We’ve already heard Netflix executives explain why they signed an Internet deal with Comcast, even though they say they didn’t want to: They say they had to pay Comcast for access to its broadband pipes because their video streams were suffering.

But here’s a new version of the same argument: Netflix says it had to pay Comcast for access to its broadband pipes because Netflix was starting to lose customers.

That’s according to Ken Florance, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery, via a statement he filed with federal regulators this week.

Netflix is opposing Comcast’s attempt to buy Time Warner Cable*, and Florance’s comments are part of a long document Netflix brought to the Federal Communications Commission two days ago (thanks to Quartz for flagging).

Florance has already argued that Comcast forced Netflix to pay for a “transit” deal, by effectively degrading the quality of Netflix streams for Comcast’s broadband customers. (Comcast declined to comment for this post, but has previously argued against Netflix’s arguments).

Now, in his FCC statement, Florance says that Netflix’s Comcast customers noticed, and complained, and in some cases quit paying for Netflix.

“For many [Comcast] subscribers, the bitrate was so poor that Netflix’s streaming video service became unusable,” he writes, then notes that Comcast reps eventually told subscribers to take their beef to Netflix. “Those customers complained to Netflix and some of them canceled their Netflix subscription on the spot, citing the unacceptable quality of Netflix’s video streams and Netflix’s inability to do anything to change the situation.”

Florance doesn’t say how many customers his company lost. But he does include a chart that shows a huge spike in customer complaints last fall, at the same time Netflix said its streams were compromised. The subtext: Guess what happens if Comcast gets even more powerful?

Netflix Comcast complaints

* Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is an investor in Re/code.

Richard Bennett
Richard Bennett

So any time a Netflix customer has a complaint it's somebody else's fault? Not passing the buck much.


In the meantime, it's worth investigating if a VPN service will speed you up.

Walt French
Walt French

 What happens if Comcast gets more powerful? More of the same, I guess, although they seem to have all the power they need to drive Netflix customers to their own services, already.

Sure looks like monopoly tying to me.


@Richard Bennett Given the history of this situation, let alone the fact that the chart they provided showing they were tracking the issue(s) internally as part of an overall dig into what was wrong, it can be logically deduced Netflix didn't simply say "Meh, your ISP is at fault, not us" without thoroughly investigating all avenues of potential bottleneck -- both internal and external to Netflix itself.

Add to the fact that Netflix is only one of multiple streaming providers calling out Comcast (and other ISP's as well), and the picture starts to clear up.

References for you to read since clearly researching the issue before pointing fingers wasn't at the top of your TO-DO list:

1 -

2 -

Alan Miles
Alan Miles

@Walt French It really is just a question of who pays for more capacity.  If the volume of data in the pipe quadruples because there are more Netflix customers using more Netflix, surely Netflix and its customers should pay for more capacity  One way to do that would be for Netflix to pay directly; the other way would be for Netflix customers to pay Comcast for using a lot of data.  Otherwise, Comcast has to suck up the cost which means all the Comcast customers who aren't Netflix customers get screwed through higher rates.


@Alan Miles @Walt French Spinning from the finger-pointing circularity of the argument, one thing remains clear: both Comcast and Netflix are middlemen demanding a big chunk of revenues that would formerly have gone to content creators. Jaron Lanier's "Who Owns The Future" puts his finger on this. To my mind, given this undeniability, Alan Miles' analysis holds the most truth. Because unfortunately, no matter how much bandwidth becomes available, some vegetable in front of a screen will tap it out. 


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