Netflix vp/content delivery Ken Florance posted a blog yesterday warning the world about the perils of “internet fast lanes”.
He’s talking about the ongoing war over “net neutrality”. The FCC is about to rule on whether internet service providers (ISPs) should be required to deliver their services equally to everyone, or whether they can charge higher access fees to companies like Netflix who are heavy (and thus expensive) users of internet bandwidth. President Obama favours net neutrality.
Florance argues that abandoning net neutrality would allow ISPs to sell speedier access to companies and/or websites that can afford to pay.
Fast lanes would mean that some websites — such as Netflix, which rely on high-speeds to stream properly — could avoid the congestion that slows them down. Obviously, it would mean ISPs make more money as they extract a premium from Netflix for these faster channels.
But Florance writes that such measures would stifle companies that don’t have big budgets — and create “the very opposite environment than the one the internet created”.
Right now, there are no paid fast lanes on the Internet. That’s a good thing. A large part of the debate about net neutrality is focused on ensuring it stays that way. If ISPs are allowed to sell fast lanes, competition for various Internet sites and services will become less about the value of what’s offered and more about who can pay the most to deliver it faster.
Florance is talking about net neutrality on the back of another issue: the fact Netflix has recently agreed to pay ISPs Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Timer Warner access fees to reach its customers. Netflix, by the way, doesn’t enjoy doing this. CEO Reed Hastings is not exactly a fan.
Florance explains that without additional payments to the companies, they let internet traffic “build up”, which slows and damages user experience. If too many people decide to watch Dallas Buyers Club, for instance, there’d be problems.
“Without those payments, ISPs allowed these connection points to congest,” Florance adds, “resulting in poor video streaming.” Netflix can afford to pay. However, the company believes the practice “stands in contrast to an open internet and all its promise.”
“Allowing fast lanes gives ISPs a perverse incentive to boost revenues by allowing their networks to congest”, he says.