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The Internet Entertainment

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot 343

Posted by timothy
from the contortions-of-all-kinds dept.
lpress (707742) writes "At a recent conference, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts rationalized charging Netflix to deliver content by comparing Comcast to the Post Office, saying that Netflix pays to mail DVDs to its customers but now expects to be able to deliver the same content over the internet for free. He forgot to mention that the Post Office does not charge recipients for those DVDs. The underlying issue in this debate is who will invest in the Internet infrastructure that we badly need? Comcast has a disincentive to invest because, if things bog down, people will blame content providers like Netflix and the ISP will be able to charge the content provider for adequate service. If ISPs have insufficient incentive to invest in infrastructure, who will? Google? Telephone companies? Government (at all levels)? Premises owners?"
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Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31, 2014 @07:12PM (#47138541)

    That everyone has to pay for access to the Internet, including Netflix. They've already paid, but Comcast arbitrarily expects them to pay even more just because their own customers want to use Netflix, which makes zero fucking sense.

    • by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @07:33PM (#47138619) Homepage Journal

      What's more, his analogy actually supports Comcast NOT charging Netflix, rather than the other way around.
      Being a Canadian resident, if I want to send a letter to someone in Canada, I pay Canada Post to deliver it.
      If, on the other hand, I want to send a letter to someone in a different country, say, the USA, or England, I pay Canada Post to deliver it. I do not have to pay the United States Postal Service or Royal Mail to deliver my letter sent from Canada.

      In this analogy, countries and regional postal services are equivalent to ISPs. If I want to send a network packet (letter) to someone on a different ISP (in a different country), I pay my local ISP (postal service) to deliver it. Any ISP (country) beyond that is not my responsibility.

      • by westlake (615356) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @08:05PM (#47138767)

        I want to send a letter to someone in a different country, say, the USA, or England, I pay Canada Post to deliver it. I do not have to pay the United States Postal Service or Royal Mail to deliver my letter sent from Canada.

        Postal settlements for delivery abroad are made peer-to-peer.

        The Universal Postal Union (UPU, French: Union postale universelle) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that coordinates postal policies among member nations.

        In 1969, the UPU introduced a new system of payment where fees were payable between countries according to the difference in the total weight of mail between them. These fees were called terminal dues. Ultimately, this new system was fairer when traffic was heavier in one direction than the other. As a matter of example, in 2012, terminal dues for transit from China to the USA was 0.635 SDR/kg, or about 1 USD/kg.

        As this affected the cost of the delivery of periodicals, the UPU devised a new ''threshold'' system, which it later implemented in 1991. The system sets separate letter and periodical rates for countries which receive at least 150 tonnes of mail annually. For countries with less mail, the original flat rate is still maintained. The United States has negotiated a separate terminal dues formula with thirteen European countries that includes a rate per piece plus a rate per kilogram; it has a similar arrangement with Canada.

        Universal Postal Union [wikipedia.org]

      • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @08:46PM (#47138919) Homepage Journal

        What's more, his analogy actually supports Comcast NOT charging Netflix, rather than the other way around.

        Which in my case, i do. I pay Comcast a monthly 'delivery fee'. what is delivered is of no business to them, just like the post office.

        • by westlake (615356)

          Which in my case, i do. I pay Comcast a monthly 'delivery fee'. what is delivered is of no business to them, just like the post office.

          The post office may not care what is in the box but its charges are based on size and weight.

      • What's more, his analogy actually supports Comcast NOT charging Netflix, rather than the other way around.
        Being a Canadian resident, if I want to send a letter to someone in Canada, I pay Canada Post to deliver it.
        If, on the other hand, I want to send a letter to someone in a different country, say, the USA, or England, I pay Canada Post to deliver it. I do not have to pay the United States Postal Service or Royal Mail to deliver my letter sent from Canada.

        In this analogy, countries and regional postal services are equivalent to ISPs. If I want to send a network packet (letter) to someone on a different ISP (in a different country), I pay my local ISP (postal service) to deliver it. Any ISP (country) beyond that is not my responsibility.

