The Federal Communications Commission is setting out to unravel the mystery behind the Internet traffic jams bogging down the delivery of Netflix videos and other online content.
The inquiry announced Friday by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will dissect the routes that video and other data travel to reach Internet service providers such as Comcast and Verizon.
This crucial handoff of content has gained more attention in recent months as Netflix Inc. and other critics have accused the two Internet service providers of deliberately slowing incoming traffic from websites unwilling to pay for a less congested entry point.
Comcast and Verizon contend Netflix should bear some of the cost for handling the heavy traffic caused by its 36 million U.S subscribers watching video over high-speed Internet connections. At peak viewing hours, Netflix accounts for about one-third of the Internet traffic in the U.S., according to the research firm Sandvine.
The picture quality of Netflix video, though, has been increasingly erratic during the past year at several major Internet service providers, including Comcast and Verizon, which have a combined 30 million subscribers in the U.S. While Netflix has been streaming more smoothly at Comcast since those two companies forged their partnership in February, some problems have still been occurring on Verizon's network.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has continued sniping at both Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications, arguing they should be able to afford to deliver whatever online content that their subscribers want, given that their customers pay $50 to $80 per month for their Internet service. Netflix charges $8 to $12 per month for its Internet video service.
With the FCC inquiry, Wheeler hopes to get a better understanding of how Netflix and other websites are reaching the Internet service providers through interconnection, or "peering," arrangements.
"The bottom line is that consumers need to understand what is occurring when the Internet service they've paid for does not adequately deliver the content they desire, especially content they've also paid for," Wheeler said in a statement.
In the process, the FCC also could shed more light on whether Netflix is saving money in its peering deals with Comcast and Verizon. Although the terms of the partnerships haven't been disclosed, both Comcast and Verizon have suggested Netflix is paying them less for a direct connection to their network than what it previously cost Netflix to deliver video through other intermediaries.
In a rare show of unanimity, Netflix and Comcast both said they welcomed the FCC's inquiry in the interests of greater transparency. Verizon reaffirmed its support for the status quo and pointed out that "Internet traffic exchange has always been handled through commercial agreements." (continued...)
© 2014 Associated Press syndicated under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.
Posted: 2014-06-23 @ 4:22pm PT
There should NOT be "less" congested entry points. That's a bogus contention. Regardless of the number of entry points, any one of them must be upgraded as the ISP customer demands increase traffic through any connection point. To say that Netflix or any other large stream content provider (e.g. YouTube, Amazon Prime, Amazon Cloud, gaming sites, etc.) must pay when congestion appears is ludicrous. Congestion appears only when the ISP customer is requesting data. That's EXACTLY what the customer is paying for!
And to say that it cost Netflix less to pay Comcast and Verizon than what Netflix had been paying Cogent or Level 3, multiply that by: Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, AT&T, and *EVERY OTHER ISP THAT WANTS A CUT OF NETFLIX* and I doubt it would ever be less than for a content company to simply pay their associated business costs alone. What a mafia racket!
And Powell is the cable horn boy of the industry, what else would he say? Michael Powell can go blow.
Posted: 2014-06-23 @ 7:14am PT
We don't need no stinkin' facts to write laws. That has been the stand of Congress since it told the EPA not to baseline the Environment. Fortunately, the FCC has found a loophole in Congress' desire to misinform the public about how things work. The FCC is baselining how the Internet works in the US. Once the FCC publishes findings of fact about the internet from server farm through trunk lines to ISPs and finally to homes and businesses the flat-earth society in the Congress can stop attending Prayer Breakfasts on the subject and start doing something about the last mile monopoly.
Posted: 2014-06-19 @ 11:09am PT
I support Netflix on this contention; as far as I know each subscriber to an ISP pays for a certain amount of upload/download speed which his/her usage of does not affect other subscribers to the same ISP. So the argument that cost is unfairly spread amount ISP subscriber does not hold.