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Comcast forces Netflix partner to pay a ‘toll’ to deliver video

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An Internet service provider who competes with Netflix is now setting up a roadblock which could prevent consumers from streaming movies online.

Critics have compared Comcast’s recent demand that a Netflix partner pay a fee to deliver video over its network to extortion and blackmail.

Netflix partner Level 3 claims that on Nov. 19 Comcast demanded a reoccurring fee to “transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast’s customers who request such content.”

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“Level 3 agreed to the terms, under protest, in order to ensure customers did not experience any disruptions,” Thomas C. Stortz, chief legal officer for Level 3, said in a statement Monday.

Comcast has said that the disagreement was “a simple commercial dispute” and had nothing to do with network neutrality.

Net neutrality is a principle that asserts that Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast should not be able to place restrictions on content delivery. There are currently no regulations preventing ISPs from arbitrarily charging tolls or blocking content.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was expected to take up the issue at its December meeting but that may be delayed so that regulators can have time to approve the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal.

“With this action, Comcast demonstrates the risk of a ‘closed’ Internet, where a retail broadband Internet access provider decides whether and how their subscribers interact with content,” Stortz said.

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The FCC is considering forcing Comcast to allow open third-party video streaming but executives met with government officials last week to oppose such a move.

“In theory, without government action, Comcast could speed up streams of NBC programs and slow down streams of its rivals’ programs,” noted The New York Times‘ Brian Stelter.

NBC Universal indirectly competes with Netflix via its interest in Hulu, one of the largest video sites on the Internet. Comcast also has its own video on demand service which competes with Netflix.

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“This may be one of those teaching moments for consumers to understand what’s at stake,” Michael McGuire, a media analyst for Gartner told the Times.

“There is no law here. There are only guiding principles. FCC clarity on this kind of thing is going to be required,” McGuire said.

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The Comcast/NBC Universal merger is also seeing opposition in the Senate where Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has called for a Justice Department anti-trust investigation.

“The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission have yet to complete their review of the proposed Comcast and NBC Universal merger. And yet, by publicly announcing their intended managers of each component of NBC Universal, Comcast has effectively told employees at NBC Universal who their ‘real bosses’ are,” Franken said.

Additionally, the American Cable Association’s (ACA) has said the merger “will send monthly cable bills higher by billions of dollars over the next decade.”

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A study (.pdf) published by the ACA “concluded that the transaction will allow Comcast-NBCU to raise programming fees way above levels the two would be able to command as separate and independent companies, and that these fee increases will largely be passed through to subscribers in the form of higher subscription prices.”

“[T]he quantifiable consumer harm of the transaction ($2.566 billion) is more than 10 times greater than the quantifiable consumer benefit ($204 million) claimed by Comcast-NBCU.”


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Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan to give up royal titles — ‘the hardest #Megxit possible’

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Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan will give up their royal titles and public funding as part of a settlement with the Queen to start a new life away from the British monarchy.

The historic announcement from Buckingham Palace on Saturday follows more than a week of intense private talks aimed at managing the fallout of the globetrotting couple's shock resignation from front-line royal duties.

It means Queen Elizabeth II's grandson Harry and his American TV actress wife Meghan will stop using the titles "royal highness" -- the same fate that befell his late mother Princess Diana after her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996.

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GOP senator tells home-state press that impeachment trial must be ‘viewed as fair’: report

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Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke to local reporters on Saturday about her role in the upcoming Donald Trump impeachment trial.

Murkowski explained she would likely vote with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on an initial vote on whether to allow witnesses. However, she left the door open to voting for witnesses after House impeachment managers make their opening case.

"I don't know what more we need until I have been given the base case," she said. "We will have that opportunity to say 'yes' or 'no' ... and if we say 'yes,' the floor is open."

Overall, Murkowski said it was important for the trial to been viewed as fair.

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White House press secretary urged to do her job: ‘We don’t pay you to be a Twitter troll’

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White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham was blasted on Saturday over the confusion resulting from her refusal to hold daily press briefings.

CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy was alarmed that Grisham's assistant, Hogan Gidley, was forcing reporters to refer to his remarks as coming from a "sources close to the President's legal team."

Darcy noted that Trump had repeatedly questioned the veracity of unnamed sources, making it problematic for Gidley to demand to be quoted as such.

https://twitter.com/oliverdarcy/status/1218704788432572422

Grisham responded to the criticism and asked Darcy to "stop with the righteous indignation.

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