Netflix's Reed Hastings Calls For A Stronger Form Of Net Neutrality
March 21, 2014

Netflix Calls For Stronger Net Neutrality

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

On Thursday Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called for a “stronger form of net neutrality” on the company’s official blog. This posting followed a peering agreement that Netflix entered into with cable provider Comcast to improve the service that customers will receive.

This also followed last month’s statement by Netflix that speeds from Internet Service Providers (ISP) had not dipped significantly – even as a court decision has allowed ISPs to slow down Internet speeds. J.P. Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth was among those who said ISP throttling was not behind recent complaints about the quality of the content on the Over-the-Top (OTT) service.

“Netflix does not seem overly concerned regarding net neutrality, and continues to believe that would be escalated quickly. Netflix also indicated that it has no evidence or belief that its service is being throttled,” Anmuth told re/code as reported last month on redOrbit.

This week Hastings apparently made an about-face on the issue of net neutrality and how it might actually be affecting the quality of the service for some Netflix users.

“The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don't restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make. The traditional form of net neutrality which was recently overturned by a Verizon lawsuit is important, but insufficient,” Hastings wrote in the blog post.

“This weak net neutrality isn't enough to protect an open, competitive Internet; a stronger form of net neutrality is required,” he added. “Strong net neutrality additionally prevents ISPs from charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube, or Skype, or intermediaries such as Cogent, Akamai or Level 3, to deliver the services and data requested by ISP residential subscribers. Instead, they must provide sufficient access to their network without charge.”

Without strong net neutrality Hastings maintained, ISPs – especially the larger ones – could demand “potentially escalating fees” for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service to customers. This could in turn drive up costs for Netflix, which would then be required to raise costs to consumers.

While Hastings also maintained the OTT streaming service will continue to push for strong net neutrality, he added that Netflix will “in cases pay the toll to the powerful ISPs to protect our consumer experience.”

Some ISPs have already countered that the services which put a strain on their infrastructure – companies such as Netflix and YouTube – should have to pay more. CNET reported last November that Netflix and YouTube together make up half of peak Internet traffic in North America. As of last May Netflix’s share of downstream mobile traffic had almost doubled over the previous year – and on fixed networks the streaming service controlled up to 32.3 percent of downstream traffic during peak periods according to the Global Internet Phenomena Report 1H2013 from research firm Sandvine.

However, Hastings still sees that despite the fact that Netflix uses a lot more bandwidth, consumers really have no other way to access the content.

“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,” Hastings noted. “Though they have the scale and power to do this, they should realize it is in their long term interest to back strong net neutrality. While in the short term Netflix will in cases reluctantly pay large ISPs to ensure a high quality member experience, we will continue to fight for the Internet the world needs and deserves.”

The FCC has also weighed in on the issue and has pressed for a new law, BBC News reported, which would “ensure that these networks on which the internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expressions.”