Netflix gets flak over ‘fast lanes’ of its own

One of the two Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is criticizing Netflix for “an apparent conflict” between its business practices and calls for strong net neutrality regulations.

Commissioner Ajit Pai on Tuesday sent Netflix CEO Reed Hastings a letter criticizing the company’s decision to sit out a streaming video industry alliance aiming to set new standards for online videos. Comcast, Major League Baseball and 15 other companies are all part of the Streaming Video Alliance, but Netflix and YouTube are notably absent.

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Instead, Netflix, which at times can account for a third of all North American Internet traffic, has said it has built its own custom network to connect users to its site.

According to Pai, that sounds like plans to “effectively secure ‘fast lanes’ for its own content,” even while it has been a vocal critic of Internet service companies’ potential ability to prioritize some websites’ service over others.”

If Web providers opt to use Netflix’s system instead of the industrywide standards, Pai warned, Netflix’s videos “would run the equivalent of a 100-yard dash while its competitors’ videos would have to run a marathon.”

Netflix has been one of the biggest proponents of the FCC reclassifying Internet service so that it can be regulated similar to a public utility. The online video giant has said that step is necessary to prevent Web providers from slowing, blocking or speeding up some websites’ traffic for their own gains.  

The company declined to comment on the letter.