Mobile Future

Oh The Irony…

Social media is abuzz today with breaking news that Netflix, a leading proponent of open-Internet rules, routinely throttles the video streams of millions of AT&T and Verizon mobile customers and never disclosed that fact to its customers until now. Take a gander…

“Netflix has been an outspoken supporter of “net neutrality,” the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. It has railed against the idea that it should compensate broadband providers or mobile carriers for the amount of data that its customers eat up, and it has been quick to point out any sign of discrimination by carriers regarding data caps. The net-neutrality rules apply to Internet providers but not content companies like Netflix.” – Ryan Knutson and Shalini Ramachandran, Wall Street Journal

“Netflix has long presented itself as a champion of unfettered access to Internet content. But those claims are ringing a little hollow after the company admitted Thursday that it deliberately slows down its streams for customers watching on the cellular networks of AT&T and Verizon…At the time, Netflix advocated for strong rules that would prevent Internet providers from slowing down its content. But it now appears that even as the company asked regulators to ban throttling by carriers, it had no qualms about reserving that tactic for itself.” – Brian Fung, Washington Post

“The news complicates Netflix’s image as a supporter of open internet principles. The company, which is responsible for a significant amount of web traffic, has been an adamant — if sometimes opportunistic — supporter of net neutrality for years now. It’s used the stance of large telecoms like Comcast and Verizon to paint itself as both a champion of unfettered and equal access to the internet and a victim of corporations who wish to charge it additional money for direct connections to their networks.”— Nick Stat, The Verge

“It turns out that neither AT&T nor Verizon are throttling Netflix videos, as T-Mobile CEO John Legere suggested last week. If you’re an AT&T or Verizon subscriber, you will indeed get worse Netflix streaming than others, but that’s because Netflix applies the throttling, not the carriers.” – Chris Smith, BGR

It’s ironic that one of the biggest cheerleaders for transparency, consumer choice, and equal treatment of traffic has spent five years discriminating against millions of its own customers. Why is denying consumers choice and transparency ok in any part of the mobile ecosystem?  All companies in the Internet ecosystem, including edge providers, should respect and abide by the same net neutrality principles to ensure the best possible mobile experience for consumers.

Hopefully, the FCC is taking notice of the ways in which consumers can fall through the safety net when regulations touch just one part of the marketplace without providing consistent consumer protections.

In a world where companies, including Netflix, are screaming for transparency and openness on our mobile networks, it is hard to rationalize Netflix’s own hypocrisy.