Netflix and Verizon recently got into a public spat when the TV/movie streaming service posted a message blaming the telecom company for its slow loading times. The message was seen by Verizon customers, galvanized consumer groups and net neutrality advocates and has now inspired the FCC to investigate the deals between ISPs and content providers like Netflix, which has been forced to pay extra to deliver its services to users.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler sent out a note on Friday detailing the commission’s first steps and, of course, devotion to helping consumers.
“We don’t know the answers and we are not suggesting that any company is at fault,” Wheeler wrote in a memo. “Consumers pay their ISP and they pay content providers like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon. Then when they don’t get good service they wonder what is going on. I have experienced these problems myself and know how exasperating it can be. Consumers must get what they pay for. As the consumer’s representative we need to know what is going on. I have therefore directed the Commission staff to obtain the information we need to understand precisely what is happening in order to understand whether consumers are being harmed.”
The process is already underway.
“Recently, at my direction, Commission staff has begun requesting information from ISPs and content providers,” Wheeler added. “We have received the agreements between Comcast and Netflix and Verizon and Netflix. We are currently in the process of asking for others.”
The commission is also in the process of hearing out suggestions for its open Internet laws, but that’s a whole other story.
Comcast quickly responded to Wheeler’s announcement.
“We welcome the Chairman’s attention to these important issues in the Internet ecosystem. Internet traffic exchange on the backbone is part of ensuring that bits flow freely and efficiently and all actors across the system have a shared responsibility to preserve the smooth functioning and highly competitive backbone interconnection market,” the company wrote in a statement. “We welcome this review which will allow the Commission full transparency into the entire Internet backbone ecosystem and enable full education as to how this market works.
“We have long published our peering policies for example, and are open to discussions about further disclosures that would benefit consumers,” it added. “We also have voluntarily shared a vast array of information about our peering and interconnection practices with the FCC. We also agree with the Chairman that the broadband consumer should be the focus of this inquiry and not any particular business model. We look forward to continuing to work with the FCC on these issues.”