Netflix Patiently Explains To FCC Commissioner Pai That CDNs Are Perfectly Normal, Not Diabolical 'Fast Lanes'
from the please-take-my-faux-outrage-seriously dept
We’ve been noting lately how a concerted effort is afoot by big broadband ISPs, their think tanks, and some sector analysts to vilify Netflix because of the company’s outspoken positions on usage caps, broadband competition and most recently interconnection and Title II. As such, you might have noticed the media has seen a noted spike in studies, reports and analysis declaring that ISPs are simply misunderstood. These studies will all inform you that if you look at the data in just the right way — you’ll realize that Netflix is a really bad guy and a dirty freeloader — and it’s Comcast, Verizon and AT&T that really have your best interests at heart.
This new push to discredit Netflix culminated recently with a bizarre letter (pdf) sent to Netflix by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. In the letter, Pai proclaims he was “surprised to learn” that Netflix was being hypocritical and nefarious on net neutrality because it: (a) refused to join a new streaming video coalition spearheaded by Comcast and Netflix critics; and (b) operates a content delivery network (CDN). As we noted at the time, both allegations are more than a little stupid. Pai’s allegations that Netflix’s Open Connect CDN constitutes an unfair “fast lane” was particularly silly, since CDNs benefit consumers, ISPs and content companies alike.
In a response letter to Pai (pdf) sent last week, Netflix has to carefully spell out how the company’s free and entirely voluntary CDN, like all CDNs, caches content on the inside edge of the ISP network, making content delivery more efficient for everybody involved:
“Open Connect is not a fast lane. Open Connect does not prioritize Netflix data. Open Connect uses ‘best efforts’ Internet services into and out of its content caches. When an ISP asks Netflix to localize an Open Connect cache within its network, it does not disadvantage other Internet content. To the contrary, Open Connect helps ISPs reduce costs and better manage congestion, which results in a better Internet experience for all end users. Only ISPs can speed up or slow down data that flow over their last mile. When Netflix directly interconnects with an ISP, Netflix data does not travel faster than other Internet content?unless an ISP is artificially constraining capacity to other data sources.”
This will, of course, result in the usual complaints about how government employees don’t understand tech, but as a former regulatory lawyer for Verizon, Pai knows full well what a CDN is and that it doesn’t violate neutrality. He’s just apparently helping the industry’s Netflix vilification effort, and feeding the partisan neutrality grist mill some calorie-free angst nuggets. Again, none of this is to say that Netflix doesn’t do stupid things, but recent efforts to demonize Netflix by an industry with thirty years of anti-competitive behavior under its belt are getting more than a little obnoxious.