Public Knowledge 'Concerned' About Comcast/Netflix Peering Deal

Public Knowledge Sunday raised a red, or at least a yellow, flag over Comcast's just-announced interconnection agreement with Netflix to provide direct access to the network.

Comcast said in announcing the deal that Netflix had not received preferential treatment. 

John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, suggested the "opacity" of such paid peering negotiations, was cause for concern.

"From what information is public, it appears that the largest ISPs are demanding payment from networks that deliver content and services that residential broadband consumers demand. Because the large residential ISPs themselves are the ones keeping the terms of their deals secret, it raises the question of whether they have something to hide," said Bergmayer.

He also invoked the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger  and said "one way to prevent competitive problems from arising, and to reduce the need for future regulation, is to prevent ISPs from holding other networks hostage."

Peering agreements are not covered by the FCC's network neutrality rules, which Comcast is still subject to despite a federal court's decision to vacate the FCC's antidiscrimination and anti-blocking rules. Bergmayer is clearly suggesting the government could deal with interconnection issues via its review of that deal, which would unite the number one and number two cable operators.

"We call on the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Justice, and interested members of Congress to ensure that the broadband market continues to meet the needs of its users, and allows companies like Netflix (and the next Netflix) to offer the services that users have demonstrated they want."