Comcast, you give the web a bad name.
As if being the country's largest home Internet service provider wasn't enough to fill its cyber coffers, now Comcast wants to monopolize your entertainment options, too.
But how? By indirectly fixing its hegemonic death glare on your favorite movies-on-demand maven, Netflix.
Comcast isn't quite going toe-to-toe with Netflix. But Level 3 Communications, which partners with Netflix so you can watch those movies from your computer or iPhone, is being slapped with extra fees left and right when Netflix customers stream movies online.
In essence, Comcast wants to pocket a little bit of change when you bottleneck its bandwidth with entire seasons of Modern Family and Dexter. And it wants Level 3 to fork up the cash for the brunt of it.
We don't think that's very sportsmanlike of you, Comcast.
Net neutrality advocates are crying foul play, and want the white flag waved already. Under the proposed policy of net neutrality, sending an e-mail would effectively be the same as streaming a video online. Which means Comcast (and other ISPs) wouldn't be able to discriminate — or erect tollbooths — based on content type.
"This action by Comcast threatens the open Internet and is a clear abuse of the dominant control that Comcast exerts in broadband access," said Thomas Stortz, Level 3's chief legal officer. "With this action, Comcast is preventing competing content from ever being delivered to Comcast's subscribers at all, unless Comcast's unilaterally determined toll is paid."
If Comcast wins on the Netflix front, there may be no stopping the behemoth from flattening other video purveyors, like YouTube, iTunes, or Hulu. And gosh, what would we do without unlimited access to YouTube? Well, we might as well die, that's what.
Comcast may be one of the key gatekeepers to the web, but by golly, it isn't the only one. But it's a big one. And whatever happens here will set the precedent for the interactive interwebs as we know them.
Should Comcast have the right to censor what you see on a service you pay for? Or is the ISP simply trying to make a deserved buck on a functionality it provides for your pleasure?