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Time Warner Cable Target of First Net-Neutrality Complaint

Time Warner Cable has been accused of violating the FCC’s recently adopted net-neutrality rules in the first such complaint under the new regulations — charges the cable company dismissed as baseless.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission Monday, San Diego-based network provider and webcam operator Commercial Network Services said TW Cable was violating the FCC’s prohibitions against throttling Internet traffic and charging fees for prioritizing Internet traffic.

“TWC is acting as gatekeeper and degrading our ability to exercise free expression,” CNS CEO Barry Bahrami wrote in the letter, which the company described as an informal complaint. “TWC’s management policy is restricting the open exchange of Internet traffic.”

Bahrami continued, “By refusing to accept the freely available direct route to the edge-provider of the consumers’ choosing, TWC is unnecessarily increasing latency and congestion between the consumer and the edge provider by instead sending traffic through higher-latency and routinely congested transit routes.”

In a statement, Time Warner Cable said it was confident the FCC would reject CNS’s arguments.

“Time Warner Cable enters into settlement-free peering arrangements “with network operators that exchange large amounts of traffic at multiple locations and where there is a mutual exchange of value,” the company said. “Under TWC’s longstanding and industry-standard peering policy, Commercial Network Services does not qualify for settlement-free peering.” The MSO maintained that its interconnection practices are “not only ‘just and reasonable’ as required by the FCC, but consistent with the practices of all major ISPs and well-established industry standards.”

The National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. also weighed in on the CNS complaint. “This wholly predictable complaint confirms the harms created when the government intervenes in healthy markets and encourages disgruntled businesses to seek regulatory rents,” the trade group said in a statement. “We encourage the FCC to quickly reject this overt attempt to invite government rate regulation of a market that is robust, competitive and has flourished for decades without government interference.”

The dispute is similar to the charges Netflix had leveled against providers including Comcast and Verizon. The Internet streaming company alleged the ISPs were improperly demanding fees for gaining dedicated access to their networks. At the same time, Netflix reached interconnection deals with major ISPs. With respect to Comcast, Netflix said last fall that it begrudgingly “paid to improve performance for our mutual customers, a precedent that remains damaging for consumers (who ultimately pay higher costs) and for other innovative businesses (that can be held over the barrel by Comcast to do the same).”

Last month, Charter Communications announced plans to buy TW Cable in a deal worth about $79 billion. That came after Comcast abandoned its plans to acquire the U.S.’s second-biggest cable operator after regulators signaled they would seek to block that deal.

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