Verizon has sent Netflix a cease and desist order demanding that it stop presenting its subscribers with messages that blame Verizon's network for poor streaming performance. Netflix's messages are actively meant to knock Verizon — among other service providers — that it alleges have been hurting streaming quality, either actively or through failing to properly maintain their networks.
Verizon has vehemently disagreed that it's at fault for dips in performance, and it reiterates that in the order. "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," reads Verizon's letter.
"There is no basis for Netflix to assert that issues ... are attributable solely to the Verizon network."
After Netflix's messages caught wide attention yesterday, Verizon immediately fired back, calling them "inaccurate," "misleading," and a "PR stunt," writing that any issue in streaming quality was likely on Netflix's end.
"As Netflix knows, there are many different factors that can affect traffic on the internet," Randal Milch, Verizon's public policy chief, writes in the order today, "including choices by Netflix in how to connect to its customers and deliver content to them, interconnection between multiple networks, and consumer in-home issues such as in-home wiring, Wi-Fi, and device settings and capabilities."
In fact, Verizon and Netflix are actually arguing about the very same area of the network — the companies just don't agree over who should be responsible for paying to maintain it. Netflix believes that it should be internet providers' responsibility so that they can continue providing their customers with the level of service they advertise. Verizon and Comcast, however, have now roped Netflix into paying for that maintenance — something that web companies traditionally haven't done.
"This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider," a Netflix spokesperson tells The Verge in response to Verizon's letter. "We are trying to provide more transparency, just like we do with the ISP Speed Index, and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion." Netflix says that it's only testing the new messages, but it tells us that the tests are "ongoing," suggesting that it doesn't plan to acquiesce to Verizon's demands.
The messages are a small part of what is growing into a large fight for Netflix. If its deals with Comcast and Verizon set a precedent, that'll mean a steady flow of money out of Netflix's pocket that it didn't have up until now. It doesn't want that to happen, and it's been trying to appeal to its subscribers with messages like these in order to help push back against internet providers.
Netflix argues that the issue is one of net neutrality — the principal that internet traffic shouldn't receive different speeds based on what it is or who it comes from. At least for now, it isn't in the eyes of the Federal Communications Commission, meaning Netflix may have to lead this fight on its own.