Web-Traffic Spat Over Netflix Highlights New Tensions

U.S. regulators are looking into a dispute between two large companies that shuttle traffic around the Internet, a business invisible to most consumers but increasingly fraught with tension.

The issue gets to the heart of a longstanding argument: Who should pay for the Internet? That debate is getting more pointed as a flood of video drives up the volume of traffic that companies such as Comcast Corp. must carry.

On Monday, Level 3 Communications Inc.–an Internet network operator that recently announced a deal to help Netflix Inc. stream and store its online movies and TV shows–complained that Comcast has slapped it with a new charge to deliver that video to customers.

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