netflix verizon spat
June 15, 2014

FCC To Investigate Agreements Behind The Ongoing Netflix-Verizon Dispute

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The ongoing spat between Netflix and Verizon over who is to blame for slow video streaming speeds has gotten the attention of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as various media outlets reported late last week that the agency will investigate to find the source of the problem.

Adam Chandler of The Wire reports the FCC is currently in the fact-finding stage, as they are gathering information pertaining to the agreements between online content providers and ISPs in which broadband networks attempt to ensure that the programs and movies are able to reach subscribers without incident.

The specific issue between Netflix and Verizon started back in May, when Netflix customers started seeing messages blaming buffering issues on ISP traffic. Verizon responded with a “cease-and-desist” letter threatening legal action unless the streaming service stopped blaming the issues on the broadband network.

Last week, Netflix announced it would at least temporarily stop sending the performance-related messages to their customers as of June 16, at the conclusion of a “small-scale test” of their so-called ISP Speed Index program. However, company officials noted at the time that the program could return, as it was being “evaluated” for a potential large-scale rollout sometime in the future.

Officials at the video streaming service said they intended to analyze the results of the ISP Speed Index trial to determine whether or not users contacted customer service more or less often, as well as whether or not they watched more or less video during this time. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has decided not to wait for those results, as his agency will now apparently launch its own investigation into the matter.

On Friday, Wheeler told The Huffington Post that his agency wanted “to understand whether consumers are being harmed,” and to that end had obtained details of the individual agreements Netflix reached with both Verizon and Comcast. He emphasized that the FCC was currently just in the process of gathering data, “not regulating.”

“Consumers want transparency. They want answers. And so do I,” Wheeler added. “The bottom line is that consumers need to understand what is occurring when the Internet service they’ve paid for does not adequately deliver the content they desire, especially content they’ve also paid for. In this instance, it is about what happens where the ISP connects to the Internet. It’s important that we know – and that consumers know.”

Sena Fitzmaurice, a spokesperson with Comcast, told the Post’s Gerry Smith that the company welcomed the review, that the focus should be “the broadband consumer… and not any particular business model.” Similarly, Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden said these types of agreements have benefitted “the Internet ecosystem and consumers,” and Corie Wright of Netflix said the company would embrace “more transparency in the area.”

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