Netflix partner accused Verizon of slowing traffic

Level 3, a Netflix partner, accused Verizon of slowing traffic, adding ammunition to Netflix’ argument. Netflix has been complaining for months that the broadband and telecommunications giant refuses to improve its infrastructure. Level 3 says Verizon accidentally admitted guilt.

Netflix, the Internet TV network that provides on-demand streaming media, pays Level 3 to deliver traffic to Internet service providers.

Netflix says that a number of major broadband firms are deliberately letting streaming speeds slow right down so that they can get Netflix to pay up for faster connections.

In fact, Netflix reached paid connection deals with Comcast and Verizon earlier this year.

Netflix says it is not right that the broadband companies abuse their power to gain money.

Did Verizon accidentally admit guilt?

In a blog titled Verizon’s accidental Mea Cupla, Vice president of Content and Media at Level 3, Mark Taylor, accuses David Young, vice president of Verizon Regulatory Affairs, of admitting that Verizon is deliberately constraining capacity from its network providers, including Level 3, which Netflix chose to deliver video content to Verizon’s own paying broadband customers.

Mark Taylor of Level 3
Mark Taylor says Verizon accidentally admitted it is slowing down Netflix.

Mr. Taylor writes, regarding Mr. Young’s explanation:

“His explanation for Netflix’s on-screen congestion messages contains a nice little diagram. The diagram shows a lovely uncongested Verizon network, conveniently color-coded in green. It shows a network that has lots of unused capacity at the most busy time of the day.”

“Think about that for a moment: Lots of unused capacity. So point number one is that Verizon has freely admitted that is has the ability to deliver lots of Netflix streams to broadband customers requesting them, at no extra cost. But, for some reason, Verizon has decided that it prefers not to deliver these streams, even though its subscribers have paid it to do so.”

As the cost for Verizon to reduce the congestion at connection points would be “absolutely trivial,” Mr. Taylor wonders whether Verizon simply wants to extract a pound of flesh from its competitors “using the monopoly it has over the only connection to its end-users.”

Mr. Taylor added that Level 3 has been asking Verizon to add interconnection capacity for a long time. It has also asked Verizon to deliver the traffic its customers “are requesting from our customers, but Verizon refuses.”

New York-based Verizon said it is planning a response to Mr. Taylor’s comment, while Netflix said that Level 3 is “highlighting the same purposeful congestion by internet service providers that we have been discussing for months.”

Background on the Netflix vs. Verizon row

At the beginning of June, Verizon told Netflix in a “cease and desist” letter to refrain from telling customers that the sole cause of their slower download speeds was Verizon’s crowded network.

According to Verizon, if Netflix wants to it can connect to every broadband network in the United States, but prefers to use a mish-mash of intermediary networks to reach its customers because it saves money that way. Verizon says Netflix’ slower-speed problem is of its own making.

The problem started at the end of May when Yuri Victor, a Netflix customer, tweeted that when he tried to stream a Netflix movie, the company placed a message on the buffering screen blaming Verizon for the slow speed (see picture below).

Netflix vs. Verizon

The Twitter message went viral and Verizon soon got to hear about it.

In the middle of June, the FCC (Federal Communications Commissions) said it would investigate the Netflix vs. Verizon row.

Tom Wheeler, FCC chair, asked some of his team members to gather data on the dispute from broadband providers, as well as Netflix and Verizon, in order to find out exactly what was happening and “whether consumers are being harmed.”

Mr. Wheeler said:

“I have experienced these problems myself and know how exasperating it can be. Consumers must get what they pay for.”