Network operator, Level 3, claims ISPs are dropping packets over money disputes

Level 3 is a network operator for some of the largest broadband networks. Last year TelecomsTech spoke to the company’s Director of Cloud services about infrastructure and in particular how it has a huge impact on gaming services…

The company has a range of products to ensure services are reliable and so gamers are not placed at a disadvantage up to competitors due to “lag” which causes a delay in-game. One of the reasons for this is “dropped packets” which Level 3 has claimed today ISPs are doing over money disputes.

In a blog post, Level 3’s VP Mark Taylor wrote:

“A port that is on average utilized at 90 percent will be saturated, dropping packets, for several hours a day. We have congested ports saturated to those levels with 12 of our 51 peers. Six of those 12 have a single congested port, and we are both (Level 3 and our peer) in the process of making upgrades—this is business as usual and happens occasionally as traffic swings around the Internet as customers change providers.

That leaves the remaining six peers with congestion on almost all of the interconnect ports between us. Congestion that is permanent has been in place for well over a year and where our peer refuses to augment capacity. They are deliberately harming the service they deliver to their paying customers. They are not allowing us to fulfil the requests their customers make for content.

Five of those congested peers are in the United States and one is in Europe. There are none in any other part of the world. All six are large Broadband consumer networks with a dominant or exclusive market share in their local market. In countries or markets where consumers have multiple Broadband choices (like the UK) there are no congested peers.”

It is thought the refusal to augment capacity is due to the ongoing debate over whether network operators such as Level 3 and Cogent should cough up money for “arbitrary access charges” in exchange for accepting internet traffic. ISPs such as AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable have also been going after high-traffic services including Netflix and YouTube directly.

Level 3 agreed to pay Comcast after a dispute over Netflix in late 2010. Level 3 accused Comcast of making content companies unable to reach customers via Tier 1 networks unless they pay each ISP an additional fee for access. Most ISPs offer their own content services which avoid the fees and therefore can hurt what the competition are able to offer.

Although Netflix is now paying Comcast and Verizon for direct connections to their networks, Level 3 still carries “some Netflix traffic”.

It’s the same situation in Europe. In January 2011, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, and Telefónica commission a report saying companies like Netflix and Google’s YouTube service should give ISPs a lot more money. Cogent, another Internet backbone provider that handles Netflix traffic, filed a complaint in France against Orange in August 2011 saying the ISP is providing inadequate connection speeds.

You can see the tit-for-tat situation which is harming broadband users. Level 3 and Cogent have asked the FCC to protect the company from the charges ISPs want for exchanging internet traffic – but the Federal Communications Commission’s first attempt to create net neutrality rules was struck down in court after a challenge by Verizon.

The rules would have prevented discrimination, blocking, and pay-for-play charges on the “last mile” of broadband networks and ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T would have had to treat Web services equally once traffic entered their networks and started making its way to residential and business customers.

ISPs say the traffic loads are too heavy. Tier 1 networks and content companies argue that ISPs are abusing their market power. Which side do you believe? Let us know in the comments.

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