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Comcast Defends Traffic Level In Face Of Level 3 Complaint

Comcast asserted in an FCC filing Tuesday that the exchange of broadband network traffic it sends out and receives as part of peering agreements with Internet backbone service providers is relatively equal, and where it isn't those fee-free agreements are adjusted, just as they were with Level 3.

That came in response to allegations by Level 3 that Comcast's recurring fees to deliver video to cable customers violated the FCC's open Internet access guidelines and was Comcast's attempt to "use its local access network dominance as leverage to force Level 3 to pay for traffic requested by Comcast customers that already pay Comcast for access to that same content."

Comcast counters that Level 3 was trying to avoid paying fees the cable company normally charges other providers. "As we have previously explained, and as confirmed by third party sources," said Comcast in a letter to the FCC Tuesday, "Comcast's backbone sends as much traffic out as it receives with our peer backbone networks...In fact, under our existing arrangement with Level 3, Comcast and Level 3 already have a roughly balanced on-net traffic exchange, which makes Level 3's claim particularly indefensible."

Comcast argues that now, Level 3, which struck a deal to deliver Netflix traffic, is sending it five times as much traffic as Comcast sends Level 3. "Capacity has a cost," Comcast pointed out in a blog posting on the issue, "it also requires proper planning and coordination."

Comcast says that in "almost all cases" of fee-free reciprocal agreements with other broadband services companies, the balance "does not approach that [5:1] level," and that across its 40 or so settlement-free peering arrangements, Comcast is actually sending more traffic than receiving in a third of those. It says that in only one of those 40 is the traffic out of balance to the extent that Level 3's is--with Level 3's recent addition of Netflix video downloading traffic--and that in that case Comcast has also informed them that a "settlement-free" peering arrangement is not acceptable, which means Comcast will have to start charging them, too.

"Level 3 wants discrimination - in its favor - in a manner that will undermine the well-settled and successful framework that has governed the exchange of traffic on the Internet, around the globe, for a decade," said Comcast. "Instead, we continue to ask that Level 3 work with Comcast to find a reasonable business solution to Level 3's self-inflicted business problem."

Comcast has said it is willing to negotiate with Level 3 to resolve the issue, which was being used by public interest groups both as ammunition for online access conditions on the Comcast/NBCU merger and for adopting network neutrality rules.