Netflix is in the news again. Again, for the wrong reasons. It has being revealed that the online video streaming service had been throttling the speed of subscribers on two US wireless carriers, Verizon and AT&T. The implication of this is that if you are watching Netflix through Verizon or AT&T, the quality of your pictures is far lower than what obtains on other carriers.
According to Netflix, it is doing so for the benefits of the subscribers. In a typical corporate spin to mitigate the damage when your corporate hand is caught in the cookie jar, Netflix said it has being doing that for the past five years. This, according to what they told the World Street Journal, is to make sure subscribers don’t exceed their mobile data allocation for the month.
Altruistic at face value. However, what is getting subscribers of the affected wireless carriers aangry is the fact that Netflix did not inform anybody before implementing this discriminatory policy. Discrimination in the sense that subscribers on wireless carriers like T-mobile are not affected by the speed throttling unless they enable Binge On on their devices.
Analyst see this move, even without the sneaky way it was implemented, as hypocritical. Netflix has being a staunch supporter of net neutrality over the years. Net neutrality is the notion that, ideally, all Internet traffic or data should be treated equally. Speed throttling goes against the spirit and letter of net neutrality.
Net neutrality has taken some serious knocks recently. YouTube joining Binge On further weakened the argument for net neutrality. It was the same net neutrality issue that featured prominently in the decision by the Indian government to suspend Facebook’s Free Basic in India. But Netflix would argue that net neutrality does not affect content providers. That is true though, according the the FCC’s rules on net neutrality.
Netflix got away with the speed throttling for years until last week when Wireless carriers had to defend themselves against accusation of throttling video streaming online. Netflix had to come out and set the records straight. The alternative would have being very bad for the company. For now the speed throttling by Netflix is restricted to the US alone. Maybe they do it even here in Nigeria but nobody has bothered to investigate. People like Milan Milanovich were among the first to notice the problem and posted the results on YouTube. The YouTube video showed clearly the lower quality of videos on certain carriers. The test has being replicated by others with the same results.
Time would tell how this issue would be settled. This is damaging to Netflix reputation. And unlike the VPN war where the people most affected lived in foreign countries and largely helpless to take action, this issue might be one big fight. Everybody knows the US consumer takes their rights seriously. And they are very vocal about it if they perceive a large corporation trampling on those rights. Netflix might decide to settle this issue quietly behind closed doors. Or there is a real possibility of a very public spat that could end up in litigation. This won’t be the first big court case for Netflix. So I guess they can handle the situation anyhow it turns out.
photo credits: bgr.com; wsj.com