Netflix Has Some Explaining to Do

Posted by | September 29, 2014 | Broadband Internet | No Comments

I recently explained how Netflix held its subscribers hostage to reduced service quality while blaming Comcast. During a hearing at the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Netflix “categorically” denied any responsibility for slowing its traffic or otherwise degrading the quality of its service.

Given that Netflix is confident that it bears no responsibility for the slow delivery of its Internet traffic to Comcast subscribers, Netflix should have no problem providing public answers to a few pertinent questions.

Early 2012. Why didn’t Netflix disclose its decision to shift its traffic “off of CDNs and onto transit providers with settlement-free [peering links] into Comcast’s network” in “early 2012” [p. 55]?

June 2012. Given that Netflix began shifting its traffic “off of CDNs and onto transit providers with settlement-free [peering links] into Comcast’s network” in “early 2012”, why did Netflix say in June 2012 that it was delivering its traffic “exclusively through commercial content delivery networks” and would continue to work with them while it shifted most of it traffic to its own ‘Open Connect’ CDN?

August 2013. If Netflix didn’t know that shifting its Comcast traffic to settlement-free peering connections would slow down its streaming service (and put competitive pressure on Comcast), why did Netflix publish a ‘Regional Netflix ISP Snapshot’ showing that Netflix streams on the RCN network in Boston “outperformed” other ISPs, including Comcast, “by as much as 70%”?

September 2013. If Netflix didn’t know that shifting its Comcast traffic to settlement-free peering connections would slow down its streaming service, especially in comparison to Netflix traffic delivered to Comcast competitors via CDN (such as RCN), why did Netflix say that “Netflix members who subscribe to an ISP with a direct Netflix connection [presumably, through ‘Open Connect’] will get the best experience”?

November 2013. Given that Netflix knew that its streaming speeds were “consistently much better for customers served by ISPs that directly connect their network to Netflix using [its] Open Connect content delivery network,” why did Netflix insist that certain ISPs pay in order to connect to its CDN?

September 2013 to January 2014. The court heard oral arguments in the net neutrality case in September 2013 and issued an order overturning the rules in January 2014. Netflix data indicated that the “average speeds of the company’s prime-time streams to Comcast subscribers dropped 27% from October to January.” Did Netflix shift additional traffic settlement-free peering links during this period in order to influence the net neutrality debate?

February 2014. Given that Netflix knew that its streaming speeds were “consistently much better for customers served by ISPs that directly connect their network to Netflix using [its] Open Connect content delivery network,” why did Netflix say that “factors” that affect its ISP speed rankings “cancel out when comparing across ISPs”?

February 2014. When it was alleged that “Comcast is definitely throttling Netflix,” why did Netflix refer the Huffington Post to its ISP speed rankings without mentioning the congestion plaguing its settlement-free peering links into Comcast’s network?

General questions. Given Netflix’s admission [p. 56] that, “In 2013, congestion on [its settlement-free peering routes] into Comcast’s network steadily increased, reaching a level where it began to affect the performance of Netflix streaming for Comcast’s subscribers,” why didn’t Netflix shift its traffic back to commercial CDNs or disclose the congestion in its peering links to its subscribers?

Given the long-standing industry norms applicable to settlement-free peering routes, why didn’t the settlement-free peers Netflix used to deliver its traffic to Comcast (Cogent, Level 3, and Tata) alleviate the congestion through paid peering or alternative transit arrangements with Comcast?

—Did Cogent, Level 3, and Tata have agreements with Netflix that prohibited them from paying Comcast and Verizon for additional ports?

—Did the congestion affecting the settlement-free links of Cogent, Level 3, and Tata into Comcast’s network also affect traffic being delivered by companies other than Netflix, and if not, why?

Given Netflix’s admission that its transit costs are “so small” that they aren’t worth accounting for in its pricing decisions and aren’t “customer affecting”, why did Netflix allow congestion to “reach[] a level where it began to affect the performance of Netflix streaming for Comcast’s subscribers”?

Netflix subscribers, the CRTC, and the FCC deserve answers to these questions.