Netflix wants you to know whose fault it is that your movie isn't loading — and, big surprise, it's pinning the issue on internet service providers. As spotted by Vox Media designer Yuri Victor last night, Netflix is testing a notification that would inform subscribers when their internet provider's network has become congested and started to hurt their video. "The Verizon network is crowded right now," Netflix's message to Victor, a FiOS subscriber, read, after playback was paused to adjust the stream. As Recode points out, Netflix's communication chief, Jonathan Friedland, replied on Twitter to say that it was testing the message as a way to "keep members informed."
Netflix really isn't happy with big ISPs lately
The new notification is just the latest strike by Netflix in an increasingly heated battle that it's entered with service providers over net neutrality and overall quality of service for its videos. Over the past several months, it's signed deals with Comcast and Verizon meant to increase performance, though Netflix has argued that it shouldn't have to make these deals in the first place, suggesting that internet providers were throttling its speeds in order to force it to start paying. Indeed, Comcast's speeds shot up dramatically after a deal was cut; Netflix hasn't yet reported on streaming speeds following its deal with Verizon though, so it's unclear if it saw a similar improvement there.
The issue is a complicated one, and even the Federal Communications Commission's upcoming net neutrality rules wouldn't govern the contested situation between Netflix and internet providers. Netflix's massive internet traffic has been causing congestion for providers, and Netflix and the providers have a different idea of who should pay to install new hardware to clear things up. Traditionally, companies like Netflix haven't been the ones to pay, but companies like Comcast and Verizon want that to change.
That poses a big roadblock for Netflix's business, and it's been fighting for the issue to be protected by net neutrality. It's also been pushing for net neutrality as is — its Twitter account has even been promoting John Oliver's tirade against the FCC's arguably botched proposal. Getting its subscribers to understand who is at fault for hurting their streaming speeds can only help Netflix in its fight for net neutrality and against what it argues are discriminatory policies by internet providers. Should the new message be rolled out widely, it'll certainly start getting people frustrated with just who Netflix wants.