconnection arrangements that have worked remarkably well without regulation. To try to justify this unprecedented regulatory intervention, Level 3 says that, absent regulation, ISPs can “coerce payments from broadband backbone and independent content providers” thanks to their “dominant control over access to their subscriber’s eyes and ears.”

Wait a minute. Up until now, last-mile ISPs have mostly been buyers rather than sellers of Internet interconnection services. If you ask me, there’s not much crazier in business than buying something that you could, according to Level 3, be selling. Apparently, ISPs have run up billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses that, in fact, could have been revenue. I understand how the buy/build dilemma works, but buy/sell seems like a no-brainer.

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What Does it Mean to Be a “Peer?”

Posted by: Bob Quinn on December 10, 2010 at 2:09 pm

The blogosphere continues to churn over the Comcast-Level 3 kerfuffle.  Level 3 even saw fit to respond to this humble blogger in a press release (a comment on a blog, a response blog or even a to-the-point tart tweet I get, but a press release?).

According to Level 3, I “missed the point completely,” in suggesting that there may be some inconsistencies between what Level 3 is saying now about Comcast and what it said five years ago about Cogent.  Level 3 insists that this dispute, unlike its dispute with Cogent, is not “just a peering dispute.”  Now look, I’m a Cubs fan so obviously I miss on a lot of things, but on this…let’s take a closer look.

The way I understand what happened here was that Level 3 went to Comcast and asked Comcast to provision capacity to meet Level 3’s expected (doubled) traffic volume.  Comcast offered to provide some capacity but said that, if Level 3 needed more, it would have to pay for it.  Level 3 believes that Comcast should simply provision the capacity to exchange traffic with Level 3 at no charge.  Sounds an awful lot like a peering dispute to me.  And, it sounds a lot like the press release rationale Level 3 used in its dispute with Cogent five years ago.  And while Level 3 says now (and then to be fair) that traffic balance was one factor in a peering relationship, it was the ONLY factor they deemed fit to discuss in that release back in 2005. 

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NewsFlash: It’s Not Really Louder
Just Because it Goes to Eleven

Posted by: Bob Quinn on December 2, 2010 at 11:40 am

When I read earlier this week that Level 3 was trying to elevate its peering dispute with Comcast into some kind of a major net neutrality gaffe, I immediately typed into my search engine the names Cogent Communications and Level 3 to see if I hadn’t somehow slipped into an alternative universe over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  I was relieved to learn that I was merely back in Washington, D.C. where spin is both King and Queen.  Here is what I found:

Level 3’s Shifting Positions on Peering -

As a Backbone Provider in 2005, Level 3 Said:

There are a number of factors that determine whether a peering relationship is mutually beneficial. For example, Cogent was sending far more traffic to the Level 3 network than Level 3 was sending to Cogent’s network. It is important to keep in mind that traffic received by Level 3 in a peering relationship must be moved across Level 3′s network at considerable expense. Simply put, this means that, without paying, Cogent was using far more of Level 3′s network, far more of the time, than the reverse. Following our review, we decided that it was unfair for us to be subsidizing Cogent’s business.” Level 3 Press Release, Oct. 7, 2005

As a Content Delivery Network Operator in 2010, Level 3 Said:

“It is regrettable that Comcast has sought to portray this simply as a commercial disagreement or a peering dispute. They miss the point and are attempting to distract from the fundamental issue….The fundamental issue is not whether Comcast sends more traffic to Level 3 or whether Level 3 sends more traffic to Comcast. Both Level 3 and Comcast are responding to the requests of Comcast’s subscribers, who want to be free to see and use the full suite of content and applications that are available on the Internet today and in the future. Level 3 wants to assure that freedom is preserved.” Level 3 Press Release, November 29, 2010

Despite all the spin from Level 3 and political organizations like “Free Press,” and at the risk of contradicting one of my old Spinal Tap heroes Nigel Tufnel, I have to conclude that it’s not, in fact, louder just because it “goes to eleven”…this is just a peering dispute no matter how loudly Level 3 and Free Press shout “net neutrality violation.”

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