Internet giants Google, Facebook and Microsoft each secretly pay tens of millions of dollars to top broadband providers to ensure consumers avoid any Internet traffic congestion when accessing their content, according to a report published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.
Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Verizon are named as the broadband providers who receive the payments, though none of the companies mentioned in the story respond to the allegations. Netflix is named as a company that has avoided making the payments.
While the report makes clear that the alleged arrangement steers clear of network-neutrality laws by concentrating traffic-regulation efforts to the network connection between the Internet companies and the broadband providers instead of the “last mile” bandwidth to the consumer, the disclosure is likely to ignite renewed concerns over huge companies getting preferential treatment over smaller entities.
The network-neutrality issue was already starting to simmer again in recent days over claims that Netflix subscribers were experiencing slowdowns in service via Verizon, which just happens to be in a joint venture with Coinstar’s Redbox for a new rival subscription VOD service.
WSJ estimates that Comcast has received $25-30 million while TW Cable has received tens of millions from the companies. “These kinds of payments long have been shrouded in secrecy,” according to the newspaper.