Just as FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is set to announce this week whether or not the agency will fulfill President Obama’s pledge to protect the open Internet and codify Net Neutrality, comes news that underscores just how critical this issue is.
According to the New York Times, Level 3 Communications, which helps deliver Netflix’s streaming movie service, accused Comcast of demanding a new fee that puts Internet video companies at a competitive disadvantage. Level 3 compared the new fee to an online tollbooth that penalizes consumers who choose to access movies and video programming through avenues other than traditional cable providers.
That means that Comcast customers who chose to stream video through Netflix will be charged a fee for a service that has traditionally been free of charge should they chose to watch video online. Comcast levied the fee with little ability for Netflix to do anything other than agree. The result would be an increase in Netflix fees an The option, according to reports, was that Comcast would block the streaming video entirely.
According to Thomas C. Stortz, chief legal officer for Level 3, Comcast’s actions “demonstrate the risk of a ‘closed’ Internet where a retail broadband Internet access provider decides whether and how their subscribers interact with content.”
While this is definitely bad news for consumers, it may be just what was necessary to get the FCC to act on the Net Neutrality issue. It certainly demonstrates immediate overreach by Comcast and there is no reason to think other cable providers won’t follow suit.
In the meantime, public interest groups have increased calls to the FCC to stop this type of abuse. You can join in those calls and help keep the Internet free and open to all.
photo courtesy of Mr. Thomas via Flickr