Comcast released an explanation of Internet peering today as a subtle defense to the fees it recently imposed on Level 3 Communications. Comcast’s explanation of Internet peering focuses on the fact that the various large networks of which the Internet is composed generally have pre-established peering policies that hinge on fair and equal exchanges of traffic. When the exchange of traffic becomes unbalanced between networks, the networks reach a “settlement” (e.g. payment) similar to that which Comcast has levied on Level 3.
The problem with this explanation is that Comcast and Level 3 operate very different types of networks. Comcast’s network services end users of the Internet, such as small business and home users. These types of users are content consumers, thus they generally require much more downward bandwidth than upward bandwidth. This is why ISP’s asymmetrically structure the bandwidth of their Internet products and heavily weight them towards down-link bandwidth. The Level 3 network, which is generally considered a Tier 1 network and part of the Internet’s “backbone”, connects the sites that generate large amounts of high-bandwidth content to the networks like Comcast and other ISP’s.
This is why its unreasonable for Comcast to argue that the imbalance in traffic between the two networks is somehow billable. Comcast sells its users various connectivity speeds coupled with a 250GB monthly data cap. If its customers are demanding content within the bounds of their service agreement, Comcast has no right to discriminate against the types or volumes of traffic that traverse its network en route to its customers.