Even though his company has been extra chummy with Comcast over the last couple months, Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings is every bit as bold when it comes to net neutrality.
Today Hastings published a blog post titled “Internet Tolls And The Case For Strong Net Neutrality” that directly addressed a traffic delivery deal the two companies forged last month. That deal, which likely cost Netflix quite a bit of money, was made to ensure that Comcast would prioritize (or at the very least optimize) all the traffic data delivered through its network. The move ensured that Netflix’s streaming video service would remain reliable despite peak usage on the network.
You’d think Hastings would stay quiet to preserve the new-found partnership between the companies, but apparently he doesn’t mind rocking the proverbial boat.
In the post, Hastings said he shouldn’t have had to make a deal with Comcast to ensure Netflix’s service was delivered smoothly and that the concept of net neutrality is still very important to the ecosystem of the Internet — even though it was weakened by the Verizon lawsuit that affirmed that ISPs can legally charge companies a fee to prioritize their traffic delivery.
But the weaksauce version of net neutrality that we currently have isn’t enough, he said.
“Once Netflix agrees to pay the ISP interconnection fees, however, sufficient capacity is made available and high quality service for consumers is restored. If this kind of leverage is effective against Netflix, which is pretty large, imagine the plight of smaller services today and in the future,” Hastings wrote. “Roughly the same arbitrary tax is demanded from the intermediaries such as Cogent and Level 3, who supply millions of websites with connectivity, leading to a poor consumer experience.”
I respect that Hastings had to do what was best for the business when he signed a deal with Comcast to prioritize traffic — (although admittedly, I thought such a decision wouldn’t happen for years). But I love that he’s making some noise about the problems associated with weaksauce net neutrality even if it strains future negotiations with ISPs.
As you’d imagine, Comcast isn’t exactly thrilled with Hastings’ post. Comcast sent VentureBeat an official response from EVP David Cohen that reaffirms the company’s commitment to open Internet rules and attempts to explain how those rules don’t apply to network traffic delivery.
“There has been no company that has had a stronger commitment to openness of the Internet than Comcast. We supported the FCC’s Open Internet rules because they struck the appropriate balance between consumer protection and reasonable network management rights for ISPs. We are now the only ISP in the country that is bound by them.
The Open Internet rules never were designed to deal with peering and Internet interconnection, which have been an essential part of the growth of the Internet for two decades. Providers like Netflix have always paid for their interconnection to the Internet and have always had ample options to ensure that their customers receive an optimal performance through all ISPs at a fair price. We are happy that Comcast and Netflix were able to reach an amicable, market-based solution to our interconnection issues and believe that our agreement demonstrates the effectiveness of the market as a mechanism to deal with these matters.”