Writings of a techie wizard
Thu, 05 Jun 2014
In an entirely predictable development, at least if you've been keeping up with my previous posts on net neutrality, Netflix is now having a tiff with Verizon over slow delivery of Netflix content to customers. It seems that Netflix has been displaying messages to customers when videos take a long time to buffer, telling them that the reason is congestion on their ISP's network. Verizon, of course, didn't like that very much, so they sent Netflix a cease-and-desist letter telling them to stop blaming Verizon for slow video delivery.
What's interesting about this is that Netflix has a similar deal with Verizon to the one it made with Comcast, which I referred to briefly in my first net neutrality post. The deal means that Netflix traffic does not have to go through a third party to get to Verizon's customers; Netflix has direct connections to Verizon's network (and to Comcast's), so the problem has to be either on Netflix's end or Verizon's end (update: further developments have shown that it's more complicated than that--see below). And in all the heavy weather Verizon is making about this, the one thing they are conspicuously not saying is that the problem is on Netflix's end.
In other words, Verizon's customers are asking for Netflix data; the data is slow getting to the customer because Verizon's network is indeed slow (since if Netflix's end were slow, you can be sure Verizon would be saying so, loudly--update: it looks like they are saying loudly that the problem is not their network being slow, but that doesn't mean it's not their fault; see below); but Verizon does not want its customers to know that. As Netflix's spokesman says, quoted in the CNBC article,
Of course, trying to shut down the discussion now is closing the door after the horse has left the barn. The only thing the cease and desist letter did was ensure that even people who are not Verizon customers, like me, now know that Verizon's network is slow (update: or at least that there is a significant problem that Verizon is not fixing as they should). The only way Verizon can really fix this problem is to, well, fix it, by upgrading its network (update: or fixing its connections with transit providers). But I'm not holding my breath.
Update (17 July 2014)
As I note in a follow-up post to this one, the fact that Verizon and Netflix have made the deal referred to above does not immediately take Internet transit providers (like Level 3, who handles Netflix traffic) out of the game. In fact, it's still not entirely clear, at least not from Verizon's public statements, exactly what the technical implications of the Netflix-Verizon deal are. See the follow-up post for more on that. However that may be, though, the bottom line is still the same: Verizon doesn't want its customers to know the real reason why their Netflix streaming is having problems, or what options for fixing it (some of which are quite simple, as I discuss in the follow-up post) have been refused by Verizon, for reasons which have nothing to do with serving the needs of their customers.
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