Verizon threatens Netflix suit over loading notices

 

Verizon is threatening to sue Netflix over its notices telling users that their Internet providers are to blame for slow-loading videos.

“Responsibility for its customers’ experience falls squarely on Netflix itself,” the Internet provider said in a cease and desist letter to Netflix’s general counsel, David Hyman, on Friday.

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“There is no basis for Netflix to assert that issues with respect to playback of any particular video session are attributable solely to the Verizon network.” 

The spat started publicly on Wednesday, when Verizon responded to reports that Netflix users were seeing notices blaming Internet providers for slow-loading videos.

According to a company spokesman, Netflix began testing notices last month, letting users know that their Internet provider’s “network is crowded right now,” leading to a poor video streaming experience.

In a blog post, Verizon pushed back, blaming poor video streaming experiences for Netflix users on the way Netflix chooses to deliver its traffic to Internet providers.

Verizon general counsel Randal Milch repeated the company’s arguments in its Thursday letter.

“There are many different factors that can affect traffic on the Internet, including choices by Netflix in how to connect to its customers and deliver content to them,” Milch wrote.

While “Netflix has the ability to directly connect to every broadband network in American should it choose to do so,” it relies on third-party interconnection companies “to reach its customers, trying to lower its costs as much as possible.”

Earlier this year, Netflix reached an agreement to cut out these interconnection companies and connect directly with Comcast’s servers to boost user’s streaming traffic. 

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings slammed the deal with Comcast, calling it an “arbitrary tax” that Netflix was forced to pay by Internet service giant Comcast.

Netflix has since reached a similar direct connection deal with Verizon.

Telling Netflix users that their video streaming issues are the result of the Internet provider’s network management “is self-serving, deceptive, inaccurate and an unfair business practice,” Milch wrote.

Verizon asked that Netflix stop displaying these notices, provide any evidence it has that Verizon’s network has been the cause of streaming issues and provide Verizon with a list of subscribers who have seen the notices.

“Failure to provide this information may lead us to pursue legal remedies, and Verizon reserves all rights in that regard,” the letter said.

But Netflix isn’t bending.

According to a company spokesman, Netflix will continue testing its notices.

“This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider,” the spokesman said.

“We are trying to provide more transparency, just like we do with the Netflix ISP Speed Index, and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion.”