Netflix will pay Comcast to not throttle; this is why Net Neutrality matters




That didn't take long. It's almost as if both parties were somehow prepared for this.


TechDirt's take on this:


How does this affect my bittorrent speeds?

(oopsie... not meant as a reply)

PS: Streaming makes me sad. Those bits were in you computer and then you just threw them away like yesterday's newspaper. I'll just keep them thanks... my friends might want to check out my bits too! wink


From what I've read, this isn't precisely a net neutrality thing.

Comcast and other providers have long been complaining that traffic through their peering points has been weighted against them due to applications like Netflix, and refusing to upgrade those peering points to ease congestion. Peering agreements for these points are typically based around the idea that traffic in both directions will be close to equal so that both network providers benefit, letting them provide equal service to each other for free. If that traffic becomes greatly unbalanced one party often starts demanding the other start paying to offset the difference.

If Netflix is buying bandwidth directly from Comcast simply to get around congested peering points, then the system is acting as expected.


Precisely. This is why Network Neutrality matters, but not in the way that Xeni is implying. ISPs, network providers, and websites must be able to make deals like this, without interference from the FCC. This is competition in action - Netflix is working around Cogent to get good throughput to Comcast, and getting a better deal. If Cogent doesn't like it, they can lower their prices and compete. Contrary to the Techdirt article, this is pretty clearly lowering peering prices, not raising them, because it is in everyone's interest not to piss off their subscribers. If the FCC was in the middle of this, it would take forever, come with some kind of censorship strings attached, and lopsidedly favor whoever was more closely connected to the current government. We definitely don't need that, and we definitely could use more of this.


I don't think anyone's wanted the FCC to be in the middle of something like this. Net neutrality is based on preventing a party from treating traffic differently depending on who the endpoints are.

This situation appears to be about the peers treating the traffic the same, but not upgrading peering points that all the traffic passes through. That's hurting all the traffic that passes through those points equally, it's not throttling anyone in particular.

Sure, Netflix gets faster connections to Comcast users by paying Comcast in order to connect directly to their network... but that also eases traffic across Comcast's peering points, benefiting traffic for people who aren't directly connected to Comcast. Net Neutrality wouldn't factor into that picture.


All traffic will not be treated the same, because all traffic should not be treated the same. Data which can afford to be delayed, or which does not require an absolutely guaranteed minimum throughput rate for the duration of transmission, is easier to handle and should travel more cheaply.

If you insist on pushing realtime streaming data through the Internet, it's gonna cost more per byte than store-and-forward transmission, and more than pauses-up-to-three-minutes-and-no-throughput-guarantee traditional file transfers. Especially since there's now enough competition for those higher-priority slots to force build-out of network resources to handle higher peak load. Someone is going to have to pay for that, and in the end those costs are going to be carried by the consumer. And the only way that cost of basic traditional Internet service is going to remain viable is for tiered pricing to be put in place for those who are demanding more.

Quality, service, price. Pick any two.

As long as the tiers are clearly defined and available to all comers at the same prices, I'm not convinced tiered pricing is automatically a net neutrality issue. Yes, the folks who own and run (parts of) the network have an advantage in that they're buying from themselves at cost rather than at retail, but unless there is evidence that they're price-gouging on the retail level specifically to block access by their competetors I have trouble differentiating between that and any other efficiencies-of-scale effect.

We need to beware of monopolistic behavior, certainly. But I don't think tiered pricing for bandwidth automatically qualifies as such.


And how would they know, if they weren't overseeing and approving deals like this? In fact, controlling deals like this is exactly how "net neutrality" regulation would be implemented, among other methods. You can look to the Comcast/TWC merger for an example of how that works in other spaces.

Further, what does "treating traffic differently" actually mean? Comcast is certainly treating Netflix's traffic differently based on who it is coming from. Based on one interpretation of your definition, the FCC should block this deal, screwing consumers in the process. That's why it is imperative to keep the FCC out of the Internet.


More details about this not being a Net Neutrality issue at all:


That relies on a very tortured reading of "treating traffic differently". Comcast is selling direct bandwidth to Netflix in this case.. that's what ISPs do. They (reportedly) were not previously throttling Netflix bandwidth based on Netflix not paying them, and they (according to the statements) are not now giving Netflix preferential treatment now that Netflix is paying them. Netflix appears to have simply bought a more direct bandwidth connection to a network where some of their customers are.

