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Netflix-Verizon catfight probably important, but mostly entertaining

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In mid-May, Netflix began displaying error messages to viewers during buffering that read, “The Verizon network is crowded right now. Adjusting video for smoother playback…”Verizon is pissed. According to The Verge, Verizon fired back with the statement,

This claim is not only inaccurate, it is deliberately misleading…It is sad the Netflix is willing to deliberately mislead its customers so they can be used as pawns in business negotiations and regulatory proceedings.

According to the wounded Verizon, this is a PR stunt meant to tip the scales in the net neutrality fight. Verizon reasons:

The source of the problem is almost certainly NOT congestion in Verizon’s network. Instead, the problem is most likely congestion on the connection that Netflix has chosen to use to reach Verizon’s network. Of course, Netflix is solely responsible for choosing how their traffic is routed into any ISP’s network.

Obviously we consumers are totally going to side with Verizon because we’ve all had such satisfactory experiences with service and its cost in the past. Netflix, on the other hand, repeatedly lets us down with its vast library of ad-free entertainment and quick delivery.   In short, Netflix landed a punch saying the “last mile” of Verizon service is the problem, and Verizon attempted a kick to the robot balls saying that Netflix’s connection to that last mile is the issue.Netflix counters that Verizon and other ISPs are allowing congestion to build up at certain connections in order to assume a gatekeeper role and charge “tolls” for infrastructure upgrades. After Netflix paid Comcast for one such upgrade, its performance improved immediately and dramatically.

Netflix head of product Neil Hunt said, “There is plenty of capacity, as demonstrated by the fact that after we reached the deal with Comcast, they put online a lot more bandwidth rather quickly.”

ISPs maintain that the market is open and content companies have plenty of choice in how and where their data gets to their last mile networks. Considering streaming companies such as Netflix are putting cable companies out of business quicker than you can say “LOAD, DAMNIT!” it’ll be fun to watch the ISPs squirm in their mixture of saltiness and dependence.

In reality, the companies are probably both a little right, because that’s always how these things go,  but until they figure their relationship out we’re going to enjoy every second of the slap fight.

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