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Netflix to End ISP Blame Game, For Now

9 Jun, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix June 9 said it will no longer send error messages to subscribers using select ISPs when there is a slowdown in streaming speeds.

The move came after Verizon last week issued Netflix with a cease-and-desist demand, claiming messages such as "The Verizon network is crowded right now. Adjusting video for smoother playback," were false, misleading and could hurt the telecom’s brand, among other issues.

In a blog post, Netflix spokesperson Joris Evers said the messages were part of an ongoing “transparency campaign” intended to solve network congestion. Evers said the initial campaign would end June 16.

“As part of this transparency campaign, we started a small-scale test in early May that lets consumers know, while they’re watching Netflix, that their experience is degraded due to a lack of capacity into their broadband provider’s network. We are testing this across the U.S. wherever there is significant and persistent network congestion. We will evaluate rolling it out more broadly,” Evers wrote.

Verizon has become the latest ISP — following Comcast — to engage in a war of words with Netflix, including founder and CEO Reed Hastings, regarding interconnection fees paid by the streaming pioneer to the ISPs for smoother access during the “last mile” to consumer homes. Hastings has characterized the fees as taxes.

The ISPs counter that Netflix’s streams — which remain the dominant Internet traffic during primetime hours — can be congested by a variety of factors. Indeed, the ISPs say Netflix approached them to ensure smoother streaming speeds.

"Netflix's false accusations have the potential to harm the Verizon brand in the marketplace,” Randal Milch, Verizon general counsel wrote Netflix last week.

Evers said Netflix does not purposely select crowded broadband routes. He said the average Netflix stream is 2 Mbps, with some streams reaching 5.8 Mbps.

“[That’s] a fraction of the bandwidth most consumers purchase from their broadband provider. Still, in some cases, people are unable to enjoy a high-quality Netflix experience,” Evers wrote.

Meanwhile, New York-based Cablevision remained the fastest domestic ISP in May with average streaming speeds of 3.03 Mbps. Runner-up was Cox at 2.94 Mbps, while Charter entered the top three at 2.87 Mbps.

Both Comcast and Verizon FiOS dropped in the rankings, with the No. 1 cabler in 5th place with 2.72 Mbps, and Verizon in 10th at 1.90 Mbps.

Finally, Netflix shareholders, in a 53% to 47% vote, rejected a provision that would have split the chairman and CEO positions — both held by Reed Hastings. The co-founder was re-elected to the board with 74% of the votes.


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