Verizon Threatens to Sue Netflix Over Error Message

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

National Journal
Brendan Sasso
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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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