Level 3 Calls Out ISPs For 'Deliberately Slowing' Broadband Speeds
May 6, 2014

Level 3 Calls Out ISPs For ‘Deliberately Slowing’ Broadband Speeds

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

On Monday Internet backbone provider Level 3 called out a number of Internet Service Providers (ISP), which may include Comcast - accusing them of slowing net speeds. This is just the latest in a widely publicized "spat" that has been going on between the backbone provider and several large ISPs.

According to Level 3, which is one of a few companies that helps move traffic around the Internet, some ISPs are not willing to spend money on what it calls necessary networks that would ease congestion and potentially cut down on Internet buffers. At present Level 3 works with some 46,000 networks, which allow users to check email, watch streaming video, access data in the cloud and post to social media.

Level 3 this week called out several companies in a blog post, and noted that those ISPs are often located in markets without significant competition - suggesting that there is little incentive for the providers to spend money on upgrades.

"The Level 3 Internet Service consists of more than 10,000 Ethernet connections – getting bigger every month. The original invested capital in the Level 3 network was approximately $40 billion," Mark Taylor, vice president of content and media at Level 3, offered via a blog post. "Level 3 uses that network to sell Internet Services to tens of thousands of customers all around the world. But, despite the huge amount of infrastructure that we built and contribute, we are only one part of the global Internet. When we sell Internet Services, we have to make available every single route on the Internet to our customers – not just the routes we ourselves own. That means we have to provide access to all of the networks owned and operated by others, which right now means about 46,000 other networks – some of which also make use of Level 3's fiber and bandwidth services."

While Level 3 didn't actually name the ISPs it called out, media reports make it pretty clear which companies were included - as these ranked "dead last in the customer satisfaction across all industries in the United States," according to the 2013 American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Level 3's call out also comes just after the high profile deal between Comcast and streaming video service Netflix, where the ISP agreed to provide better service - at a cost - so that Netflix customers could expect better quality video.

ISPs have countered Netflix's claims that strong net neutrality rules could perhaps make such Inter-connection deals - also known as peering - all but obsolete. The ISPs have accused the streaming service of wanting better service while not being willing to pay for it.

Level 3 has been down this road before, and PC Magazine noted that three years ago, "Level 3 accused Comcast of violating the principles of net neutrality when it demanded that Level 3 pay a recurring fee for transmitting online movies and other content to Comcast customers. Comcast responded that the deal it offered Level 3 is the same it offers its other content delivery providers, and accused Level 3 of wanting to double the amount of traffic it delivers to Comcast's network, for free. The companies reached a deal by July 2013, but terms of the settlement were not released."

In addition, Level 3's sudden saber rattling comes as its business model has been evolving.

Infoworld reported on Tuesday, "Over the last several years, Level 3 has gone from being a mere network provider to a content delivery network akin to Akamai - and one that undercuts Comcast's own businesses… Level 3 has been evolving in this fashion for some time, getting into the game of caching and delivering video content for companies like Netflix."

As Comcast now has to carry more traffic from Level 3 to Comcast users, and is getting less revenue from its peerage and caching agreements, the two companies are now increasingly at odds -- and it is unlikely that this will end with mere saber rattling.