Netflix Attempts to Hold Broadband Providers Accountable for Shoddy Service

by Matt Klassen on June 5, 2014

When streaming video service Netflix signed a landmark “interconnect” deal with Verizon in April it was clear the streaming provider assumed such an agreement would mean preferential access to the fastest lanes of the information superhighway, faster network speeds that would translate directly into better streaming service.

But it seems even the best of what Verizon has to offer still isn’t good enough, and Netflix is now no longer holding back when it comes to laying blame for slower or disrupted service, with some customers receiving this terse message during that awful “buffering” period:  “The Verizon network is crowded right now. Adjusting video for smoother playback.”

Netflix spokesperson Jonathan Friedland tweeted that the new message is being implemented in an effort to “keep members informed,” although Verizon is, so far, the only network specifically named. While the timing of this new message related to the interconnect agreement is certainly interesting, the fact that this exact situation lies at the heart of the Net Neutrality debate is certainly giving us a glimpse of the realities of paid preferential online service.

While I fully understand why Netflix thought it was a good idea to enter into such controversial interconnect agreements with Verizon and before that Comcast, fast data speeds being at the heart of Netflix’s streaming video service, the deal seems to be a fool’s game, as Verizon is pocketing Netflix’s money while Netflix customers still experience network delays.

In fact this entire scenario is providing some compelling evidence why almost every company who depends on the Internet but isn’t a broadband provider opposes the suggestion of paid preferential service and supporst Net Neutrality, because what’s most likely to happen is companies will pay more to experience the same network speeds they currently do, while network speeds in the second tier are scaled back to make the more expensive option more appealing.

Of course I’m only speculating, but given that Netflix is now so quick to blame the company it so recently partnered with to deliver the fastest network speeds possible its clear to me that Netflix is frustrated; frustrated that it paid more money to receive the same garbage service the rest of us still experience, frustrated that its customers are still angry about the service being deliver, frustrated that nothing has changed.

It’s not a stretch, then, to assume that this sort of frustration is the impetus for Netflix’s new policy regarding keeping its members informed about network speeds and service delays. Netflix wants everyone to know that the problem isn’t with the streaming service itself, but with the shoddy network the service happens to depend on.

It’ll be interesting to see if Netflix’s attempt at holding broadband providers accountable will work, as the last thing American providers want is for the public to wake up to the fact that they pay among the most for some of the worst online connection speeds in the developed world, and while other such awareness campaigns have failed to connect with the American consumer in the past, such attempts never messed with their streaming video service before either.

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