Tech Law Journal logo

Netflix's Hastings Complains About Lack of Interconnectivity

March 20, 2014. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings published a piece in the Netflix web site titled "Internet Tolls And The Case For Strong Net Neutrality".

He argues that "net neutrality must be defended and strengthened" to deal with the "lack of sufficient interconnectivity" by some broadband internet access service (BIAS) providers.

He wrote that "The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don't restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make. The traditional form of net neutrality which was recently overturned by a Verizon lawsuit is important, but insufficient."

He continued that "This weak net neutrality isn't enough to protect an open, competitive Internet; a stronger form of net neutrality is required. Strong net neutrality additionally prevents ISPs from charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube, or Skype, or intermediaries such as Cogent, Akamai or Level 3, to deliver the services and data requested by ISP residential subscribers. Instead, they must provide sufficient access to their network without charge."

He added that with some "big ISPs, due to a lack of sufficient interconnectivity, Netflix performance has been constrained, subjecting consumers who pay a lot of money for high-speed Internet to high buffering rates, long wait times and poor video quality".

Then, "Once Netflix agrees to pay the ISP interconnection fees, however, sufficient capacity is made available and high quality service for consumers is restored."

Hastings concluded that "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."

Comcast stated in a release on March 20 that "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."

However, Comcast continued that "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."

Comcast concluded that "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."

Sarah Morris of the New America Foundation (NAF) stated in a release that "While the FCC's Open Internet Order provided important protections for Internet users, it is clear that network neutrality concerns extend beyond the relationship between the user and the ISP and to interconnection points in the network."

She added that "the only way that the FCC can address these problems effectively is by reclassifying broadband under the Telecommunications Act. Reclassification will ensure that the fundamental protections that have guided communications services for over a century can be applied in a modern age."

(Published in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,635, March 24, 2014.)