Netflix claims that broadband providers haven’t attempted to impede the company’s streaming service, despite fears of such slowdowns in the wake of a federal court ruling against Net Neutrality.
J.P. Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth reportedly spoke to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells, who told him that broadband providers haven’t tried to interfere with their business. “Netflix does not seem overly concerned regarding Net Neutrality,” he wrote in a note, according to Re/code, “and continues to believe that violations would be escalated quickly. Netflix also indicated that it has no evidence or belief that its service is being throttled.”
In January, a number of blogs insisted that a mass broadband-provider slowdown was already underway. Dave’s Blog, for example, posted an online conversation with a Verizon customer representative in which the latter suggested that the company was deliberately throttling bandwidth to cloud providers such as Amazon’s AWS, which backs Netflix’s streaming services. That posting (and others) quickly went viral, forcing Verizon to deny that any such throttling had taken place.
“Many factors can affect the speed of a customer’s experience for a specific site, including that site’s servers, the way the traffic is routed over the Internet and other considerations,” read Verizon’s statement. “We are looking into this specific matter [related in Dave’s Blog], but the company representative was mistaken. We’re going to redouble our representative education efforts on this topic.”
Hastings’ insistence that the broadband providers aren’t trying to strange Netflix is a powerful counterpoint to those conspiracy theories percolating through the Web. But for Net Neutrality advocates, the possibility still exists that the cable and teleco companies could eventually attempt to choke off access to Web properties that don’t fit their corporate wants or needs.
The current controversy started when, in January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a ruling (PDF) that partially negated the Open Internet Order established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). For net neutrality advocates, the implications of the court’s decision were stark: broadband providers such as Verizon could legally block access to Websites for competitive reasons, or charge more for certain companies (such as Netflix) to deliver content over the Web.
In the wake of the court’s decision, the White House voiced its support for net neutrality. “The President remains committed to an open Internet, where consumers are free to choose the websites they want to visit and the online services they want to use,” read a statement issued Jan. 14, “and where online innovators are allowed to compete on a level playing field based on the quality of their products.”
Comcast and other providers have given vague assurances that they’ll respect the principles of a neutral Internet, but it remains to be seen whether they keep their collective word.