FCC Commissioner Calls Out Pro-Net Neutrality Netflix For Building ‘Fast Lanes’ Of Its Own

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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One of the corporate leaders of the net neutrality push caught heat Tuesday for breaking from the pack with a “fast lane” of its own.

Republican Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai sent a letter Tuesday to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings inquiring about the company’s decision to exclude itself from the Video Streaming Alliance — a coalition of companies including Comcast, Fox, Yahoo, Ustream and 13 others with a mission to, “Develop, publish and promote open standards, policies and best practices that allow the video streaming ecosystem to flourish.”

Instead of joining the alliance’s effort to establish a standard for online video streaming quality, Netflix has reportedly elected to build its own proprietary system on Internet service providers’ networks to connect users directly to Netflix’s site.

Not only is Netflix — which at times can account for one-third of all web traffic in North American according to The Hill — foregoing a joint effort to improve streaming standards for all, the process the company is using could potentially speed up Netflix traffic at the cost of its competitors.

“Netflix has been one of the principal advocates for subjecting Internet service providers (ISPs) to public utility regulation under Title II of the Communications Act, arguing that this step is necessary to prevent the development of so called ‘fast lanes’ on the Internet,” Pai wrote in the Tuesday letter to Hastings. “The basic argument,” you have said, “is that we’re big believers in a free and open Internet.”

“For this reason, I was surprised to learn of allegations that Netflix has been working to effectively secure ‘fast lanes’ for its own content on ISPs’ networks at the expense of its competitors.”

Pai goes on to point out that the methods tested or employed by Netflix described in media reports would segregate Netflix traffic from other video streaming traffic during transmission, making it difficult to identify and route Netflix traffic. Such measures make the adoption of open standards largely futile if the nation’s largest service opts out.

The commissioner also said that were Netflix to implement a propriety network on ISPs through the company’s Open Connect program instead of signing on to build a joint, shared network, “Netflix’s videos would run the equivalent of a 100-yard dash while its competitors’ videos would have to run a marathon.”

Netflix has yet to respond to the letter.

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