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Netflix cries foul play after Comcast makes it pay to banish spinning circle of doom

James Temperton
24 Mar 2014
Netflix
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Deal with Comcast will mean better Netflix streaming, but at what cost to net neutrality?

Netflix has “reluctantly” agreed a deal with Comcast but warned that companies and customers risk being held to ransom by greedy ISPs.

The deal will create a “more direct connection” between Netflix and Comcast, alleviating buffering and poor video quality for Netflix subscribers in the US.

Netflix boss Reed Hastings has now said that forcing content providers to pay ISPs for a good quality of service poses a major threat to net neutrality – and your wallet.

“Some big ISPs are extracting a toll because they can - they effectively control access to millions of consumers and are willing to sacrifice the interests of their own customers to press Netflix and others to pay,” he said

“Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service,” Hastings argued. “The big ISPs can make these demands - driving up costs and prices for everyone else - because of their market position.”

Services like Netflix put huge demands on ISPs, with HD streams of films and TV shows clogging up networks. ISPs argue that companies putting such a big strain on their networks should cough up a fee. To stymie demand some ISPs slow traffic to video-streaming services, causing them to buffer or stream in poor quality.

“ISPs sometimes point to data showing that Netflix members account for about 30 per cent of peak residential Internet traffic, so the ISPs want us to share in their costs,” Hastings said.

He argued that as people only pay for fast internet connections to access services, ISPs should really share their profits with companies like Netflix.

Netflix, which has 44 million customers worldwide, is also in talks with another major US provider, Verizon. Netflix said that it didn’t want to pay ISPs for a reliable service, but that it would do in the short term.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said it will press for new laws to ensure the internet remains a “free and open platform for innovation”. But net neutrality advocates continue to argue that ISPs are making the internet less open and less free. Verizon, backed by several other ISPs, recently won an appeal against an FCC ruling that aimed to make the US internet more neutral.

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