Yes, Verizon Is At Fault In Netflix Dispute; It's Not Delivering What It Sold Customers
from the a-dose-of-reality dept
We wrote about the latest Netflix/Verizon dispute over who’s to blame for poor quality movie streaming. Netflix has chosen to pin the blame on the ISPs when there’s network congestion, while Verizon angrily hit back at this “PR stunt,” claiming that it was actually Netflix’s fault for not doing a better job routing its traffic. Except… that’s not true. As we’ve been pointing out for the better part of a decade, this is all about the broadband companies trying to double charge. Tim Lee, over at Vox, summarizes the point nicely:
Verizon’s customers have paid Verizon for the service of delivering content to them. But rather than simply performing the service Verizon’s customers have paid it to perform, Verizon sees an opportunity to get paid twice: in addition to charging its own customers for connectivity, Verizon hopes to also charge Netflix to deliver its content to those customers.
Verizon is effectively using its own customers’ poor experience as leverage. Verizon has been threatening Netflix that if they don’t pay up, Netflix customers (who are also Verizon customers) will get frustrated and cancel their Netflix service. Of course, that threat is a lot more powerful because most customers don’t have many alternatives to Verizon service.
And yes, I know that some big broadband defenders will immediately trot out the usual defense: that Verizon sold its network in a way that it never actually expected subscribers to use — but it’s difficult to see how that’s everyone else’s fault. If anything, it raises some questions about whether or not the FTC might want to step in and look at whether or not Verizon, AT&T and Comcast totally misrepresented what they were selling consumers.
As for the bullshit claim that Netflix is to blame because it sends Verizon more traffic and thus the “traffic ratios are unbalanced,” well, Lee points out that this is actually Verizon’s fault as well.
But this argument doesn’t make sense. Verizon customers aren’t just paying Verizon to send traffic to Netflix, they’re also paying Verizon to deliver Netflix (and other) traffic to them. And there’s no reason to think that carrying traffic from Netflix to Verizon customers is more expensive than carrying traffic in the other direction.
Indeed, there’s a simple reason that Verizon’s network receives more traffic than it transmits: that’s how Verizon set it up. All of Verizon’s standard FiOS packages provide dramatically more bandwidth for downloading than uploading. The entry-level service, for example, is 15 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream. The fastest package is even more lopsided: 500 Mbps downstream and 100 Mbps upstream. If Verizon builds a network that’s optimized for downloading, it can’t complain that its customers use it to download stuff.
And, of course, Verizon can squawk all it wants about this, but it’s not going to change the fact that it’s the problem here. Yes, Netflix delivers a lot of data. But if Verizon can’t handle it, it shouldn’t have sold it to consumers.