        I made the same point back in March:

        http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

        • by laird (2705)

          Exactly. This is a dispute between "carriers", where Comcast wants to stop buying transit from its bandwidth providers, and instead get transit for free from Comcast. Comcast wants Netflix to either buy transit from bandwidth providers or pay Comcast for the transit; By analogy to the postal service, imagine that you wanted to send a letter to someone in the US, but not pay either Canada Post or the USPS for it.

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            You left out an important point. All those carriers are quite capable of mirroring the bulk of that content a instead of hassling with transit deliver a legal copy from their own servers (legal as in once licence in and one licence out). Netflix content is ideal for this as the bulk of the traffic is the same thing.

        • by s.petry (762400)
          I believe you, but here is the real issue. Do you think that money grubbers like the CEO of Comcast cares whether or not his plan to get even more big bonuses is based on truth, honesty, fairness, or common sense? Hell no! This is why they see no issues with buying up other providers to have a monopoly either.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dahamma (304068)

        His analogies are all around HORRIBLE. Another statement was that "since Netflix uses 30% of our bandwidth, maybe they should pay 30% of the costs".

        When Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO) responded "if we pay 30% of your costs, we should get 30% of your revenue" Comcast had no further comment...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bhcompy (1877290)
      Err, thier customers get to use Netflix already by having the internet. The problem was that Netflix didn't give a shit about some customers because they paid the lowest bidder to be their bandwidth host. When my company was worried about delivering video game services where latency is paramount, we asked ourselves which datacenters have connections to which backbones so that we can choose the appropriate one, because we cared about delivering our product to our customers with the lowest latency possible.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31, 2014 @08:24PM (#47138841)

        I think you have this wrong unless I'm not understanding correctly what you mean.

        If this was the case for you with your video game services then you already buying into some good data centers into the backbone and then later on some ISP's backbone link is congested they would then charge you extra to deliver your service to their customers even though you've already paid to be in the internet backbone in your data centers! It's ridiculous that any ISP thinks this is reasonable.
        I've paid for my bandwidth, the service (Netflix in this case/your video game service) has paid for their bandwidth now Comcast is double dipping because it knows it can since it has a monopoly.

        Have any ISP in any other country try this if there is competition I bet you they will not last long.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31, 2014 @08:46PM (#47138917)

        The problem was that Netflix didn't give a shit about some customers because they paid the lowest bidder to be their bandwidth host.

        Concern with network issues is why Netflix has offered CDN appliances at no cost for more than two years [netflix.com] to ISPs. Comcast chose to refuse Netflix's offer to colo within their own DCs on their own internal network, which would have reduced latency and bandwidth costs to nothing. I tend to believe that Comcast is more concerned with Netflix's effect on their own content offerings, and pushing the additional costs to Netflix has the additional benefit of making *them* take the PR hit for any price increases that result.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31, 2014 @08:52PM (#47138955)

        If that were true, then Comcast wouldn't have a complaint about network congestion - it wouldn't happen.

        Any congestion would only occur at the Netflix connection point. Thus, once again, Comcast doesn't have a problem.

        If the congestion occurs at the COMCAST connection to the backbone, then COMCAST has a problem. Not Netflix. If Comcast wants to service their customers, they need to upgrade THEIR connection to the backbone - not force Netflix to pay a bribe to Comcast to NOT IMPOSE CONGESTION. This is commonly known as "extortion".

        • by bhcompy (1877290) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @09:34PM (#47139065)
          Comcast is peering with Cogent, and that is the connection that is saturated. This is why people can VPN around the problem, as there are many routes into Cogent's and Comcast's networks and anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of internet routing understands that routes change depending on source.
      • by poptix (78287) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @08:58PM (#47138975) Homepage

        You're missing the fact that Netflix is in all of those data centers. The problem is that Comcast is intentionally degrading their peering in those data centers meet-me rooms in an attempt to get more direct customers.

        Furthermore, if you're large enough Netflix will actually supply servers that you can plug into your network to provide the top x percentile of content -- for free.

        This is purely a Comcast wants more money and hates video competition issue.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285)
      He forgot to mention that the Post Office does not charge recipients for those DVDs

      No, Netflix negotiates with the Post office for a fixed fee, and the customer pays that fee both ways. Do you live in a country were private firms magically get money to pay for services they provide, or do most people live in the real world where the customer pays for services provided?

