Shutterstock/Sarah Frier Photography


Earlier this year, Netflix signed a Web traffic deal with Comcast, then complained about it.

Here’s a new version of the story: In April, Netflix signed a Web traffic deal with Verizon. Now it is telling some of its customers that Verizon’s pipes — and, presumably, other ISP’s as well — aren’t up to snuff.

Last night, Vox Media designer Yuri Victor tried watching Netflix on his MacBook and ended up seeing this message from the streaming service on his browser, blaming Verizon for slow speeds: “The Verizon network is crowded right now.”


Yuri Victor

Netflix spokesman Jonathan Friedland, via Twitter, described the messaging as a way to “keep members informed.” Via email, he said the wording was a “test that advises members when their network is congested,” and that it isn’t specific to Verizon. “We’ll see whether they think it is valuable or not.”

(If anyone else with a different Internet provider has seen the same message, I’d love to hear from you.)

Update: Here’s a response from Verizon PR rep Robert Elek: “This is a PR stunt. We’re investigating this claim but it seems misleading and could confuse people.” And another Update!, this time via Netflix PR: “We are testing ways to let consumers know how their Netflix experience is being affected by congestion on their broadband provider’s network. At present, we are testing in the U.S. in areas serviced by many broadband providers. This test started in early May.”
One last Update: Verizon now has a lengthy response, and says Netflix is responsible for slow speeds.

Netflix has already been publishing scorecards that rank ISPs by speed, and Google has started doing the same. But you have to be at the edge of the broadband knowledge bell curve to know where to find those reports and understand what they mean.

This messaging is much clearer, and Netflix is delivering it directly to its customers: There’s a problem with your picture. Blame the guy who owns the pipe.

It is surprising that Netflix is generating this message for Verizon customers, since you would assume its pipes would perform much better now that Netflix has a deal with the company. That’s what happened at Comcast after it signed its deal with Netflix.

One other difference between Comcast and Verizon: In many markets, Comcast is the only service offering high-speed broadband, so it doesn’t really matter if its pipes are working well or not — customers don’t have any other choice.

But Verizon has been building out its fiber network specifically to compete with the likes of Comcast and other cable providers. Which means it’s theoretically possible for Netflix’s advisory to cost the telco some business, if its customers see this stuff enough and decide to do something about it.

Which I assume is the point Netflix is trying to make.


Bottom line is that service providers in the U.S. are STILL WAY BEHIND on providing the bandwidth needed for current and especially future Internet needs.  Instead they respond by limiting consumers in limiting the amount of data they can consume.  This is an anti-competitive move and I hope the FCC wakes up soon!


Again, it is the big bad ISP that’s the problem. Interesting that in Netflix’s eyes, everyone else is the problem. Everytime they are int he news, their position is that there isn’t enough bandwidth or that like “hey, why do we have to work with the ISP to get our content to the ISP’s customer?” That’s a crazy idea. Netflix wants to send content ‘over the top’ without having to work with the last mile providers on how to deliver that conent. Maybe Netflix needs to pay attention to the media distro world on how the game is played. Netflix is no different than a HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, etc. As long as Netflix continues a subscrition based model the ISPs are going to demand a cut of the profit to maintain the delivery network. Wake up people. I have been in the networking business for over 20 years and we said back then that IP unicast is not an efficient medium to distribute video without traffic management. Read Tim Wu’s research on this. Netflix wants what Tim advocates but doesn’t want to pay to get there. IMO, Netflix has a flawed business model and is basically trying to shake up the industry. Through history, when this happens, it rarely works out well for the comsumer.


Verizon takes care of Verizon at the expense of Customers and 

providers.  It is their intention to interfere with all to their benefit.

an evil company


@forbin42 As mknopp said, we the consumers already pay for the pipe, so why should ISPs get to double charge? Bandwidth must be commoditized. We don't want a smart pipe that discriminates and prioritizes content. We want a dumb pipe that treats all data equally. That is what Net Neutrality means. The people have spoken! 


@forbin42 I pay my ISP to give *me* access to any legal content that I wish to get over their pipeline. *I* am paying them for that access. The fact that the ISPs are trying to double charge is what is ludicrous. I am paying them for access to Netflix. There is no reasonable conlcusion other than pure greed and a strong desire to resist change. In other words they have also been in the "networking business for over 20 years" and by golly they don't want it any different.

Well tough, because everyone else in the world does. Netflix isn't the problem here. The ISPs, and especially those with a conflict of interest, practically all, are the problem.


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