updated 02:35 pm EST, Fri December 17, 2010
Level 3 says FCC must limit Comcast-NBC
Level 3 has tried to bring the FCC more directly into its net neutrality dispute with Comcast with a letter sent later on Thursday. The message to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and the Department of Justice's Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney to impose conditions on the proposed Comcast-NBC merger to keep it fair. Comcast's insistence on higher rates for Level 3 to reach its network "adversely changes the nature of the Internet" and, buy implication, might get worse if it owned a TV network.
Officials had to institute a rule requiring "nondiscriminatory, fair and reasonable" rates for connecting to Comcast, Level 3 wrote. Comcast has insisted that the dispute was always just about peering and that Level 3 was trying to get its new Netflix traffic through Comcast at no extra cost. Its opponent has countered that Comcast was only trying to gain more control and use the necessity of a deal to charge more.
The FCC had already been looking into the argument since shortly after it erupted late in November and may already be inclined to side with at least some of Level 3's demands. FCC officials have reportedly been nearing a draft of an approval that could be circulated on Monday but which would apply unspecified conditions. Most of suspected terms would prevent Comcast from withholding TV shows or other content from cable competitors like iTunes as well as making sure they get equal rates.
Comcast's Xfinity TV online services have often been used as an example of the problems that might arise from an unconditional approval; it provides full access to those who subscribe to a cable TV package and could theoretically ban access to NBC shows online, or require separate rates, for anyone that wasn't one of its subscribers. [via Wall Street Journal]