      N>klcertain fee, and cannot negotiate outside of that construct. The courts have said so.

      However the Comcast is a private firm, so

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Saturday May 31, 2014 @09:20PM (#47139019) Homepage Journal

      Well it makes a bit of sense for the average ISP - their fees are based on presumed overcommit rates and it's possible to break those assumptions if everybody pumps enough traffic. Everybody is stuck on fixed-rate billing so the grandma doing webmail pays as much as the 10-meg-up-24x7 torrenter when the costs are way different. I even heard an ISP owner say that customers couldn't understand usage-based billing (these are people who pay electric bills). Insistence on fixed-rate billing will inevitably lead to bureaucrats central planning the Internet. If you put emotion before economics, you'll get exactly what you deserve. A libre Internet will eventually require per-packet billed routing (fractional shatoshi?) but if everybody insists on a gratis Internet they won't get the libre one.

      Comcast's anti-competitive bullshit is a red herring in the neutrality debate if you understand that what's really happening is that the overcommit gamble is starting to no longer pay off and they're mostly looking to soften that blow to their failing business model.

  • by Mr0bvious (968303) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @07:14PM (#47138547)

    This may be an absurd suggestion, but given that internet access is somewhat required to participate in society today, perhaps it's time to class internet access as a utility like water and electricity/gas.

    • by UPZ (947916) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @07:34PM (#47138625)
      Perhaps a more ideal solution would be for end-users to own the last mile of fiber (maybe as a municipality tax?). That way, ISPs could feed into a local hub.

      It would lower costs to entry significantly, allowing small start-ups to provide internet much in the same way that dial-up ISPs did.

      Also, I think that bringing competition in his way would take away a lot of power that Verizon/Comcast/[insert major cabelco/telco] have. In this situation, net neutrality is almost inevitable as a byproduct of end-user demand, regardless of which corrupt FCC chairman is in power. Net neutrality is almost certain to create more competition among major TV/news networks, which takes away power from the likes of CNN/FOX/Msnbc/CBS/etc who currently dictate the course of conversation in this otherwise great nation.
      • by schnell (163007)

        Perhaps a more ideal solution would be for end-users to own the last mile of fiber

        If it costs $2,000 to run the fiber from your neighborhood DSLAM-equivalent to your home NID - which in the US is a pretty common price - do you still think that would be worthwhile to you?

        As it is, Verizon et. al. are paying that cost now and you are paying for it in inflated monthly connection fees but not in direct upfront costs. If most households had to pay for that upfront but got lower monthly bills, how many do you think would accept? Would it be enough for telcos to have a critical mass of customer

    • That is not the issue.

      The issue is you do not have free speech like the mega telecoms do with a fleet of lawyers, lobbyists, and rolodexes of your supposedly representatives. Free speech is something that can buy a lot of things that you and I can not afford. Notice I did not say money or bribery.

      As long as we have a corrupt government we ARE FREAKING DOOMED.

      We have corn with pesticides from genetically engineered crops whose pollen cross contaminates everything which in high enough doses causes infertility

  • Just like water and power, internet needs regulation on a governmental level; a service utility provided at a fixed wholesale cost which the government
    takes its share to maintain a standard contention ratio that ISPs can retail their services on top of.

    Connectivity should not be left in the hands of corporations with shareholders to please.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31, 2014 @07:22PM (#47138575)

      It doesn't need regulation, it needs competition. Can't wait for an alternative to ditch fucking Comcast.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        Done right, regulation can increase competition.

        And while we all hate Comcast and want them to be gone, what about who takes their place? Who says they wont be any less abusive of their customers, and perhaps even worse? Don't blindly wish for 'change', as you might just get what you are asking for, and regret it.

      • It's true that you can't get it by waiting. The question is how can we create the conditions which would result in it happening.

  • Backbone.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by niftymitch (1625721) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @07:34PM (#47138623)

    We need backbone resources or other tricks...
    Mostly we need legal legislative backbone.

    The last mile is owned by local monopolies.
    That is the sad reality. These local monopolies are
    also content service providers and do what they to
    do feather their own nest.

