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Protesters of the FCC proposal for net neutrality worry about ISPs creating Internet fast lanes. The trouble began with Comcast – Netflix deal. But many activists and users worry about this near extortion being picked up by other broadband providers. Level 3 is a network operator that has reported six ISPs that are rejecting traffic. These ISPs are demanding more money or they will keep the traffic out of the Internet fast lane. Level 3 has asked the FCC to help.
Internet Fast Lanes Already in Effect
Level 3 hasn’t named names, but they say that there are six broadband providers that are throttling traffic. Forcing this traffic through narrow lanes is essentially the same as creating Internet fast lanes for others who pay. They say that operators like Level 3 have to pay or they won’t upgrade any peering connections. Level 3 complains that these ISPs are causing a lot of congestion by refusing to accept Internet traffic. The congestion is so bad that there’s a permanent traffic jam and packets are being dropped.
Level 3 is just one of the network operators and bandwidth providers that have been caught up in arguments over these fees. If they pay, their traffic will be sent to the Internet fast lane. But the sums that broadband providers are demanding from them are not even standardized. It seems more of a whim than a legitimate charge for necessary upgrades that create new Internet fast lanes. These operators do not think that should be paying ISPs for sending traffic as they have always done.
In February this year, there was a big dispute between Verizon and Cognet over these access charges. Cognet argued that they should not pay Verizon to take streaming traffic from Netflix. The dispute was a heated one because Verizon was causing Netflix streaming to slow to a crawl. Dave Schaeffer, Cognet’s CEO, said that Verizon was asking for an outrageous sum of money to route them to the Internet fast lane. If Cognet did not pay, Verizon would not upgrade the peering connections that would allow the Internet traffic to flow properly.
These connections are vital for streaming video to be transported to consumers. Cognet also had a similar argument with Comcast over Netflix traffic in 2010. Cognet ended up paying Comcast. But as this trend continues, network operators will not be able to stay afloat. If streaming services are forced to take on the fees, consumers will be left with the burden.
Internet Fast Lanes Disadvantage End Consumers
Internet and streaming service subscribers are the ones who suffer most from these Internet fast lane quarrels. The networks are so overcrowded that packets are being dropped all the time. This makes for a very poor streaming experience. Internet users should not bear the burden for these operator and ISP clashes. They pay for Internet and they pay for streaming services. Yet they are suffering because of this continuing fight over money.
Peering connections did not even involve money in the past. Every point-to-point connection was essentially an Internet fast lane. Both operators like Cognet and ISPs like Verizon benefited for maintaining the speeds. Cognet got paid by streaming services like Netflix to distribute their traffic. Verizon gets paid by consumers to access Netflix traffic. But ISPs argue that streaming traffic is far heavier than other types of traffic. This is their basis for making a distinction between Internet fast lanes and slow lanes. Streaming traffic automatically goes through slowly because it’s heavy. Without payment, it will never get upgraded to the Internet fast lane. What these ISPs are doing is almost extortion.
Streaming services are suffering as well. They already pay bandwidth providers like Cognet to deliver their content to their subscribers. But companies like Verizon are not allowing the traffic to pass over their networks. In a deal with Comcast, Netflix pays them to put them in the Internet fast lane. But in the end, the higher costs for Netflix will be passed on to subscribers. And again, users suffer. Either they give up streaming, endure impossibly slow connections, or they pay more to get the service they have always enjoyed in the past.