Five major internet service providers in the US and one in Europe have been accused of abusing their market share to interfere with the flow of the internet for end users. The accusations come from Level 3, a communications company that helps connect large-scale ISPs like Comcast or AT&T to the rest of the internet. According to the company, these six unnamed ISPs are deliberately degrading the quality of internet services using the Level 3 network, in an attempt to get Level 3 to pay them a fee for additional traffic caused by services like Netflix, a process known as paid peering.

"They are not allowing us to fulfill the requests their customers make for content."

"They are deliberately harming the service they deliver to their paying customers," writes Level 3's Mark Taylor. "They are not allowing us to fulfill the requests their customers make for content." While Taylor doesn't name names, he describes the six offenders as "large broadband consumer networks with a dominant or exclusive market share in their local market." He adds that "in countries or markets where consumers have multiple broadband choices (like the UK) there are no congested peers." He also says that Level 3 won't be paying up. "Our policy is to refuse to pay arbitrary charges to add interconnection capacity," he explains.

The situation recalls recent claims by Netflix that Comcast is intentionally throttling traffic with intermediaries like Level 3 and Cogent, a problem that Netflix says ultimately led it to start signing direct traffic deals — Comcast and Verizon have been paid so far, with more likely to come. Since the Comcast deal, Netflix says its streaming speeds on Comcast have increased 65 percent. But despite the performance improvement, Netflix doesn't appear happy about the arrangement. "While in the short term Netflix will in cases reluctantly pay large ISPs to ensure a high quality member experience," CEO Reed Hastings said back in March, "we will continue to fight for the internet the world needs and deserves."