    The congestion is the backbone owners and providers.
    Multiple issues dominate the congestion problems.
    Access, distance, hops and hubs.

    The likes of Netflix need to embrace one or more
    flavors of p2p networking. A local neighborhood
    can cache and redeliver most video frames from a
    modest cache with modern crypto tools to contain
    theft of service.

    I think the likes of Netflix would do well do develop
    an enhanced DOCSIS 3.x modem that also contains
    a p2p client/service that can recast content to other
    like service devices a hop or two away. It can also
    begin caching the top two products on a wish list.

    Proxy and p2p services are underused or vastly abused.

  • Sounds more like they're actively disincentivizing [arstechnica.com] other motivated parties from solving these problems for their respective communities.

  • I am pissed off. I am moving into a new apartment and my choices are centuryLink DSL which AT&T throttles or Comcast. If I go with Comcast I need to pay for cable TV with HBO tier to gain internet access for $99 a month. I do not even freaking own a TV??!@

    Now I am still downthrottled on top of that!

    • I am pissed off. I am moving into a new apartment and my choices are centuryLink DSL which AT&T throttles or Comcast. If I go with Comcast I need to pay for cable TV with HBO tier to gain internet access for $99 a month. I do not even freaking own a TV??!@

      Now I am still downthrottled on top of that!

      What if you got the DSL and a good VPN like PIA?

      Will they throttle it if they don't know what it is?

      Up until a month or 2 ago I would have said go with Comcast and get internet only. But now that they are intending to cap at 300 GB per month.... meh.

      What about a comcast business account? How much does that cost? Is it throttled?

      The good thing about comcast is that at the end of the day, it IS fast.

      • by Chas (5144)

        The problem with AT&T DSL is that, no matter what you pay for, most of the bandwidth is downstream. You upstream bandwidth is artificially limited to 768K (of which you'll see 512K MAX) regardless of service tier. Which is, frankly, pathetic.

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @08:21PM (#47138827)

    My Comcast bill is $57.99 for 10Mbps internet only. I just got a couple of "threat" letters saying that my "promotional" pricing is about to expire and I will pay even more for their lovely service. Never mind that my promotional pricing actually ended six months ago.

    They are already making money hand over fist off their customers. They should use that money to invest in their own infrastructure improvements.

    • by luther349 (645380)
      just call they will put you on another. you really only cost them around 10$ a month in real cost so the reps are more then happy to keep you on promos they still make money off you. just say you found a better deal elsewhere and are gonna switch they move fast then.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        You really missed the real cost. I worked for comcast and know what that cost is.

        IF he rents the cable modem from them, that is a $3.00 profit on top of the $2.50 that the 10Meg tier costs the company after factoring in costs of even maintaining the drop to his house.

        Yes $2.50 is what the TOTAL cost for each customer no matter what the bandwidth they use. Any tier above the lowest is nothing but pure profit.

        Granted these numbers are for a larger area like Detroit Metro and are from 2009. The profit marg

  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @08:40PM (#47138889)

    It seems obvious to me that pipe owner has an advantage when it comes to deal with what and how can transit.

    This can be solved by (1) regulation, (2) competition, and (3) public ownership of pipes, whether as personal property (in premise), associations, municipality, state or federal level

    I see people dismissing first and third solutions because government involvement should be inefficient, but that is just ideology. Public service can be efficient and economically sound. Regulation can work. It just depends how it is done.

  • But this has got out of hand, and the government should be stepping in and slapping these people down, hard.

    They are there to protect the consumer/citizen from abuse, and need to step up to the plate and start doing their job.

  • Well Comcast is raking in billions, so why cant they?

  • I don't know why people conflate it with net neutrality, internet etc. To me it looks like a simple case of truth in labeling, truth in advertisement laws.

