Net Neutrality Questions Raised by Netflix Comcast Deal

Net Neutrality Questions Raised by Netflix Comcast Deal

Net Neutrality questions raised by Netflix Comcast deal in which Netflix paid Comcast to install additional servers to supply streaming content after Comcast throttled Netflix data to the point of being unwatchable. The Net Neutrality debate has raged for weeks, mostly centered around who should foot the bill for upgrades and administration when data streamed by services such as Netflix overwhelms Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as Comcast networks. A net that is truly neutral sees no preferences shown to data by ISP’s and places responsibility for the effectiveness of the network squarely in their hands. However Comcast argues that since Netflix is responsible for 20 percent of data transferred during peak times, they should foot the bill for a portion of the infrastructure needed to carry it all.

Net Neutrality has become a hot topic after simmering for a few weeks following the merger of Comcast and Time Warner AOL to make Comcast the largest high-speed internet provider in the United States. There was concern that such a position was extremely open to abuse, since there was essentially nowhere else for customers to go. These worries also extended to the internal workings of the various connected systems that form the internet, as with every line of fiber and cable owned by one company, they would have complete control over who uses it. As it stands, the check Netflix cut to Comcast to restore streaming capabilities was essentially a system access fee, the same as those recently abolished by cell phone carriers in 2009. Net Neutrality is intended to protect all users of the internet, from those at the end of the lines, and those sending data across them. With Net Neutrality questions raised once again by this latest Netflix Comcast deal, customers and ISP’s alike are waiting for a ruling from the FCC to decide who will be responsible for paying for access to the internet in the long run.

The FCC has set equal-treatment rules in 2010, but an appeals court sided with Verizon and removed them, allowing Comcast the legal breathing room it needed to muscle Netflix into paying to access its network. The issue is complicated by the addition of Content Delivery Networks (CDN) smaller consumer end networks that Netflix uses to carry their data the last step to customer homes. The CDN’s pay a fee to ISP’s in order to use their network, and sometimes they say they can handle more bandwidth than they currently possess. At this point they need to upgrade their networks, but who foots the bill? As this all stands now, it is really a matter of public opinion. It makes sense that an ISP would be responsible for keeping the network they charge so preciously for up to date and usable as data streams get bigger, but the issue hits a snag when sub networks such as CDN’s come into play. At the same time, the only thing Netflix is guilty of is having more customers than the current internet hardware can comfortably handle. Whichever way it goes, Net Neutrality questions raised by the Netflix Comcast deal are likely to take a very long time to see straight, reasonable answers.

By Daniel O’Brien


Bloomberg BusinessWeek

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