The public spat between Netflix and Comcast continued this week, as the companies pointed fingers and traded angry words about interconnection fees and net neutrality. It’s so embarrassing when corporations fight in front of the kids.
The latest sniping was triggered by Comcast’s looming purchase of Time Warner Cable in a $45.2 billion deal. Congress is reviewing the acquisition, and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked all parties impacted to make a case for why Congress should or shouldn’t let Comcast snap up the nation’s second largest cable provider and third largest broadband company.
As you might expect, Netflix—which opposes the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal—and Comcast are taking the opportunity to rehash their long-simmering feud over the speed at which Netflix movies can be streamed into your home via Comcast’s network.
The issues at play in this exchange center around net neutrality and interconnectivity. Net neutrality, of course, has garnered its share of headlines, with the FCC looking to revise its rules to allow ISPs like Comcast to charge companies for faster delivery of traffic. Interconnectivity hinges on how content networks like Netflix connect to ISPs like Comcast, usually via a Transit Network that acts as the middleman.
Netflix users on Comcast’s network have complained of slow streaming speeds—at least until Netflix and Comcast reached a direct interconnection agreement earlier this year that improved matters quickly. Netflix asserts its hand was forced into making that deal; it contends the way Comcast does interconnection agreements is bad for consumers and challenges the very nature of the open Internet. Netflix’s letter to Franken argues that a Comcast-Time Warner merger will give Comcast too much leverage, exacerbating the problem.
Comcast disagrees, countering that Netflix actually initiated the interconnection deal—and that Netflix itself should shoulder the blame for slower streaming speeds. Comcast further argues that by avoiding directing interconnection agreements, Netflix is forcing all Internet users—not just its subscribers—to pay the streaming video service’s cost of doing business. Basically, Comcast believes that the way Netflix does business is the problem, and not ISPs that want to charge companies like Netflix for interconnection.
Guess we shouldn’t hold out hope that Comcast will join the ranks of cable providers offering direct access to Netflix any time soon.
So the Comcast-Netflix conflict remains a He Says-She Says exchange, and we know how the rest of that song goes. Look for the bickering to go on, with customers of both companies caught squarely in the middle.