    If a restaurant advertises all-you-can-eat buffet, it must be all-you-can-eat. It can't say, "oh! no! every one is eating steaks and no one is eating my wilted lettuce, so they steak vendor must pay me money!". Comcast promised a certain bandwidth and unlimited content. It should simply deliver it. Or it should change the terms and meter the connection

    • by laird (2705)

      The real dispute is between Netflix, Cogent and Comcast. What's really going on is that Comcast uses a very low quality bandwidth provider, Cogent. Cogent has the very bad habit of setting up peering arrangements with ISPs, then violating the terms of the agreements (which require Cogent to receive as much transit as it sends into the ISPs network, so they're helping each other out equally). Then the ISP either caps or shuts Cogent off for violating the peering agreement, and Cogent tries to use its custome

  • I call BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Comen (321331) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @09:27PM (#47139031)

    The fact they like to make it sound like they need to invest so badly in bandwidth is BS, only the last mile to the home is so expensive, and with them dropping all analog channel to the home that frees up lots of DOCIS bandwidth going forward so that should help allot. They do need to spend allot of money to drop SDV and go completely digital but they still put that off because they love to rebuild the whole network every couple years on the edge anyway.
    But all the backhaul and backbone fiber connections have been getting increasingly cheaper, most routers had a max interface speed of 10Gbit's, but with 100 Gbit interfaces becoming more common, and the fact that all DWDM optical gear are seeing jumps from 10 Gbit per lambda to 100Gbits per lambda by just swapping out some hardware that is not free but still utilize the same physical fiber but basically make it 10X more for a small upgrade cost.
    I am convinced they only cry about bandwidth costs because that is what they really sell now, and are afraid that its just going to keep getting cheaper and cheaper, which it is.

    • by luther349 (645380)
      it may be cheaper and cheaper but your bill wont rember they have contracts with your county that lock out all competition. the same for at@t if you went to dsl and normally those 2 tend to work together to totally shutdown a area from free market. look whats going on right now we are actually having a fight over weather or not they can block sites or content complete with them trying to pass a bill to essentially kill off the fcc in keeping them in check.
  • by Kaenneth (82978) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @10:05PM (#47139197) Homepage Journal

    The Postal Service also doesn't publish a lot of material it mails for itself.

    Comcast/Xfinity should be forced to separate from their content creation side. (NBC/Universal)

  • Would squeal like a stuck pig if the Post Office offered internet service. I'd much rather use the Post Office for internet service than his shitty company. The post office could charge half what they do for internet service and still make ONE BILLION DOLLARS. Just sayin.
  • Buy Comcast stock. Get 51% in customer hands and vote in a NEW fucking board of directors. Capitalism, free market, and democracy.

  • The hope is that in the future one can pay for content they want directly and don't have to buy bundles and packages.

    The old-school co's are doing everything they can to prevent this.

  • It seems the only way people in the US will ever get proper internet is from municipal broadband co-ops. We've made the mistake of granting monopolies to companies like comcast and cox and now we're paying the price in stifled innovation and increased costs.

    Surely there is some mechanism our society could use to prevent these parasites from suing to prevent municipal broadband networks, and let the cable companies compete on something other than monopoly power.

    • Mod parent up. Insightful. The USA suffer from thinking that everything and anything will be solved by "the markets", and hence are an übercapitalist type of hell. One with the infrastructure of a 3rd world country. There clearly is a role for government and local collectivities here.
  • The Internet worked on the assumption that a provider would be both a content source and sink. Comcast is just a sink. It doesn't have to worry about its behavior damaging its ability to distribute content on the Internet, as it has virtually none. Yes, I know that some people host on Comcast Business, but that accounts for a small percentage of the traffic flow.

  • by bjwest (14070) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @03:25AM (#47139905)
    Netflix should add a surcharge to it's subscribers on Comcast (or any other ISP that decides to put up a toll gate). $.75 - $1.00 a month should do the trick, just let the customer know why they're being charged extra, so they can take the issue up with Comcast.
  • by Rambo Tribble (1273454) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @10:06AM (#47141073) Homepage
    For some time MBA training has concentrated on offering the least while charging the most. Ethics, social responsibility, even just basic human decency have no ROI, so they've been thrown overboard. The goal is to control a market, then milk it for all it's worth. Part and parcel of that is letting QoS degrade while consistently undercutting your labor force. As the C-whatever, you make your quaterly bonuses, the shareholders are delighted, and the company gradually degrades until it is a mere shell. Of course, you've moved on and the collapsing hulk you left behind is someone else's problem. Then it's time for the government bailout. Welcome to the modern business model.

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