The issue for Net Neutrailty would be if Comcast were throttling Netflix and offered to treat Netflix's traffic preferentially if they were paid without Netflix directly using Comcast as a provider. That would result in Comcast being able to demand that companies who are already paying other providers for traffic pay Comcast again for that same traffic.

Policing double-dipping like that would not require the FCC to be part of direct bandwidth deals like this.

I am of course heavily relying on the public statements about this deal for this. If Comcast actually is throttling specific traffic through their peering points rather than simply having congestion issues then that would change things, but I don't think there's evidence of that. Cogent has been having issues with congestion at their peering points lately, and it makes a lot of sense for a company that runs a network the size of Netflix to look at alternate routes to those other networks.


First of all, the very notion of Comcast having peering points where traffic is equal in both directions is nonsense. A consumer ISP is never, never going to send out as much traffic as it receives, so let's just disregard that notion entirely as a point of argument.

Second, I agree with the general notion that this isn't as big a deal as everyone is making it out to be, and not quite a neat net neutrality issue. In reality, it's a question of who Netflix is buying their pipe to consumers to. Before, it was Cogent, as a go-between to Comcast customers. Now it's Comcast themselves.

The dangerous path this puts us on is that it gives consumer ISPs no incentive whatsoever to upgrade their pipes at peering points to other providers like Cogent. If they keep doing things like this, guys like Cogent will go out of business, and Comcast will be able to jack up the price as needed because they're suddenly the only path to their customers.

So while I don't totally object to someone like Netflix paying Comcast for a more direct route to customers, regulators need to ensure that the playing field is even, and that there is viable competition for content providers to get their traffic to customers.


Maybe. Maybe not. The problem is that these agreements aren't transparent, so there's no way to judge. Require transparency on peering arrangements would push a lot of this into the sunlight, but I've little confidence in the FCC to do that.


I think we've all been burnt enough by similar deals in other domains that we can't help but see the handwriting on the wall even when there is none written there.

And the handwriting predicts that the ISP's will quadruple-dip:

  1. Charge content providers for bandwidth up.
  2. Charge consumers for bandwidth down.
  3. Charge content providers for access to the consumers, separately from bandwidth.
  4. Charge consumers for access to content providers, separately from bandwidth and from whatever they're paying the content providers.

And very likely wall off the garden anyway, just because they can.

Even if this deal isn't the start of it, it bears careful scrutiny, because we all know what's coming.


The problem is, that assumes that my ISP can reliably examine all of my traffic to determine its priority, and that's none of their goddamn business. The net really needs to be moving towards secure-by-default.

I'm reasonably confident that that was a straight-up lie, since we have multiple reports of Comcast+Netflix users getting much better results through an anonymizing VPN (which should make things slower if the bandwidth isn't throttled), and multiple reports of Netflix connection speeds miraculously improving for a minute or so every time the user visits to check their connection speed. One guy on Hacker News found that his Netflix problems vanished entirely when he wrote a script to ping every 30 seconds.

So, yeah, Comcast absolutely has been artificially throttling Netflix beyond other traffic and lying about it, and Netflix is absolutely bribing them to stop doing that.


Dan Rayburn from Streaming Media explains how this is nothing special


Bullpucky. This is exactly a net neutrality thing! I pay my ISP so that I can access internet product(s). The ISP has absolutely no right to limit the bandwidth, that I have already paid for, to a particular product just because it's popular. If the ISPs can't handle the traffic, then they shouldn't be advertising that they can. It's a classic case of double-dipping.

I'm extremely disappointed in Netflix


This is competition in action

I got a really good chuckle out of that. You're a hoot. Thanks for the laugh.


Sigh, I hate having to explain this over and over. The reason an anonymizing VPN can be helpful is because it can cause the traffic to come from another network, which can transit a different peering point into the Comcast network. A VPN helping is not evidence for or against throttling - it's meaningless, because the traffic does not follow the same path. Likewise with the ping test - traffic to one target could trigger a different dynamic route that may be less congested.


Dan Rayburn from Streaming Media explains how this is nothing special

Dan Rayburn is an apologist for Comcast, etc. - of course he thinks this is "nothing special".

He also says boneheaded things like, " ... I’m willing to bet that more than 50% of the time the poor QoS is due to the device, WiFi or local network issue inside the home. ... "

He says many things like this despite the fact that it's already been debunked and he's merely pulling percentages like that entirely out of his apologist ass. Everyone's local network doesn't take a shit around the same time... and while everyone else was trying to dig into the issue, he was busy trying to downplay it with BS.

He's more of an industry PR shill than a journalist.