Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Thursday deeply criticized multiple Internet Service Providers (ISP) such as Comcast and Verizon. Hastings claimed that these internet providers were responsible for jeopardizing internet freedom and that customers deserved better. He went on to state that these providers were responsible for violating the rules of net neutrality.
Net neutrality by definition is the idea that internet service providers should not limit access to content or application irrespective of the source. It also states that these providers should not favor or even block any particular content provided by a website. These terms were breached when Netflix had to pay a higher amount to Comcast so that Netflix could stream their movies faster. Hastings said that such agreements should not be allowed and should not exist.
News about the agreement surfaced when earlier in February many noted that Netflix streaming speeds for customers using ISPs such as Verizon and Comcast were slowing down. Netflix soon after announced that they would enter an agreement with these internet providers and pay for better connections. Hastings however was keen to add that they were reluctant participants in the entire agreement.
These statements were made by Hastings on the company’s blogs and were the first to be made after the much controversial agreement between Netflix and Comcast was signed. Hastings wrote that most ISPs extort this toll simply because they can. They control access to millions of users and are willing to compromise the service to their customers just so that they can force websites like Netflix to pay. Hastings remained skeptical of the internet providers and criticized their decision to ignore the demands of their customers.
Hastings said that if a company as large and well known as Netflix is forced to pay for connections, imagine the predicament new and smaller businesses might find themselves in. The board at Netflix maintains that even though they are aware of the unfair demands made by these internet providers, they are willing to go along so as to not hurt their customer experience.
Comcast executive vice president said that claims made by Mr. Hastings were inaccurate and wrong. The open internet rules were never meant to be linked to internet interconnection or peering. All companies like Netflix have paid for their interconnection and that there is no other company that values net neutrality like Comcast. Big ISPs argue that given the huge amount of online traffic that Netflix generates, they should not be shocked when service providers ask for more in return for their service.
Hastings however maintained that Netflix is simply satisfying the requests made by the ISP users. If they do access Netflix in large amounts then they also pay a hefty monthly bill to the companies. These customers hence expect to receive uninterrupted service at the speed of which they pay irrespective of the content they view. Keeping that in mind internet service providers should not charge companies based on content alone.
Verizon when approached regarding the matter declined to respond whereas AT&T and Time Warner Cable did not respond at all. Comcast stated that they are happy that Netflix and them were able to arrive at cordial solution. As Hastings continues to criticize multiple internet service providers for their biased actions, it is still not clear if even he just like Comcast considers the agreement, cordial.
By Hammad Ali