Verizon Threatens to Sue Netflix Over Error Message

Netflix wants users to blame their Internet providers for slow videos.

National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Add to Briefcase
Brendan Sasso
June 5, 2014, 11:28 a.m.

Ve­r­i­zon is threat­en­ing to sue Net­flix over a mes­sage the video site is dis­play­ing to users when their videos stall and buf­fer.

“The Ve­r­i­zon net­work is crowded right now,” a mes­sage to one user read. “Ad­just­ing video for smooth­er play­back.”

Ve­r­i­zon is furi­ous that it is be­ing blamed for poor video qual­ity and is warn­ing Net­flix it could face leg­al ac­tion over the “false ac­cus­a­tions.”

“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,” Ran­dal Milch, Ve­r­i­zon’s gen­er­al coun­sel, wrote in a cease-and-de­sist let­ter Thursday to his Net­flix coun­ter­part, Dav­id Hy­man.

In all like­li­hood, the prob­lems are a res­ult of how Net­flix has chosen to con­nect its video con­tent to Ve­r­i­zon’s net­work, Milch claimed.

In­stead of con­nect­ing dir­ectly to all broad­band net­works, Net­flix some­times re­lies on oth­er com­pan­ies to carry its traffic to the In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders.

Blam­ing the In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders, who only con­trol the last mile of the net­work, is “self-serving, de­cept­ive, in­ac­cur­ate and an un­fair busi­ness prac­tice,” Milch wrote.

He de­man­ded that Net­flix stop show­ing the no­tices and that the com­pany provide a list of all users who have re­ceived the no­tices.

Jor­is Evers, a Net­flix spokes­man, said the mes­sages are about con­sumers “get­ting what they paid for from their broad­band pro­vider.”

“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,” Evers said. The ISP Speed In­dex al­lows con­sumers to com­pare Net­flix per­form­ance on vari­ous pro­viders. 

AT&T cus­tom­ers have also re­por­ted re­ceiv­ing the con­ges­tion mes­sage, but it’s un­clear what oth­er pro­viders Net­flix is tar­get­ing.

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