Net neutrality spat continues -

Net neutrality spat continues

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

March 24, 2014

In January this year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit effectively struck down the notion of ‘net neutrality’ – the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally.

It did not take long for the major broadband backbone providers in the United States to start flexing their muscles. Comcast and Version in particular both set their sights on popular TV and movie streaming service Netflix, which it is claimed is responsible for  over 30 percent of peak internet traffic.

Following evidence of Comcast taking advantage of the court decision not to uphold net neutrality and limiting the bandwidth available to Netflix traffic, a short-term arrangement was hammered out between Comcast and Netflix in February, where Netflix would pay to ensure its traffic was not discriminated against.

Although at the time this deal was presented as a ‘streamlining’ of the service Comcast provides, it has obviously left a bad taste in Netflix’s mouth, and CEO Reed Hastings last week posted a highly critical blog post,

‘Some big ISPs are extracting a toll because they can — they effectively control access to millions of consumers and are willing to sacrifice the interests of their own customers to press Netflix and others to pay.’

Arguing passionately for net neutrality, Reed observes that,

‘When an ISP sells a consumer a 10 or 50Mbps internet package, the consumer should get that rate, no matter where the data is coming from.’

Reed also argues that,

‘ISPs want us to share in their costs. But they don’t also offer for Netflix or similar services to share in the ISPs revenue, so cost-sharing makes no sense.

This seems logical to us (after a little thought). After all, the reason that we as customers pay for internet access from the likes of Comcast is precisely so we can do things such as can watch Netflix without fear of buffering issues. After all, without Netflix (and similar), why on earth would we need to pay for superfast broadband subscriptions? Certainly not to just check our emails!

It is because of services such as Netflix that millions of consumers are willing to hand over their cash to ISPs in the first place… in other words Netflix, rather than unfairly hogging Comcast’s bandwidth, is in fact driving demand for Comcast’s services! It therefore makes sense that Comcast pay Netflix for all the custom Netflix drives its way.

Of course the real answer to Comcast’s belligerent attitude  almost certainly lies in the fact that Comcast runs a rival (and much less successful) streaming service itself (xfinity), and is using its privileged position as a major internet backbone provider to try to force out the competition…