Clearing Up The Netflix – ISP Relationship Confusion

On March 20th, Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings posted on the company’s blog that in these times of constant innovation on the internet, we need to continue the push for net neutrality. He believes that Net Neutrality is essential for the future of prosperity not only for his own company but for the internet as a whole. Responding to this, Jim Cicconi, Senior Executive Vice President-External and Legislative Affairs at AT&T presented a different perspective on this particular debate. Cicconi points out that it seems Hastings is demanding a more efficient way to deliver his product but doesn’t expect to pay for it.  After reviewing the comment section below both of their blog posts, it is clear to see that not everyone completely understands the Netflix – ISP relationship

The continued debate has brought up some misconceptions and the main one seems to be that users are worried that ISPs that discriminate on their networks will lead to mixed service quality. It needs to first be understood that with a growing demand for streaming HD video from companies like Netflix is growing at an incredible rate. In order to ensure proper delivery of this HD video, new infrastructure needs to be implemented.

Privileging or discriminating data on telecom networks does not mean that users will experience poor service for one application and excellent service for another.  All items transmitted over the Internet use different amounts of data.  What discrimination means, is determining what data to send in what order to ensure that all applications used on the internet appear in the same efficient effective and enjoyable manner for every user of the network.  A movie, music, PDF documents, downloads, uploads, email, etc. All use different amounts of data.  An HD movie requires more data than email transmission.  By "privileging" that HD movie, the network ensures that the movie will display to the user just as quickly as email transmission.

Mr. Cicconi and Mr. Hasting both understand that internet bandwidth is not unlimited but fundamentally disagree on who should pay for the new infrastructure. Netflix is delivering content at such high levels that the ISPs are beginning to find overwhelming and the cost of the new infrastructure will be have to be covered by either the ISP or Netflix. It is fundamentally wrong that a company can think that it can make everyone else but itself pay for a new delivery system. These HD steaming videos need to be delivered properly in order to be enjoyed but for Netflix to assume that the ISPs will bear the cost and give Netflix a “cost-free” delivery method is awfully bold for Mr. Hasting to assume.