Technology

Google Sides With Netflix In Battle With Comcast Over Interconnection Fees

| by Jared Keever

Google has entered the growing battle regarding content provider’s access to the networks of large Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon.

In a recent blog post, Google Fiber director of engineering, Jeffrey Burgan, says that content companies like Netflix should not have to pay money to the likes of Comcast for direct connection to its networks.

“We give companies like Netflix and Akamai free access to space and power in our facilities, and they provide their own content servers,” Burgan wrote Wednesday. “Since people usually only stream one video at a time, video traffic doesn’t bog down or change the way we manage our network in any meaningful way–so why not help enable it?”

Netflix reached a deal in February in which it agreed to pay Comcast for a more direct network connection in order to ensure reliable video streaming for customers. In broad terms, Comcast argued that this was necessary because the large amount of traffic from Netflix’s video streaming services can slow down their network. 

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When Comcast announced its $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable earlier this year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings openly opposed the change.  According to a story from the Washington Post, Hastings believes that the combined companies would be able to unfairly extract even more money from content providers.

"Comcast is already dominant enough to be able to capture unprecedented fees from transit providers and services as Netflix," Hastings wrote in a letter to shareholders. "The combined company would possess even more anti-competitive leverage to charge arbitrary interconnection tolls for access to their customers. For this reason, Netflix opposes this merger.”

A recent article from Wired magazine points out that Google and others are concerned about the same thing. Opponents to such direct-connection deals do not want to see ISP giants like Comcast become “gatekeepers” to the Internet — basically doling out preferred connections to the highest bidder.

But Google’s intentions may not be entirely altruistic. It is in the company’s best interest to join the fight against connection fees in order to protect its investment in YouTube, which, so far, has been immune to the additional charges.

Google Fiber is Google’s high speed Internet service product. It began as an experiment to showcase the potential for faster broadband speeds but is quickly turning into a legitimate contender in the ISP market. It originally launched in Kansas City, Kan., but Google is set to expand to Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah. It is also in negotiations with nine other cities.

Sources: Google Fiber Blog, Washington Post, Wired