Blog Wars: Verizon, Level 3 Duke it Out

The war of words over net neutrality isn't just being fought at the FCC, where comments due last week overwhelmed the agency's electronic filing system. Level 3 Communications and Verizon execs have posted dueling blogs, in which each shows diagrams attempting to prove that the congestion issues surrounding Netflix traffic lie in the other's network. (See Net Neutrality Fight Peaks at FCC Deadline.)

In Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s Public Policy blog , David Young, VP, Verizon Federal Regulatory Affairs, uses green pipes (Verizon's) and red pipes (Netflix transit providers) to illustrate that the real congestion issue lies with Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) because the streaming video service did not make sure there was adequate capacity for its traffic to enter Verizon's network. (See Verizon Threatens to Sue Netflix and Netflix's Problem Is Its Transit Network – Report.)

Mark Taylor, VP of content and media at Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT), responds with what he calls Verizon's Accidental Mea Culpa , insisting that Young's charts actually show that the congestion issues happen at the interconnection point between the two networks and that by simply adding a few inexpensive 10-gig ports, Verizon could allow Netflix traffic to flow much more freely. (See Net Neutrality: Level 3 Sees Peering Progress Soon.)

Want to know more about content delivery networks? Check out our dedicated CDN content channel here on Light Reading.

What the dueling blogs actually show, at least to me, is that these two sides agree on the congestion problem -- the interconnection point between the Netflix transit networks and Verizon's access networks -- but disagree on the solution. Netflix and its transit network providers, Level 3 and Cogent Communications Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: CCOI), think Verizon should provide the additional access as part of a peering agreement. Verizon thinks Netflix should pay more because of the volume of traffic its transit network providers are handing off. (See CDNs & Net Neutrality: It's Complicated.)

Taylor points out that Level 3 doesn't have these congestion problems in Europe, where it connects with local carriers, and that Verizon doesn't have these congestion issues with services other than Netflix. That, he says, is proof that Verizon is deliberately messing with Netflix streaming video.

Verizon's Young points to the fact Netflix traffic represents one-third of all bandwidth consumption, but the company has made no arrangements to make sure this "massive" amount of traffic was delivered "through connections that can handle it" -- i.e., direct connections for which Netflix would pay. Verizon is now working aggressively to try to arrange such connections with Netflix, on behalf of its customers, he says.

Two blogs, two opinions, no answers. The FCC net neutrality ruling is not expected to address peering and interconnection - although the agency says it will do so separately. I think this war of words is likely to continue -- and consumers will not be any better off as a result. (See Net Neutrality Redux? FCC Probes Peering Problems.)

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

Carol Wilson 7/23/2014 | 11:24:05 AM
Re: Caught in the crossfire If Verizon FiOS users are getting download speeds measured in kilobits, they have every reason to complain to Verizon and insist on better performance.

If they've done that and Verizon basically says, "Sorry, not our problem, you are accessing content on another network," that's a significant issue that I think any FiOS user should be able to raise with a state regulator. 

It's also the kind of issue that the FCC should be addressing in its review of peering, so maybe it's worth sending information into the feds. 
Skydiver930 7/23/2014 | 11:06:15 AM
Caught in the crossfire At least three universities in my area use Cox Business fiber for internet, and Cox leases lines from Level 3 for these datalines.  Whenever students/faculty/staff using Verizon FIOS try to connect to these universities, their connections are throttled since the data is passing through the same interconnects as Netflix.  At night when Netflix viewing is extremely high, the transfer rates can drop below 20KB/s, and with all the dropped packets it can get to 4KB/s.  Regular web pages load very slowly, and viewing distance learning videos hosted on campus servers is abysmal.

Cox communications is the main rival broadband competitor to Verizon in this area, so Verizon is essentially punishing those customers/businesses/organizations who chose the competitor by throttling their data rates to FIOS users.  

jabailo 7/22/2014 | 9:49:13 PM
Re: Netflix's, or Amazon's Issue? Well, it's a symbiotic relationship.    Video streaming is now the single largest consumer of bandwidth.  This however, justifies the purchase of high end home services like 40 Mbps fiber.

So it all drives each other.   Netflix paying for rights ultimate serves it, because any competitor now too has to meet that barrier to entry to go after them.
danielcawrey 7/22/2014 | 6:01:42 PM
Re: Netflix's, or Amazon's Issue? I can see that with Netflix taking up a thrid of bandwidth just why ISP demanded payment from the company. I can now also understand why Netflix quietly has complied.

They are running a service that takes advantage of existing infrastructure. Sure, customers are paying for internet, but I think it is unlikely that the ISPs really like the idea of getting zero recompense for such a huge bandwidth hog. 
Carol Wilson 7/22/2014 | 5:13:01 PM
Re: huh? True that. Meanwhile, Netflix is also making a substantial profit - and should want to continue to do so by insuring it has adequate network capacity to deliver its service. 

Sorry, I don't see any "victims" in this other than the consumers. Lots of finger-pointing by the parties who could solve the problem. 

futurephil 7/22/2014 | 5:01:47 PM
huh? This company, Netflix, is creating and sustaining demand for Verizon's most profitable residential service, FiOS. 

Naturally, Verizon should be upset about this...
Carol Wilson 7/22/2014 | 1:47:45 PM
Re: Shouldn't This be easy for the FCC to resolve? Karl,

If it's that easy to resolve, I'd be surprised. For one reason, I don't think the two sides are disagreeing on what's happening, just on what the answer should be (i.e., who pays.) I don't think an FCC staffer with a notebook is going to resolve that. It's going to come down to the business models in play - where are the FCC rules for peering?

Netflix has definitely evolved the way it is delivering its streaming video, including offering to put its video servers at the local provider. So they see some value in getting away from the old model, in terms of being able to deliver better service to its customers. 


KBode 7/22/2014 | 1:41:26 PM
Shouldn't This be easy for the FCC to resolve? The FCC said they're investigating this, and I fell like this shouldn't take very long to resolve. Level3 claims Verizon's simply failing to provide enough capacity on their end of peering links intentionally to force direct interconnection by Netflix. Seems like it would take an FCC staffer with a notepad all of an hour to vist and confirm whether or not this is actually happening.
jabailo 7/22/2014 | 12:42:59 PM
Netflix's, or Amazon's Issue? Doesn't Netflix reside on Amazon's cloud?   So wouldn't it be up to Amazon to provie this infrastructure?
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