Netflix Admits to Throttling Service to AT&T/Verizon Customers

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netflix_logo_225.gifNetflix has come under fire in recent days after admitting that the company intentionally throttles its video feeds streamed to AT&T and Verizon wireless customers. Netflix says that it has streamed lower-quality video to these customers to protect them from exceeding their mobile data caps, and that these practices have been in place for five years. In May, Netflix plans to introduce a new data saver feature that allows users to control this function themselves, just as they can when streaming the service over their home broadband network. The admission was first reported by The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), and here are some snippets from follow-up stories by CNET and Broadcasting & Cable.

From CNET
If you watch Netflix on Verizon or AT&T, the streaming video service is keeping you from getting the full picture -- and it claims it's for your own good.

A week after the wireless carriers were accused of throttling video speeds on their networks, Netflix has stepped forward to take the blame for the degraded video quality. The popular streaming-video service told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday it has been slowing its video transmission on wireless carriers around the world, including Verizon and AT&T, for five years to "protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps."

Netflix now plans to shift some of that control to viewers themselves. In May, it expects to make a "data saver" feature for mobile apps available to some subscribers that would let them choose either to stream more, but lower-quality, video if they have a smaller-capacity data plan or to increase video quality if they have a less-restrictive plan.

"It's about striking a balance that ensures a good streaming experience while avoiding unplanned fines from mobile providers," the company said in a blog post late Thursday.

Netflix has been a staunch supporter of Net neutrality, the idea that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. That means broadband providers can't block or slow down the online services or applications you use. It also means your Internet provider can't create so-called fast lanes that force companies like Netflix to pay an additional fee to speed up delivery of content to you.

However, the Net neutrality rules approved a year ago by the Federal Communications Commission don't apply to content companies like Netflix.

You can read the complete CNET article here.

From Broadcasting & Cable
With Netflix apparently having discriminated in its delivery of Internet video to wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon, after those carriers had been accused of doing the video degrading, there was plenty of input from industry players.

The pushback was particularly strong given Netflix's push for net neutrality rules that prevent ISPs from discriminating and require them to tell customers how they are managing their networks.

There have long been rumblings, sometimes not so quietly in the case of Comcast, alleging Netflix intentionally congested traffic to wired ISPs in peering disputes. Netflix has denied it.

The reaction started with AT&T not long after Netflix's conduct was reported in The Wall Street Journal, but that reaction did not include FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who declined to comment. The FCC has been investigating ISP zero rating plans, which critics say is a form of discrimination by favoring one form of content over another.

AT&T top D.C. executive James Cicconi was not reticent: "We're outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent," he said in a statement.

A former top FCC official conceded Netflix's conduct may not be under the FCC's purview, but suggested that did not get it off the hook.

"When Netflix pointed the finger at ATT & Verizon it had three fingers pointing back it itself," said Adonis Hoffman, chairman of Business in the Public Interest and former chief of staff to FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn. "Throttling traffic without notifying the customer is a violation of the principles of net neutrality 101, and they failed. Even though edge providers are technically not covered, transparency is a best practice."

Read the complete Broadcasting & Cable article here.

Additional Resources
My Search for Higher-Quality Soundtracks in Streaming Movies at HomeTheaterReview.com.
Netflix to Add Second-Screen Capability at HomeTheaterReview.com.


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