FCC Chairman: Comcast, Level 3 Dispute a Private Affair

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the agencys new Internet rules do no apply to Web-traffic peering disputes like the ongoing one between Comcast Corp. and Level 3 Communications.

During a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Genachowski said the Comcast-Level 3 dispute was a privatebusiness affair and explained that the agencys Net neutrality rules dont change anything with existing peering arrangements,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Level 3 has demanded that Comcast carry traffic from Level 3s network at no cost to a subset of Internet endpoints controlled by Comcast, according to a letter AT&T and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association submitted to Genachowski.

In the letter, AT&T and NTCA urged the FCC to clarify that its new rules contained in the Open Internet Order” dont cover Internet peering arrangements and other Internet backbone services in which communications providers like Comcast and Level 3 interconnect with one another and exchange Web traffic.  

But in a letter submitted to Genachowski, Level 3 asserted that the FCCs Open Internet Order would be quickly rendered meaningless” if it does not apply to backbone services. 

If a Dallas ISP has a local customer who requests online content, say a movie, from Level 3, Level 3 could deliver the movie to the ISP at a location in Dallas for transmittal to the customer. In this situation, it is clear that the Open Internet Order prohibits the Dallas ISP from charging for access to the local customer,” Level 3 Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer John Ryan stated in the letter. However, if the Dallas ISP refuses to accept the online content in Dallas, but rather requires Level 3 to deliver the movie to nearby Fort Worth, then, by AT&Ts and the NCTAs reasoning, the Dallas ISP is providing a backbone service” and can charge whatever amount the Dallas ISP chooses.”

In December, the FCC voted 3 to 2 to prohibit fixed broadband carriers like AT&T and Comcast from blocking lawful content or unreasonably discriminating on their networks. Mobile broadband providers are prohibited from blocking lawful websites or applications that compete with their voice or video telephone services. The order also requires fixed and mobile broadband carriers to make certain public disclosures in connection with their management practices, performance and commercial terms.

The rules, which haven’t gone into effect yet, cover broadband Internet access services that are sold to residential customers, small businesses and other end-user customers such as schools and libraries. Specialized services such as facilities-based voice over IP and IP television are not subject to the rules.

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